Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Judith Boruchoff, University of Chicago and Alejandro Paz, University of Toronto

Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar
Thursday, April 29, 2010

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

“The Politicization and Politics of Mexican Migrants: Guerrero Hometown Organizations in Chicago
Judith Boruchoff, University of Chicago

There is now ample literature arguing that Mexican migrant organizations, that initially formed to fund and carry out public works in members’ native villages, have become noteworthy political actors.  Yet we have not adequately inquired into the different types of political power they achieve and through what means. I contribute to this task, developing my arguments through comparison of the two Guerrero state-level coalitions of hometown clubs that resulted when the original Federation of Guerrerenses in Chicago split in 2003 after making pioneering gains since it was founded in the early 1990s. Through ethnography I explore the divergent ways of doing politics, both internal to the organizations and beyond, and assess their implications for varied impacts on political processes in both Mexico and the United States. This analysis of two groups from the same Mexican state reminds us of the different ways of being political that may obtain even in seemingly similar organizations; it invites greater scrutiny of how political modus operandi may vary yielding different types of agency and limitations.

“The Registers of Ethnolinguistic Belonging: A Latino Diaspora of Discourse in Israel
Alejandro Paz, The University of Toronto

Switching or shifting to the dominant language is often conceived of as either a risky if temporary boundary-crossing, or else an irreparable process of losing culture during assimilation. On the other hand, maintaining a heritage language is often thought to preserve a diasporic tie. This paper challenges such treatments of language as a discrete object, by considering how Latino labor migrants in Israel see the preservation of educación (polite breeding) in discursive interaction—rather than Spanish—as both what sets them apart ethnolinguistically, as well as what ties them to their diasporic origins. Based on extensive ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork, the paper documents a unique group of Latinos as part of a larger phenomenon of labor migration that transformed Israeli society.

Commentator: Elaine Peña, George Washington University