Diaz, Ella Maria

Ella Maria Diaz

Professor, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department
Chair, 2022--


Preferred: ella.diaz@sjsu.edu


Ph.D.   College of William and Mary, American Studies, 2010
Dissertation: “Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force: The Ongoing Politics of Space & Ethnic Identity” *** Distinguished Dissertation Award, 2010***
M.A.    College of William and Mary, American Studies, 2002
MA Thesis: “1500 by 1939 by 1998—These are the Measurements of Malinche’s Body: An Analysis and Review of Twentieth-Century Interpretations of Nationality”
B.A.     University of California, Santa Cruz, American Literature, 1999


Dr. Ella Maria Diaz began her academic career as a lecturer (adjunct faculty) at the San Francisco Art Institute (2006—2012) in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. Teaching courses for the Urban Studies program, Diaz also taught writing courses for SFAI’s undergraduate and graduate programs. In 2012, Dr. Diaz joined the Department of Literatures in English and the Latina/o Studies Program at Cornell University, earning tenure in 2017. She concluded her term as an Associate Professor at Cornell in 2022, before joining the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at San José State University as Professor and Chair.  

Diaz’s first book Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force: Mapping a Chicano/a Art History (2017) explores the art, poetry, performance, and political activism of a vanguard Chicano/a art collective founded in Sacramento, California, during the U.S. civil rights era. For this work, Diaz won the 2019 Book Award for the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Association (NACCS).

Diaz’s second book, published in 2020, is a primer on Chicano artist José Montoya and volume 12 of the UCLA and Chicano Studies Research Center’s A Ver series. It received a Gold Medal for Best Arts Book and a Gold Medal for Best Biography in 2020 from the International Latino Book Awards.  

Diaz has published in several anthologies including Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chican@/Latin@ Young Adult Literature (2020), which won the Edited Book Award from the Children’s Literature Association in 2022. Her 2013 essay, “The Necessary Theater of the Royal Chicano Air Force,” published in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, was anthologized in 2016 with The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlán, 1970-2016. Diaz also has articles in English Language Notes (ELN), ASAP Journal, and Chicana-Latina Studies Journal.

Professor Diaz serves on the Editorial Board of Aztlán: A  Journal of Chicano Studies (UCLA); and is on a National Advisory Council Member for Rhizomes of Mexican American Art Since 1848. Partnership of the University of Minnesota, the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2018—present.

Current research projects include a post-script to her 2020 A Ver volume on José Montoya; it comprises a collection of interrelated essays on the canonical Chicano artist’s early poetry publications as they’ve become available online, through the digitization of his major library collection and related ones. Exploring the implications of the digital humanities for vanguard Chicana/o artists in the United States, Diaz reveals the intellectual damage and cultural loss resultant from the erasures of these artists in the national canons and U.S. institutions. She does so by drawing on western theories of archives—from Michel Foucault (ca 1970s) to Jacques Derrida (1995)—as well as contemporary Chicana interventions by scholar Karen Mary Davalos in Chicana/o Remix: Art and Errata Since the Sixties (NYU 2018), María Cotera’s essay, “‘Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disaster’: Feminist Archival Praxis after the Digital Turn” (2015), and Cotera's co-edited anthology Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era (2018).

Diaz’s other research projects involve exhibition reviews of major Chicana/o and U.S. Latinx art shows, as well as her visual and cultural analyses of testimonio as an art of the Americas. As a narrative “genre,” testimonio takes many forms that reflect the convergence of several systems of knowledge, following fifteenth and sixteenth-century European conquests of Indigenous American societies; the multiple modes of testimonio, or telling stories of whole communities, continue to expose historical forces of power beyond the control of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities of the Americas.