About Me:


Ph.D., Chicana/o and Central American Studies, UCLA, 2020

M.A., Chicana/o Studies, UCLA, 2017

Gender Studies Graduate Concentration Certificate, UCLA, 2017

M.A., Latin American Studies (Sociology Concentration), UCSD, 2012

B.A., Sociology and Latin American Studies, UCR, 2009

A.A., Liberal Arts, Santa Monica College, 2006

Dr. Brenda Nicolas (Zapotec) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles.

Dr. Nicolas’s dissertation, Zapotec Generations Across Settler Colonial Borders: Gendering Belonging and Identity, examines how the experiences of the U.S.-raised generations, and women participation in particular, are central to sustaining transnational immigrant Indigenous communities across borders. She argues that through their involvement in traditional dances, Oaxacan brassbands, and immigrant hometown association (HTA), Zapotecs in the U.S. diaspora, shape their Indigenous identities in ways that challenge their racial categorization as Latina/o and/or Hispanic. These forms of community belonging confront state notions of Indigenous “authenticity” in the U.S. and Mexico, while also contesting gender role expectations that attempt to exclude women and immigrants from community practices of belonging. By incorporating historical and comparative approaches to race and gender, her work considers how the United States and Mexico, as settler colonial states, have shaped, maintained, and/or reconfigured Indigenous racialization into a national imaginary that attempts to make invisible, silence, and eliminate Indigenous peoples. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Nicolas uses a critical hemispheric Indigenous framework that bridges Latin American, Latina/o, and American Indian literature to draw on her theoretical framework, transborder comunalidad, an ongoing Indigenous Oaxacan conception of collective community life sustained through practices and beliefs in diaspora that challenges state violence against Indigenous peoples (Martínez Luna 2013).

Dr. Nicolas is a Ford Foundation Scholar, a University of California Office of the President (UCOP) awardee, a UCLA Dissertation Year Scholar, a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow, and a  Graduate Dean’s Scholar awardee, among others.

Her first MA thesis, “‘Reclamando lo que es nuestro’: Identity Formation among Zapoteco Youth in Oaxaca and Los Angeles,” in Latin American Studies (UCSD), examines Indigenous youth identity in Oaxaca and Los Angeles. Her second MA, “‘Soy de Zoochina’: Zapotecs Across Generations in Diaspora Re-creating Identity and Sense of Belonging” (UCLA), in urban and rural sites, examines how politically and culturally involved Zapotec generations in LA (re)create their Indigenous identity and belonging through transnational communal practices. While at UCLA Dr. Nicolas also earned a certificate in Gender Studies. Her research topics include: identity, belonging, land, settler colonialism, Indigenous epistemology, oral histories, and self-determination within a critical Indigenous studies framework. Formally, Dr. Nicolas was a research assistant for the Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles Project (MILA) at UCLA.

Dr. Nicolas’s personal and educational experience influence her desire to continue working with Indigenous communities. This drove her to co-found the Oaxacan College Initiative (OCI) in 2015 to provide mentorship to the growing Indigenous diaspora from Latin America entering U.S. colleges and universities. She has also organized a series of community events as a former board of directors of the Indigenous Oaxacan non-profit in California, the Centro Binacional Para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño/Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities (CBDIO) and as a former community member for the Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales/Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations  (FIOB) in San Diego and Los Angeles. In addition, Dr. Nicolas has been a co-host for the Senderos de Oaxaca in Pacifica Radio KPFK, a community station that touches on political, social, cultural, and educational topics by inviting community members and critically-engaged scholars.