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Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times
Anti-immigrant sentiment reached a fever pitch after 9/11, but its origins go back much further. Public rhetoric aimed at exposing a so-called invasion of Latino immigrants has been gaining ground for more than three decades—and fueling increasingly restrictive federal immigration policy. Accompanied by a flagging U.S. economy—record-level joblessness, bankruptcy, and income inequality—as well as waning consumer confidence, these conditions signaled one of the most hostile environments for immigrants in recent memory. In Brokered Boundaries, Douglas Massey and Magaly Sánchez untangle the complex political, social, and economic conditions underlying the rise of xenophobia in U.S. society. The book draws on in-depth interviews with Latin American immigrants in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia and—in their own words and images—reveals what life is like for immigrants attempting to integrate in anti-immigrant times. What do the social categories “Latino” and “American” actually mean to today’s immigrants? Brokered Boundaries analyzes how first- and second-generation immigrants from Central and South America and the Caribbean navigate these categories and their associated meanings as they make their way through U.S. society. Massey and Sánchez argue that the mythos of immigration, in which newcomers gradually shed their respective languages, beliefs, and cultural practices in favor of a distinctly American way of life, is, in reality, a process of negotiation between new arrivals and native-born citizens. Natives control interactions with outsiders by creating institutional, social, psychological, and spatial mechanisms that delimit immigrants’ access to material resources and even social status. Immigrants construct identities based on how they perceive and respond to these social boundaries. The authors make clear that today’s Latino immigrants are brokering boundaries in the context of unprecedented economic uncertainty, repressive anti-immigrant legislation, and a heightening fear that upward mobility for immigrants translates into downward mobility for the native-born. Despite an absolute decline in Latino immigration, immigration-related statutes have tripled in recent years, including many that further shred the safety net for legal permanent residents as well as the undocumented. Brokered Boundaries shows that, although Latin American immigrants come from many different countries, their common reception in a hostile social environment produces an emergent Latino identity soon after arrival. During anti-immigrant times, however, the longer immigrants stay in America, the more likely they are to experience discrimination and the less likely they are to identify as Americans.
Detective Fiction and the Search for Chicana/o Identity
Popular fiction, with its capacity for diversion, can mask important cultural observations within a framework that is often overlooked in the academic world. Works thought to be merely “escapist” can often be more seriously mined for revelations regarding the worlds they portray, especially those of the disenfranchised. As detective fiction has slowly earned critical respect, more authors from minority groups have chosen it as their medium. Chicana/o authors, previously reluctant to write in an underestimated genre that might further marginalize them, have only entered the world of detective fiction in the past two decades. In this book, the first comprehensive study of Chicano/a detective fiction, Ralph E. Rodriguez examines the recent contributions to the genre by writers such as Rudolfo Anaya, Lucha Corpi, Rolando Hinojosa, Michael Nava, and Manuel Ramos. Their works reveal the struggles of Chicanas/os with feminism, homosexuality, familia, masculinity, mysticism, the nationalist subject, and U.S.-Mexico border relations. He maintains that their novels register crucial new discourses of identity, politics, and cultural citizenship that cannot be understood apart from the historical instability following the demise of the nationalist politics of the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In contrast to that time, when Chicanas/os sought a unified Chicano identity in order to effect social change, the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s have seen a disengagement from these nationalist politics and a new trend toward a heterogeneous sense of self. The detective novel and its traditional focus on questions of knowledge and identity turned out to be the perfect medium in which to examine this new self.
Chicano/a Representations of Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity
Common conceptions permeating U.S. ethnic queer theory tend to confuse aesthetics with real-world acts and politics. Often Chicano/a representations of gay and lesbian experiences in literature and film are analyzed simply as propaganda. The cognitive, emotional, and narrational ingredients (that is, the subject matter and the formal traits) of those representations are frequently reduced to a priori agendas that emphasize a politics of difference. In this book, Frederick Luis Aldama follows an entirely different approach. He investigates the ways in which race and gay/lesbian sexuality intersect and operate in Chicano/a literature and film while taking into full account their imaginative nature and therefore the specific kind of work invested in them. Also, Aldama frames his analyses within today's larger (globalized) context of postcolonial literary and filmic canons that seek to normalize heterosexual identity and experience. Throughout the book, Aldama applies his innovative approach to throw new light on the work of authors Arturo Islas, Richard Rodriguez, John Rechy, Ana Castillo, and Sheila Ortiz Taylor, as well as that of film director Edward James Olmos. In doing so, Aldama aims to integrate and deepen Chicano literary and filmic studies within a comparative perspective. Aldama's unusual juxtapositions of narrative materials and cultural personae, and his premise that literature and film produce fictional examples of a social and historical reality concerned with ethnic and sexual issues largely unresolved, make this book relevant to a wide range of readers.
Filipino Cultural Community Formation on the Internet
The dramatic growth of the Internet in recent years has provided opportunities for a host of relationships and communities—forged across great distances and even time—that would have seemed unimaginable only a short while ago.
In Building Diaspora, Emily Noelle Ignacio explores how Filipinos have used these subtle, cyber, but very real social connections to construct and reinforce a sense of national, ethnic, and racial identity with distant others. Through an extensive analysis of newsgroup debates, listserves, and website postings, she illustrates the significant ways that computer-mediated communication has contributed to solidifying what can credibly be called a Filipino diaspora. Lively cyber-discussions on topics including Eurocentrism, Orientalism, patriarchy, gender issues, language, and "mail-order-brides" have helped Filipinos better understand and articulate their postcolonial situation as well as their relationship with other national and ethnic communities around the world. Significant attention is given to the complicated history of Philippine-American relations, including the ways Filipinos are racialized as a result of their political and economic subjugation to U.S. interests.
As Filipinos and many other ethnic groups continue to migrate globally, Building Diaspora makes an important contribution to our changing understanding of "homeland." The author makes the powerful argument that while home is being further removed from geographic place, it is being increasingly territorialized in space.
A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border
Cotton, crucial to the economy of the American South, has also played a vital role in the making of the Mexican north. The Lower Río Bravo (Rio Grande) Valley irrigation zone on the border with Texas in northern Tamaulipas, Mexico, was the centerpiece of the Cárdenas government’s effort to make cotton the basis of the national economy. This irrigation district, built and settled by Mexican Americans repatriated from Texas, was a central feature of Mexico’s effort to control and use the waters of the international river for irrigated agriculture. Drawing on previously unexplored archival sources, Casey Walsh discusses the relations among various groups comprising the “social field” of cotton production in the borderlands. By describing the complex relationships among these groups, Walsh contributes to a clearer understanding of capitalism and the state, of transnational economic forces, of agricultural and water issues in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands, and of the environmental impacts of economic development. Building the Borderlands crosses a number of disciplinary, thematic, and regional frontiers, integrating perspectives and literature from the United States and Mexico, from anthropology and history, and from political, economic, and cultural studies. Walsh’s important transnational study will enjoy a wide audience among scholars of Latin American and Western U.S. history, the borderlands, and environmental and agricultural history, as well as anthropologists and others interested in the environment and water rights.
Robert Viscusi takes a comprehensive look at Italian American writing by exploring the connections between language and culture in Italian American experience and major literary texts. Italian immigrants, Viscusi argues, considered even their English to be a dialect of Italian, and therefore attempted to create an American English fully reflective of their historical, social, and cultural positions. This approach allows us to see Italian American purposes as profoundly situated in relation not only to American language and culture but also to Italian nationalist narratives in literary history as well as linguistic practice. Viscusi also situates Italian American writing within the “eccentric design” of American literature, and uses a multidisciplinary approach to read not only novels and poems, but also houses, maps, processions, videos, and other artifacts as texts.
Narratives of Resistance in Italian America
Examines the liberating power of speech and its influence on generations of Italian American writers. In By the Breath of Their Mouths, Mary Jo Bona examines the oral uses of language and the liberating power of speech in Italian American writing, as well as its influences on generations of assimilated Italian American writers. Probing and wide-ranging, Bona’s analysis reveals the lasting importance of storytelling and folk narrative, their impact on ethnic, working-class, and women’s literatures, and their shaping importance in multiethnic literature. Drawing on a wide range of material from several genres, including oral biographies, fiction, film, poetry, and memoir, and grounded in recent theories of narrative and autobiography, postcolonial theory, and critical multiculturalism, By the Breath of Their Mouths is must reading for students in Italian American studies in particular and ethnic studies and multiethnic literature more generally.