Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Borderlands in Art and Culture

Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar
Saturday, April 25, 2009

10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Panel One: Artistic Explorations of the Borderlands
Commentator: Professor John Márquez, Assistant Professor of African American and Latino Studies at Northwestern University

Both Settler and Native: The Predicament of Chicana/o Indigeneity
Sheila Marie Contreras, Michigan State University

These figures of “’the’ Native woman,” to use Norma Alarcón’s terminology, challenged not only Chicano patriarchy, but also Euro-American regulatory definitions of citizenship that categorized people of Mexican-descent in the United States as perpetually foreign.  Chicana indigenist projects have sparked much debate within Chicana/o Studies and prompted critiques from outside the field that question the authenticity of claims to indigeneity in the absence of tribal affiliation.  If we look to the Canadian context, however, we find in the Métis a parallel population whose struggle for federal recognition alerts us to the periodic shifts and ongoing uncertainties in evolving definitions of who can be Native.

Migración y Movimiento: Aztlán in Chicana/o Art and Visual Culture
Dylan Miner, Michigan State University

Although Aztlán functioned as a common trope within the movimiento chicana/o, subsequent scholarship has insufficiently theorized its role and signification within the liberatory moment of the late-1960s and 1970s.  This paper will address the work of five diverse Chicana/o activist-artists (Malaquías Montoya, Gilbert “Magú” Luján, Santa Barraza, Nora Chapa Mendoza and Carlos Cortéz Koyokuikatl) and the function that Aztlán serves within their respective artistic projects.  By engaging with the concept of Aztlán, the author hopes to return to the anti-colonial potentialities embedded within its composition.  Initially serving the needs of a pre-colonial Nahua hegemony, Aztlán would eventually begin to signify an anti-colonial indigeneity capable to problematizing the inequitable social stratification in the US.  Positioned in the epistemological foundations of Chicana/o and Indigenous Studies, this paper begins to inquire about Aztlán’s function and how various artists are/were evoking the concept.

De-Territorializing the Borderland: Afro-Mexicans and Institutional Space
Matthew Rarey, University of Wisconsin at Madison

This paper begins with an insistence that the concept of a border-land requires neither national borders nor physical space. Instead, borderlands emerge unconsciously from charged cultural interactions, regardless of location, and are reified through subjective experience. There is no better case study of this than The African Presence in Mexico, one of the world’s first museum exhibitions dedicated specifically to Afro-Mexican identity. As this show travels to venues throughout the United States and Mexico, I compare its exhibition plan, display modes, and visitor reactions to those of the Museo de las Culturas Afromestizas in the predominantly Afro-Mexican city of Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero, Mexico. What emerges is a narrative that asks us to forge a conceptualization of “borderland” that treats museum exhibits as potential sites of mental diasporic journeys for the museum patron; a constant re-location of personal consciousness impacted by both personal experience and cultural geography.

Panel Two: Contemporary Border Issues
Commentator: Professor Christina Gómez, Associate Professor of Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University

In Loco Parentis: Recasting Unaccompanied Youth
Lauren Heidbrink, Johns Hopkins University

This paper explores how the emergent juridical category of the “unaccompanied alien child” complicates the constructs of personhood in U.S. immigration law and recasts the relationship between the state, migrant youth, and their families. This paper explores the ways migrant youth resist the law by crossing physical, social and metaphoric borders and residing in overlapping spaces of impossibility – be it social invisibility, illegality, or independence. Through their negotiations of a complex network of actors and institutions, youth may evade deportation, earn income, and contribute to household economies in the United States and in their home countries.

“Gesturing” Towards Sovereign’s Race, Class and Gender (In)visibility: The Naked State, Subaltern Resistance, and Policing Across The Chicago-Mexican Boderlands.
Sergio Lemus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Whether one reads Michel Foucault or Girogio Agamben, there is a sense that when their theories and methods are applied in the context of the Americas, they miss accounting for the why and the who benefits in modern political projects of state formation. If we bring Foucault’s and Agamben’s theories to bear against everyday life and history, we may be better equipped to envision sites of subaltern resistance. In this essay, I bring Foucault and Agamben theories of  power in order to explain the criminalization thorough racialized discourses of Mexican immigrants in order to complicate our understanding of state formation and how state power operates in a postcolonial context and U.S.-Mexico Borderlands which include Chicago.

Building a Better Future for Migrants: Chicago-based Mexican Hometown Associations and Illinois State Immigrant Integration Policy
Alexandra Price, University of Chicago

How do foreign-born immigrants ultimately participate in a civil society and political system into which they were not born?  Furthermore, how do these immigrants assist in implementing state-level policy as members of voluntary community-based organizations?  This paper explores how immigrants, regardless of their legal status, affect, change, and shape immigrant integration policy in the state of Illinois.  Incorporating key terms from transnationalism, social capital, and citizenship theories, the burgeoning influence of Chicago-based Mexican immigrant hometown associations (HTAs) is explored through the lens of those HTAs linked to the Mexican state of Michoacán.