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Border Theory

The Limits of Cultural Politics

1997
Authors:

Scott Michaelsen and David E. Johnson

Border Theory

Explores the expanding boundaries and discursive limits of the emerging field of border studies.

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.

This collection begins with a provocative premise-‘A theory of borderlands need not return to the homelands

in order to critique one of the most recent grand themes within the humanities and social sciences. Challenging the proprietorship, exclusion, and universal humanism often implicit in ‘border theory,’ Border Theory offers a series of impressive essays that do not take the ‘border’ for granted as the privileged site for a critical utopia or cultural identity, but cross it nonetheless. Whether putting the state back into the border, or showing that identity doesn't travel well, Border Theory contributes new voices in the debates over the boundaries for American literature, Chicano and ethnic studies, and cultural and visual studies.” Chon Noriega, UCLA Department of Film and Television

Challenging the prevailing assumption that border studies occurs only in “the borderlands” where Mexico and the United States meet, 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. The texts assembled here examine the way border studies beckons us to rethink all objects of study and intellectual disciplines as versions of a border problematic.

These writers-drawn from anthropology, history, and language studies-critique the terrain, limits, and possibilities of border theory. They examine, among other topics, the “soft” or “friendly” borders produced by ethnic studies, antiassimilationist or “difference” multiculturalisms, liberal anthropologies, and benevolent nationalisms. Referring to a range of theory (anthropological, sociological, feminist, Marxist, European postmodernist and poststructuralist, postcolonial, and ethnohistorical), the authors trace the genealogical and logical links between these discourses and border studies.

A timely critique of a field just now revealing its explosive potential, this volume maps the intellectual topography of border theory and challenges the epistemological and political foundations of border studies.

Contributors: Russ Castronovo, U of Miami; Elaine K. Chang, Rutgers U; Louis Kaplan, Tufts U; Alejandro Lugo, U of Illinois; Benjamin Alire Sáenz, U of Texas at El Paso; and Patricia Seed, Rice U.

Scott Michaelsen is assistant professor of English at Michigan State University. David E. Johnson is lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Border Theory

Scott Michaelsen is an associate professor of English at Michigan State University.

David E. Johnson is an associate professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Buffalo.

Border Theory

This collection begins with a provocative premise-‘A theory of borderlands need not return to the homelands

in order to critique one of the most recent grand themes within the humanities and social sciences. Challenging the proprietorship, exclusion, and universal humanism often implicit in ‘border theory,’ Border Theory offers a series of impressive essays that do not take the ‘border’ for granted as the privileged site for a critical utopia or cultural identity, but cross it nonetheless. Whether putting the state back into the border, or showing that identity doesn't travel well, Border Theory contributes new voices in the debates over the boundaries for American literature, Chicano and ethnic studies, and cultural and visual studies.” Chon Noriega, UCLA Department of Film and Television

“This is a rich, polemical, and daring discussion of the predicates upon which multiculturalism is grounded. It argues that multiculturalism is ultimately an assimilationist positioning which neglects to see that difference as well as complexity is a colonial product. It proposes unthinking to erase borders, to do away with modern disciplines’ ideas of culture as well as with their tropes of complexity and traveling logics inscribed within the prefixes trans, bi, cross, inter. It recapitulates positions on border theory and engages cultural theoreticians like Anzaldúa, Hicks, Calderón, Saldívar, Rosaldo.” Ileana Rodriguez, The Ohio State University

Border Theory

Contents

Acknowledgments

Border Secrets: An Introduction David E. Johnson and Scott Michaelsen

I. The Borderlands

ONE Reflections on Border Theory, Culture, and the Nation Alejandro Lugo
TWO In the Borderlands of Chicano Identity, There Are Only Fragments Benjamin Alire Saenz
THREE On the Border with The Pilgrim: Zigzags across a Chapl(a)in's Signature Louis Kaplan
FOUR The Time of Translation: The Border of American Literature David E. Johnson

II. Other Geographies

FIVE Run through the Borders: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Runaway Subjectivity Elaine K. Chang
SIX Compromised Narratives along the Border: The Mason-Dixon Line, Resistance, and Hegemony Russ Castronovo
SEVEN Resketching Anglo-Amerindian Identity Politics Scott Michaelsen

Afterword: Further Perspectives on Culture, Limits, and Borders Patricia Seed

Contributors

Index