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Border Theory: The Limits of Cultural Politics

Scott Michaelsen
David E. Johnson
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Border Theory
    Book Description:

    The authors gathered in this volume examine the multiple borders that define the United States and the Americas, including the Mason-Dixon line, the U.S.-Canadian border, the shifting boundaries of urban diasporas, and the colonization and confinement of American Indians. They examine the way border studies beckons us to rethink all objects of study and intellectual disciplines as versions of a border problematic. Contributors: Russ Castronovo, Elaine K. Chang, Louis Kaplan, Alejandro Lugo, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and Patricia Seed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8817-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Scott Michaelsen
  4. Border Secrets: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)
    David E. Johnson and Scott Michaelsen

    A “border” is always and only secured by a border patrol. Where Scott Michaelsen works, in El Paso, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, one sees the most clearly virulent form of border production literally in the backyard of the university. Along the Rio Grande are miles upon miles of cement trenches, chain-link fences, light-green paddy wagons, uniforms, binoculars, and soon, perhaps, steel walls, as well as multiple paranoid discourses of national and racial contagion. This book is concerned with borders like this, but more often the focus is on the sorts of “soft” borders produced within broadly liberal discourse: benevolent...

  5. I. The Borderlands

    • ONE Reflections on Border Theory, Culture, and the Nation
      (pp. 43-67)
      Alejandro Lugo

      If we wanted to carry out an archaeology of border theory, how would we identify its sources and its targets? Where would we locate its multiple sites of production and consumption, formation and transformation? What are the multiple discourses producing images of borders almost everywhere, at least in the minds of academics? In trying to answer these questions, more with an exploratory spirit than with a definitive one, let us say that the sites, the sources, the targets, and the discourses can be variably characterized by the following: previously marginalized intellectuals within the academy (i.e., women and other minorities), the...

    • TWO In the Borderlands of Chicano Identity, There Are Only Fragments
      (pp. 68-96)
      Benjamin Alire sáenz

      My wife and I go to an opening reception at the newly opened Barnes & Noble bookstore. We are disappointed because it looks like a mall. What did we expect? The store is full of people who gather around food tables and gawk through the aisles. People visit and chat with one another. My wife and I look at each other and finally whisper:“There’s no one here but white people.”El Paso is 70 percent “Hispanic” (I hate that word). The West Side, where the bookstore was built, is the whitest part of El Paso. The clientele assembled here...

    • THREE On the Border with The Pilgrim: Zigzags across a Chapl(a)in’s Signature
      (pp. 97-128)
      Louis Kaplan

      In the annals of silent film comedy, there is neither a more beloved nor a more invested signature than Charlie Chaplin’s. It is literally legendary in that the signature carries its legend along with it. The mythos of Charlie Chaplin has established a fixed context of description and association over the past decades in the mere mention of the proper name or its illumination upon the silver screen. It connotes an entire cast of outcast roles — the little tramp, the pantomimic clown, the nomadic vagabond—with each and every inscription.

      In reviewingThe Pilgrim(1923), the critic Robert E. Sherwood...

    • FOUR The Time of Translation: The Border of American Literature
      (pp. 129-166)
      David E. Johnson

      In the Latin Americas, wherever they are, there are, perhaps still to come, two steps to the border. These twopasoswill have been thought under the auspices of two proper names whose propriety goes unquestioned: Paz and Borges. They will have taken sides where perhaps there are none.

      In any case, the juxtaposition of Paz and Borges, of two relationships to modernity, has been most recently suggested by Néstor Garcia Canclini inCulturas híbridas,in which he poses the problem of their relation as one of the direction of their work, writing of Paz, “Queremos entender por qué a...

  6. II. Other Geographies

    • FIVE Run through the Borders: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Runaway Subjectivity
      (pp. 169-194)
      Elaine K. Chang

      As Anglo-American theorists of women’s autobiography have shown, female subjectivity is characterized both by women’s experiences in social contexts not of their own making and by their lack of access to means through which to represent the specificity of these experiences (Jelinek, 1980; Personal Narratives Group, 1989; Bell and Yalom, 1990; Smith and Watson, 1992). Women’s “life writing,” by these accounts, entails and encodes a double marginalization: an alienated relationship to the material conditions of existence on the one hand, and an estrangement from the cultural practices through which these conditions are mediated and understood on the other. Postmodern strategies...

    • SIX Compromised Narratives along the Border: The Mason-Dixon Line, Resistance, and Hegemony
      (pp. 195-220)
      Russ Castronovo

      Although literary critics, writers, and intellectuals have emphasized the diversity and newness emerging along the “border” zones of literal geopolitical boundaries as well the more figurative limits of subjectivity, accounts of the people and texts who inhabit these liminal spaces tend to coalesce into a single, undifferentiated narrative line. Commentators who treat the distinct experiences of nationality, alternative permutations of sexuality, racial marginalization, and varying degrees of political oppression that appear in such works as Gloria Anzaldúa’sBorderlands/La Fronteraor Américo Paredes’sWith His Pistol in His Handnonetheless tell similar stories when they describe how such texts perform within...

  7. SEVEN Resketching Anglo-Amerindian Identity Politics
    (pp. 221-252)
    Scott Michaelsen

    Daniel K. Richter’s magisterial history of early Iroquois politics and identity,The Ordeal of the Longhouse(1992), moves from the deep past (approximately 1000 A.D.) forward: “The story perhaps best begins in the beginning,” reads the first line of the text (8). Richter is able to accomplish this feat through the process that historians call “ ‘upstreaming,’ that is, the interpretation of historical sources in light of ethnological and folkloric materials collected in later periods; one moves ‘up’ the historical stream from a better to a less well documented era” (Richter 1992, 5).

    There are good reasons to be suspicious...

  8. Afterword: Further Perspectives on Culture, Limits, and Borders
    (pp. 253-256)
    Patricia Seed

    As a teenager I thought thatculturewas principally a verb, “to culture.” It meant growing an unidentified substance often in a gelatinous medium inside a petri dish. Culturing was a means of distinguishing something not visibly identifiable and, in all likelihood, very unpleasant. Both implications of culture have stayed with me; culturing means rendering something indistinguishable into something identifiable, and its content is often quite nasty.

    In many of these essays, as well, culture is not so easily identifiable. A Northerner in the United States would probably call the war that took place between 1860 and 1865 the Civil...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 257-258)
  10. Index
    (pp. 259-266)