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Border Identifications

PABLO VILA
Copyright Date: 2005
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/702912
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    Border Identifications
    Book Description:

    From poets to sociologists, many people who write about life on the U.S.-Mexico border use terms such as "border crossing" and "hybridity" which suggest that a unified culture-neither Mexican nor American, but an amalgamation of both-has arisen in the borderlands. But talking to people who actually live on either side of the border reveals no single commonly shared sense of identity, as Pablo Vila demonstrated in his bookCrossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders: Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier. Instead, people living near the border, like people everywhere, base their sense of identity on a constellation of interacting factors that includes regional identity, but also nationality, ethnicity, and race.

    In this book, Vila continues the exploration of identities he began inCrossing Borders, Reinforcing Bordersby looking at how religion, gender, and class also affect people's identifications of self and "others" among Mexican nationals, Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, Anglos, and African Americans in the Cuidad Juárez-El Paso area. Among the many fascinating issues he raises are how the perception that "all Mexicans are Catholic" affects Mexican Protestants and Pentecostals; how the discourse about proper gender roles may feed the violence against women that has made Juárez the "women's murder capital of the world"; and why class consciousness is paradoxically absent in a region with great disparities of wealth. His research underscores the complexity of the process of social identification and confirms that the idealized notion of "hybridity" is only partially adequate to define people's identity on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79713-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PHOTOGRAPHS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    In my previous book in the Inter-America series,Crossing Borders,Reinforcing Borders, I tried to show how the categories and interpellations, the metaphors, and the narratives people use to address themselves and the “others” on the border have a basically regional logic in Juárez and an ethnic/racial one in El Paso (while national logics work on both sides of the border). Of course, I also wanted to show how the peculiar circumstances of the border “ask” people (above all, those of Mexican descent in the American side) to mix, in variable ways, those logics all the time. In this second...

  6. Chapter 1 CATHOLICISM AND MEXICANNESS ON THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER
    (pp. 21-56)

    In most Latin American societies, Catholicism and national identity (in this particular case, Mexicanness) have become highly intertwined (Fortuny Loret de Mola 1994). According to Bowen (1996, p. 4):

    The close ties between Catholicism and Latin American culture have their roots in the Iberian, post-Columbian conquest and the colonial society it produced . . . In Mexico, where the indigenous vastly outnumbered the colonists, their pacification and incorporation into a new colonial society meant their Christianization in Catholic terms . . . National identity throughout Latin America became in turn so permeated with a generalized sense of Catholicism that its...

  7. Chapter 2 MEXICAN AND MEXICAN AMERICAN PROTESTANTS
    (pp. 57-110)

    If, as I have tried to show in the previous chapter, on the border there is a close relationship between being a Mexican and being a Catholic, the process of identity construction among Protestants of Mexican descent is, to say the least, complicated.¹ They are something that is “unexpected” from the commonsense point of view of the region. We have already seen some strategies developed by several of the Mexican Catholics I interviewed to make sense of this “inconsistent” type of identity, for instance, to claim that many Mexicans become Protestants only because of economic necessity. Thus, I thought that...

  8. Chapter 3 REGIONALIZED GENDER NARRATIVES ON THE MEXICAN SIDE OF THE BORDER
    (pp. 111-142)

    Any discussion about gender is always crisscrossed by other dimensions of identity. As Avtar Brah points out for the specific case of women:

    Within . . . structures of social relations we do not exist simply as women but as differentiated categories such asworking-classwomen,peasantwomen,migrantwomen. Each description references a specificity of social condition. And real lives are forged out of a complex articulation of these dimensions . . . in different womanhoods the noun is only meaningful—indeed only exists—with reference to a fusion of adjectives which symbolize particular historical trajectories, material circumstances, and...

  9. Chapter 4 GENDER, NATIONALITY, AND ETHNICITY ON THE AMERICAN SIDE OF THE BORDER
    (pp. 143-168)

    Many of the images in Juárez that we have considered repeat themselves on the other side of the border. This is most common in the case of interviewees of Mexican ancestry (the bulk of our interviewees). Thus, it was not uncommon to hear very similar commentaries about gender and sexual orientation on the American side of the border, where the figures of libertine Fronterizas/os, liberal Americans, and bossy females occupied center stage in most of our interviews. Therefore, instead of repeating here what we already know about these figures, I am going to present a couple of interview excerpts concerning...

  10. Chapter 5 THE PROBLEMATIC CLASS DISCOURSE ON THE BORDER: THE MEXICAN SIDE
    (pp. 169-190)

    As I have pointed out in previous chapters, the regional, ethnic, and national logics we have found that are used in the process of classifying, creating metaphors, and narrating identities are so strong in the Ciudad Juárez–El Paso area that they overdetermine other ways of understanding the process of identity construction. In the chapter on Catholicism we saw how what is considered for many people to be a characteristic that most Mexicans share—that is, the practice of the Catholic faith—can become instead a site for stressing the difference many Mexicans believe separates them, in terms of region,...

  11. Chapter 6 THE PROBLEMATIC CLASS DISCOURSE ON THE BORDER: THE AMERICAN SIDE
    (pp. 191-228)

    On the American side of the border, any discussion about social inequality (or any discussion about identity, for that matter) also has to deal with the widespread commonsense discourse that establishes that “all poverty is Mexican.” Therefore, for many people in El Paso (above all, Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans), the thematic plot that organizes their perception of social inequalities in El Paso frames any discussion of social mobility in geographical terms as well, that is, achieving higher positions on the social scale is still defined as moving to the United States or becoming more Americanized.

    The interesting thing is...

  12. Chapter 7 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 229-258)

    This book is the culmination of more than ten years of research and thinking about the U.S.-Mexico border, in particular, the border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.

    I arrived at the border in the summer of 1991. During the final years of my Ph.D. program, I was highly influenced by the border studies approach. As a matter of fact, I was a close witness and a minor participant in its initial developments, because in 1989 I took a seminar at the University of Texas at Austin with Néstor García Canclini. The seminar was structured around a discussion of his...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 259-282)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-292)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 293-302)