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Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders

Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier

By Pablo Vila

Publication Year: 2000

Along the U.S.–Mexico frontier, where border crossings are a daily occurrence for many people, reinforcing borders is also a common activity. Not only does the U.S. Border Patrol strive to "hold the line" against illegal immigrants, but many residents on both sides of the border seek to define and bound themselves apart from groups they perceive as "others." This pathfinding ethnography charts the social categories, metaphors, and narratives that inhabitants of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez use to define their group identity and distinguish themselves from "others." Pablo Vila draws on over 200 group interviews with more than 900 area residents to describe how Mexican nationals, Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Anglos make sense of themselves and perceive their differences from others. This research uncovers the regionalism by which many northern Mexicans construct their sense of identity, the nationalism that often divides Mexican Americans from Mexican nationals, and the role of ethnicity in setting boundaries among Anglos, Mexicans, and African Americans. Vila also looks at how gender, age, religion, and class intertwine with these factors. He concludes with fascinating excerpts from re-interviews with several informants, who modified their views of other groups when confronted by the author with the narrative character of their identities.

Published by: University of Texas Press

CONTENTS

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pp. v-vi

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PREFACE

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pp. vii-x

This volume is the first book-length product of research conducted over the course of more than six years in the El Paso–Ciudad Juárez area beginning in the early 1990s. Because it is difficult to summarize in only one publication the findings of more than two hundred group interviews, ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xi-xii

This book has been made possible by the help of numerous people. First of all I want to thank the interviewees who participated in the group discussions with the photographs. Without their willingness to share with me their daily joys and sorrows, as well as their narratives about themselves, ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-20

On the eve of the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—which was supposed to improve relations between the United States and Mexico—the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso implemented a new strategy to deter the influx of undocumented immigrants. ...

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Chapter 1. THE MEXICAN SIDE: DISCOURSES OF REGION

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pp. 21-50

As I mentioned in the Introduction (and develop at length in the Appendix), I think that people on the border use extensively social categories and interpellations to understand who they are and who the “others” are. ...

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Chapter 2. THE MEXICAN SIDE: DISCOURSES OF NATION

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pp. 51-80

Many people living in Ju

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Chapter 3. THE EMPLOTMENT OF THE MEXICAN ON THE U.S. SIDE OF THE BORDER

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pp. 81-128

A peculiar characteristic of the U.S.–Mexico border is that people changing countries are not only crossing from one country to another, but are also moving from one national system of classification to another—both systems in which they have a place. ...

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Chapter 4. MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS AND THE “ALL POVERTY IS MEXICAN” NARRATIVE PLOT

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pp. 129-166

In the last chapter I mentioned that, due to the pervasive presence of the “all poverty is Mexican” discourse in El Paso, the constitution of a valued social identity is relatively straightforward for some middle-class Anglos and relatively difficult for many people of Mexican descent. ...

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Chapter 5. OPERATION BLOCKADE, OR WHEN PRIVATE NARRATIVES WENT PUBLIC

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pp. 167-190

Thus far I have been interested in showing the mechanisms of identity construction in a very special setting like the border, where different countries, economies, cultures, religions, and ethnicities come together. Because my interest has been in mechanisms, I relied on an ethnographic technique; ...

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Chapter 6. DIALOGICAL SOCIAL SCIENCE AND THE POSSIBILITY OF NARRATING BETTER STORIES

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pp. 191-226

When I decided to use the discussion of photographs as a methodology instead of surveys, I also decided I would engage my interviewees in a dialogue instead of relying on a researcher’s monologue. For two different but related reasons, I designed my research in such a way that returning to the people I interviewed was a must. ...

Appendix. CATEGORIES, INTERPELLATIONS, METAPHORS, AND NARRATIVES: A BRIEF THEORETICAL DISCUSSION

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pp. 227-250

NOTES

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pp. 251-268

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 269-276

INDEX

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pp. 277-290


E-ISBN-13: 9780292796324
E-ISBN-10: 0292796323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292787391
Print-ISBN-10: 0292787391

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 17 halftones
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Inter-America Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • El Paso (Tex.) -- Social conditions.
  • Mexican-American Border Region -- Social conditions.
  • Group identity -- Mexico -- Ciudad Juárez.
  • Group identity -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • Group identity -- Texas -- El Paso.
  • Ciudad Juárez (Mexico) -- Social conditions.
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