Melissa Villa-Nicholas defends dissertation

Doctoral candidate Melissa Villa-Nicholas successfully defended her dissertation, "Latinas in Telecommunications: Intersectional Experiences in the Bell System," on June 30.

Her committee includes Professor Linda Smith (chair); Safiya Noble (director of research; assistant professor, University of California, Los Angeles Graduate School of Education & Information Studies); Angharad Valdivia (professor of media studies and research professor of communications at Illinois); and Sharra Vostral (associate professor of history, Purdue University).

From the abstract: In 1973, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) reached a consent decree with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). The consent decree settled a lawsuit built on years of discrimination against white women and women and men of color, opening the largest private sector employer to underrepresented people. With this suit and settlement, Latinas began lifelong careers as information workers, operating information technologies on a daily basis. This study provides insight into the critical histories of Latina information workers in telecommunications in the Los Angeles region. This history is not simply a story of Latinas entering the information technology fields, but rather an analysis of the ways in which Latinas were engaged or neglected during the EEOC v. AT&T case and subsequent consent decree, and the analysis by Latinas of their experiences in telecommunications. I explore the discourses surrounding the lawsuit with particular attention to Latina inclusion and omission, and the personal narratives from Latina information workers employed after the consent decree. I engage archives from the EEOC v. AT&T case and qualitative interviews to investigate the subjective entrance of Latinas into telecommunications. I conclude that intersectional identities function as crucial context for beneficiaries of the consent decree, and that Latinas applied a critical framework to their everyday socio-techno labor practices.

Villa-Nicholas’ research interests include the history of Latina/o information work, representations and surveillance of citizenship by information technologies, Latina/o socio-techno practices, and race/class/gender technology studies. She has a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; a master’s degree in cultural studies from Claremont Graduate University; and a bachelor’s degree in global studies from Azusa Pacific University.

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