My Propinquity Towards Grandiose Narratives

Our book, The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region: Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions (Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez and Josiah Heyman, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2017: 401 pp.) is a labor of affection and hopefully a contribution to recasting a region that is often mischaracterized by only the brittle, bifurcating borderline imposed upon a common ecology only two grandmothers ago (160 years más o menos).   Its genesis began in a discussion between Josiah Heyman and me in which he stated that it was time that I wrote a “big book” given my propinquity towards grandiose narratives and that it had to basically recast Border Visions, 1996).  He stated in his usual gentle and soft manner— “It’s outdated!”  But given the rather tricky manner in which I handle pointed truth—my response was to suggest a panel of the most cutting edge work done by a cast of scholars and doers from the tried to the up and coming new generations of thinkers.  So we put together our two-session panels then entitled “Visiones de Acá y Allá: Theory, Methods, and Issues of Transborder Regions,” held in Albuquerque at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) meetings in 2014.  Most of those participants and commentarists made up the contributors to this book with the addition of Jane Hill.

Three years later, this is the fruition of those panels.  Thus, the architecture of the book is designed to be tied together by the Introduction and Conclusion of the work but more importantly Alvarez, Friedenberg, and Lugo provide “interchapter” commentaries and analyses to each of the major parts and integrate and interrogate the 18 contributors and their works. Divided into four major parts each builds a quarter of the whole and each part has four to five contributors reflecting the central themes of the book.  Heyman’s Introduction clearly sets forth our theoretical assumptions and contributions by suggesting that each major part moors the study of borders and regions back in “place” historically and spatially and respaces border theory into its “original critical attention to US Mexico movements and relations. . . [and repositions the discourse] with ecology, materiality, long historical time. . .power relations, and contestation, and above all, massive and profound inequalities.”

We approach the region as transitory spaces and places of peoples and modes of production which influence and many times define their interactions but not without contention, opposition, and discontent. These themes are partially presented within a common political ecology that both limits and allows the creation of massive and profound inequalities and strained horizontal and vertical relations of power.  This book narrates peoples with histories and their discontents to such relations and the manner in which struggle of many sorts may lead to only partial solutions of their daily lives and at times, their tragic defeats. As Heyman in his Introduction asserts, “Throughout the book, power relations, struggles, and political formations are fundamental” to detail the economic, political, social, and cultural dynamics of the region all ensconced within deep history and the strategic methods of negotiating massive inequality, ecological degradation, disparities of health and education, and the imposition of state power.  Such power supports a commoditized definition of human beings as aliens but also the same imposition marks and limits the legal rights and social stability of US citizens of Mexican origin. Among the major themes of this book are the ramifications of inequality, particularly within neoliberalism, for human agency and well-being, as Freidenberg points out in her contribution.

The contributions in this work combine scholarly with engaged dimensions for practice and thus articulate strongly the premise that “grounded theory” from the quotidian levels of ethnography emerge not only best practices but as importantly the “hidden dimensions” of power imposition, ecological disparity, economic inequality, but also innovative discontents and relationships to power.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not salute our contributors and their fine works by noting their names and their works within each major part:

Introduction

Heyman

  1. Transborder Processes and Sites: Theoretical and Methodological Innovations
  2. Continuity and Contiguity of the Southwest North American Region: The Dynamics of a Common Political Ecology

Vélez-Ibáñez;

  1. Contributions of US-Mexico Border Studies to Social Science Theory
  2. J. Heyman
  3. Exceptional States and Insipid Border Walls

Dorsey and Díaz-Barriga

  1. Of Borders, Bridges, Walls, and Other Relations, Historical and Contemporary
  2. A.  Lugo
  3. Southwest North American Language Dynamics and the Creation of Bordering
  4. Proto-Uto-Aztecan: A Community of Cultivators in Central Mexico?
  5. J. Hill
  6. The Hegemony of Language and Its Discontents: Spanish Impositions from the Colonial to the Mexican Period

Vélez-Ibáñez

  1. Spanish-English Bilingualism in Uneven and Combined Relations

Heyman and Alarcón

  1. Southwest North American Language Dynamics and the Creation of Bordering
  2. R. álvarez

III. Peoples, Political Policies, and Their Contradictions

  1. The Ethics of Culture and Transnational Family Structure and Formation Revisited
  2. A. Ochoa O’Leary
  3. Neoliberal Policies and the Reshaping of the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Case of Arizona

Greenberg and Luminiţa-Anda Mandache

  1. Beyond Il/legality: Persistent Inequality and Racialized Borders of U.S. Citizenship
  2. R. Gomberg-Muñoz
  3. Where Is “the Border”? The Fourth Amendment, Boundary Enforcement, and the Making of an Inherently Suspect Class
  4. L. B. Plascencia
  5. Peoples, Political Policies, and Their Contradictions
  6. R. álvarez
  7. Transborder Economic, Ecological, and Health Processes
  8. Co-producing Waterscapes: Urban Growth and Indigenous Water Rights in the Sonoran Desert

Radonic and Sheridan

  1. Neoliberal Regimes, Research Methods, Local Activism: Border Steel, Environmental Injustice, and Health in a Texas-Mexico Border Colonia
  2. K. Staudt
  3. Diverted Retirement: The Pension Crisis Among Elderly Migrant Farmworkers
  4. S. Horton
  5. Portraits of Food Insecurity in Colonias in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region: Ethnographic Insights on Everyday Life Challenges and Strategies to Access Food

Núñez-Mchiri, Riviera, and Marrufo

  1. Transborder Economic, Ecological, and Health Processes
  2. Freidenberg

Conclusion

Vélez-Ibáñez

Celebrate my propinquity towards grandiose narratives and join us at the book reception at the SFAA meetings, March 30 at 5:30 at La Terraza (La Fonda).

Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez is Regents’ Professor and Founding Director Emeritus, School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University.

Margaret Dorsey (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) and Aimee Villarreal (Our Lady of the Lake University) are contributing editors of ALLA’s column in AN.

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