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— 223 — Introduction The US-Mexico border is particularly interesting for examining the complications of class consciousness. Class relations and perceptions on the US side are deeply interwoven with race relations between Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans,1 while racism and nationalism also affect understandings of Mexico in the United States and vice versa. The border inherently involves connections and comparisons across the international boundary , and the region is central to the current international division of labor in manufacturing. In turn, citizenship and immigration status strongly affect class and race in the United States, although none of these categories match up with the others in a simple way. Even a local, ethnographic study of consciousness thus demands consideration of regional, national, and transnational scales. The goal in sorting out this complexity is not to privilege one set of relations, whether class, citizenship, race, or gender, and ignore the others or see them as disguises to be pulled away. Nor is it enough to say that N I N E Class Consciousness in a Complicated Setting Race, Immigration Status, Nationality, and Class on the US-Mexico Border J o s i a h He y m a n — 224 — J o s i a h H e y m a n inequalities intersect or combine (e.g., to use the label “class-race”). That is true, but by itself is not insightful, substituting a label for hard political and intellectual challenges. Rather, we need to examine the relationship between different orders of phenomena, the overall framework of capitalist relations, historically assembled regional frameworks (social-political orders and discourses), and lived experiences and understandings. To untangle these complications, I begin by considering four levels of abstraction in the study of inequality. This helps us understand that the word class means several different things, helping us clarify the relationship between class and other social frameworks, such as citizenship or race. Next, I briefly review the history of the US-Mexico border, examining changes in the organization of inequality as we come to the present situation. The heart of the paper is a corpus of ethnographic material from the US side of the border (El Paso, Texas); although this is not a truly two-sided view of the borderlands, it does touch on consciousness of class in transnational connections. I conclude by suggesting that the border provides an illuminating case study of how to proceed in understanding other tangled cases of consciousness. Four Levels of Abstraction in the Analysis of Inequality Here I offer four different levels of analysis of inequality, from more abstract to more specific. I draw substantially on Eric Wolf’s discussion of power (1990), especially his distinctions among strategic power, tactical power, and immediate behavioral power. 1. The abstract class relationship between labor and capital: Marx’s central concern, of course, and Wolf’s core example of strategic power. 2. The organizing principles by which people are mobilized as “labor” or “capital,” which fit with Wolf’s tactical power. These may be race, nationality, and gender, as well as class itself (e.g., the factors that produce advantages and disadvantages in public schools). 3. The empirical distribution of material goods and social honor among individuals, households, and communities, much influenced by the mobilizing principles discussed in item 2. 4. Consciousness: the ways that people understand strategic, tactical, and empirical inequalities, using a variety of frameworks, class and otherwise. — 225 — C l a s s C o n s c i o u s n e s s i n a C o m p l i c a t e d S e t t i n g Recently, and I think correctly, the idea of intersectionality (Collins 1998) has been used to summarize the simultaneity and interactions of class, race, gender, sexuality, and (more rarely recognized) citizenship and immigration status. The framework offered here aids our understanding of intersectionality by clarifying confusions derived from using the same words at different levels of abstraction, and by helping us analyze more deeply the specific character of intersections, such as the use of race or citizenship as means of recruitment into and lived experiences of strategic class relations. From Race to Class on the US-Mexico Border: A Regional History in Two Nations The US-Mexico borderlands deserve a lengthy stand-alone essay addressing the interactions over time and space of race, class, citizenship, and gender; all I can provide here are brief notes about how we arrived at the present situation (see...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781607321576
Related ISBN
9781607321569
MARC Record
OCLC
781635696
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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