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Ethnography at the Border

2003

Pablo Vila, editor

Ethnography at the Border

An illuminating account of life at the U.S.-Mexico border

Focusing on a particular area of the U.S.-Mexico border, Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, Ethnography at the Border brings out the complexity of the border experience through the voices of the people who inhabit the region.

Contributors: Eduardo Barrera, Jessica Chapin, Tim J. Dunn, Sarah Hill, Victor Ortiz, John A. Peterson, Leslie Salzinger, David Spener, María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba, Melissa W. Wright.

Pablo Vila has successfully arranged a series of dynamic and engaging ethnographic case studies that, on empirical grounds, challenge some of the most circulated canons of border studies. This is a very well-researched and provocative volume.

Arlene Davila, author of Latinos Inc: Marketing and the Making of a People

For cultural theorists, “the border” has proven a fluid and hybrid space profitably explored for new ideas about identity, gender, and ethnicity. But for those who occupy this region, the border is not merely a metaphor, but a lived experience, yielding immediate, often pressing ambiguities, problems, and perils.

Focusing on a particular area of the U.S.-Mexico border, Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, Ethnography at the Border brings out the complexity of the border experience through the voices of the diverse people who inhabit the region. In a series of ethnographic essays that investigate specific aspects of border existence, the contributors provide rich and detailed insights into such topics as life in illegal subdivisions, called colonias, in Texas; the experience of actually crossing the bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez; the impact of Operation Blockade on illegal crossings; the controversy surrounding the El Paso Border Patrol’s proposal for a border wall in Sunland Park; the paradoxes of making “American products” using Mexican workers; and the relevance of grassroots efforts, environmental problems, and the multiple meanings of “Mexican.” The final chapter offers a critique of the all too metaphorical border often depicted by cultural studies.

Painstakingly conveying how the border looks and feels to those on both sides, Ethnography at the Border transmutes statistics on migration, labor markets, and economic trends—as well as conceptualizations of cross-cultural identities—into the experience, the observations, and the troubling lessons of border life.

Contributors: Eduardo Barrera, U of Texas, El Paso, and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte; Jessica Chapin, U of Texas, Austin; Tim J. Dunn, Salisbury U; Sarah Hill, Western Michigan U; Victor M. Ortiz, Northeastern Illinois U at Chicago; John A. Peterson, U of Texas, El Paso; Leslie Salzinger, U of Chicago; David Spener, Trinity U; María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte; Melissa W. Wright, Penn State U.

Ethnography at the Border

Pablo Vila is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Ethnography at the Border

Pablo Vila has successfully arranged a series of dynamic and engaging ethnographic case studies that, on empirical grounds, challenge some of the most circulated canons of border studies. This is a very well-researched and provocative volume.

Arlene Davila, author of Latinos Inc: Marketing and the Making of a People

Complex and nuanced. Presents a more contradictory picture of the U.S.-Mexico border region than one typically finds. The result is a rich collection of chapters that give real flavor to everyday life in the border region while offering important insights on social theory. Helpfully brings to light the complexities and contradictions of identities in the borderlands.

Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Pablo Vila brings together an exemplary set of new scholars whose work is bound to expand not only our knowledge, but also our methods, in examining and interpreting border life and social process. Ethnography too seems to take on new meanings here, as Vila’s own valuable work is derived not from social context but from narratives produced in focus groups. This book is a thought provoking and worthy addition to scholarship and exemplifies a new genre in border literature.

Western Historical Quarterly

Ethnography at the Border

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Border Ethnographies Pablo Vila

1. Reflections from the Bridge Jessica Chapin
2. The Politics of Relocation: Gender, Nationality, and Value in a Mexican Maquiladora Melissa W. Wright
3. Re-forming the “Traditional Mexican Woman”: Making Subjects in a Border Factory Leslie Salzinger
4. Gender and the Overlapping of Region, Nation, and Ethnicity on the U.S.–Mexico Border Pablo Vila
5. The Polysemy of the Label “Mexican” on the Border Pablo Vila
6. Metaphoric Enrichment and Material Poverty: The Making of “Colonias” Sarah Hill
7. Aliens in Heterotopia: An Intertextual Reading of the Border Patrol Museum Eduardo Barrera
8. Controlling the Border in El Paso del Norte: Operation Blockade or Operation Charade? David Spener
9. The Border Wall Campaign: Democratic Debate versus Bureaucratic Authority Tim J. Dunn
10. El Paso as an Eternal Yet Not Last Frontier Victor Ortiz
11. Environmental Problems in Ciudad Juárez–El Paso: A Social Constructionist Approach Pablo Vila and John A. Peterson
12. The Rearticulation of the Border Territory in the Stories of Rosario Sanmiguel María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba

Conclusion: The Limits of American Border Theory Pablo Vila

Contributors