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Border Rhetorics

Citizenship and Identity on the US-Mexico Frontier

Edited by D. Robert DeChaine

Publication Year: 2012

Border Rhetorics is a collection of essays that undertakes a wide-ranging examination of the US-Mexico border as it functions in the rhetorical production of civic unity in the United States.

A “border” is a powerful and versatile concept, variously invoked as the delineation of geographical territories, as a judicial marker of citizenship, and as an ideological trope for defining inclusion and exclusion. It has implications for both the empowerment and subjugation of any given populace. Both real and imagined, the border separates a zone of physical and symbolic exchange whose geographical, political, economic, and cultural interactions bear profoundly on popular understandings and experiences of citizenship and identity. 

The border’s rhetorical significance is nowhere more apparent, nor its effects more concentrated, than on the frontier between the United States and Mexico. Often understood as an unruly boundary in dire need of containment from the ravages of criminals, illegal aliens, and other undesirable threats to the national body, this geopolitical locus exemplifies how normative constructions of “proper” border relations reinforce definitions of US citizenship, which in turn can lead to anxiety, unrest, and violence centered around the struggle to define what it means to be a member of a national political community.  

Bernadette Marie Calafell / Karma R. Chávez / Josue David Cisneros / D. Robert DeChaine / Anne Teresa Demo / Lisa A. Flores / Dustin Bradley Goltz / Marouf Hasian Jr. / Michelle A. Holling / Julia R. Johnson / Zach Justus / Diane M. Keeling / John Louis Lucaites / George F. McHendry Jr. / Toby Miller / Kent A. Ono / Brian L. Ott / Kimberlee Pérez / Mary Ann Villarreal

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

The conceptualization and contents of Border Rhetorics emerged over a number of years and across diverse discursive contexts. I owe a great many debts of gratitude for its existence, several of which deserve special acknowledgment. The intellectual impetus for the volume owes heavily to the scholarship...

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Introduction: For Rhetorical Border Studies

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pp. 1-15

The figure of the border animates the language of social relations in the United States today. Symbolic and material, affective and performative, the border is an omnipresent force in our everyday lives, materializing and shifting across registers of geography, history, politics, economics, citizenship...

I. Conceptual Orientations

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1. Borders That Travel: Matters of the Figural Border

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pp. 19-32

Unsurprisingly, national attention is once again focused on the US/Mexico border. Each time this happens (some might say, “Has this ever not happened?”), historically minded scholars remind us this is a recurring state of affairs. Not only is it the most crossed national border in the world, but...

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2. Bordering as Social Practice: Intersectional Identifications and Coalitional Possibilities

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pp. 33-47

As sites of cultural contestation and negotiation, borders are material spaces and symbolic constructions that regulate and reflect cultural citizenship and belonging. While borders are frequently conceptualized as geographic spaces, recent scholarship has addressed bordering as social practice, or a performative and...

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3. Border Interventions: The Need to Shift from a Rhetoric of Security to a Rhetoric of Militarization

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pp. 48-62

Scholars of rhetoric and performance have opened important terrains in the study of immigration and borders pertaining to subjects such as citizenship, media representation, and migrant identity (Cisneros, “(Re)Bordering the Civic Imaginary”; DeChaine, “Bordering the Civic Imaginary”; McKinnon; Ono...

II. Historical Consequences

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4. A Dispensational Rhetoric in “The Mexican Question in the Southwest”

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pp. 65-85

Suppression of cultural rights, calls for deportation of immigrants, poor working conditions of agricultural workers, and citizen and state patrols of the border are all contested issues in the public sphere, in congressional debates, and in national protests that have occurred in recent years. Some have gone...

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5. Mobilizing for National Inclusion: The Discursivity of Whiteness among Texas Mexicans’ Arguments for Desegregation

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pp. 86-100

In January of 1948, Texas Mexican communities joined together, in Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District (B.I.S.D.), to fight the segregation of students of “Mexican extraction” in Texas schools, a battle they expected would have to be fought all the way to the Supreme Court. A short six months later...

III. Legal Acts

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6. The Attempted Legitimation of the Vigilante Civil Border Patrols, the Militarization of the Mexican-US Border, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

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pp. 103-116

Vigilante justice seems to have always been a key part of some of the genealogical histories of various populist movements that are associated with democratic governance (Abrahams; Yoxall; Walker), and elite and vernacular communities have participated in heated debates about the merits of citizen activism and the...

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7. Shot in the Back: Articulating the Ideologies of the Minutemen through a Political Trial

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pp. 117-130

On February 17, 2005, Texas Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Alonso Compean pursued and shot drug-trafficking suspect Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. Davila was given full immunity for his testimony against the border agents despite the fact that agents confiscated one million dollars’ worth of marijuana that...

IV . Performative Affects

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8. Looking “Illegal”: Affect, Rhetoric, and Performativity in Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070

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pp. 133-150

What does it mean to look like a noncitizen? How can someone’s legal citizenship status be determined by their physical characteristics, actions, or demeanor? These questions point to the embodied and performative levels at which border rhetorics operate in contemporary American society. As essays in this...

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9. Love, Loss, and Immigration: Performative Reverberations between a Great-Grandmother and Great-Granddaughter

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pp. 151-162

I haven’t been “home” in a while. I put “home” in quotation marks because it doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s been ten years since I moved. Ten years since I missed the desert and Aztlán, the US Southwest, the Chicana/o homeland. Ten years later a great deal has changed as I have moved from Phoenix to...

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10. Borders without Bodies: Affect, Proximity, and Utopian Imaginaries through "Lines in the Sand"

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pp. 163-178

Mainstream discourses circulate to construct images of the Mexican-American border and Mexican Americans: as perpetual immigrants (Flores, “Constructing Rhetorical Borders” 363) outside of belonging to the nation (Carrillo Rowe, “Whose ‘America’?” 122), economic and criminal threats to the nation...

V. Media Circuits

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11. Transborder Politics: The Embodied Call of Conscience in Traffic

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pp. 181-196

In 1969, President Richard Nixon sought to curb the manufacturing, distribution, and use of controlled substances by initiating a “War on Drugs.” Following the launch of this initiative, “the US-Mexico border became . . . the frontline in a never-ending war between the US government and the...

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12. Decriminalizing Illegal Immigration: Immigrants’ Rights through the Documentary Lens

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pp. 197-212

The first documentary to address the issue of illegal immigration aired in 1976 on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. The Unwanted earned three regional Emmys including awards for best writing and best current affairs special. In 1997, the documentary was rereleased by the National Latino Communications Center and...

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13. The Ragpicker-Citizen

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pp. 213-226

This chapter juggles multiple determinations and overdeterminations, keeping the interrelationships of state, capital, people, environment, and discourse in tension. My method draws on work done to forward a new communication studies that differs from aesthetic criticism based on interpretation and identity...

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Afterword: Border Optics

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pp. 227-230

As I drive from my home near Indianapolis to my office in Bloomington, I cross three county lines, all duly marked with official signs. As I approach the university I pass the gates that separate the campus from the town that surrounds it on all sides. Traffic markers declare a “school zone” (when children are present). Once in...

Suggested Readings

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pp. 231-233

Works Cited

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pp. 235-264


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pp. 265-268


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pp. 269-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386054
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817357160

Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 2012