New Grad Course: AMST8920: Transnationalism and US-Mexico Borderlands

AMST 8920, "Topics: Transnationalism and U.S. - Mexico Borderlands" will be taught spring 2013 by Yolanda Padilla. This course will track Chicana/o border studies as it evolved in the 1980's and 90's, examine ways in which border studies influenced and shaped the transnational imperatives that are now fundamental to work in American studies, and observe two case studies that indicate the importance of the borderlands for generating transnational approaches in Chicano/a and American Studies.

Transnationalism and U.S. - Mexico Borderlands

When Gloria Anzaldúa published Borderlands / la frontera in 1987, she sparked a renewed interest among Chicana/o scholars in the U.S.-Mexico border region as a locus of analysis and as a conceptual paradigm. While the borderlands have been central to the field since its inception, Chicana/o scholars mined the region's critical potential with an intensified rigor, extending and developing approaches for its study as place, process, and metaphor. At the same time, scholars in American studies were searching for ways to re-think the place of the nation in the field, especially in light of work that elucidated the relationship between nation and empire in the United States. The global framework that Chicana/o studies scholars were applying to the border was seen as powerfully generative, particularly the connections such scholars made between the study of ethnicity, racialization, and immigration, and empire building, imperialism, and international relations. In the ensuing years, the "borderlands" has become one of American Studies' key tropes, and a central critical coordinate in the field's much-remarked "transnational turn."

In this course, we will critically engage the developments outlined above, doing so in three parts. First, we will track Chicana/o border studies as it evolved in the 1980s and '90s, paying special attention to the approaches the field generated for challenging nation-based understandings of cultural politics, racialization, and subject formation. Second, we will examine the ways in which border studies influenced and shaped the transnational imperatives that are now fundamental to work in American studies, as well as the strong criticisms directed against such work by Latin Americanists. Finally, we will consider two case studies that indicate the continuing importance of the borderlands for generating transnational approaches in Chicana/o and American studies. The first will be a focus on Américo Paredes, a figure of particular importance for our course due to his centrality in the initial emergence of border studies and in more recent debates regarding transnational American studies. Second, we will study the rise of more material-based cultural criticism in Chicana/o border studies, especially work that examines the cultural politics of the border around the economic globalization of the region and the Juárez femicides.

Each part will be grounded in analyses of the border region's rich tradition of cultural production. Possible cultural works we will study include the foundational border writings of Américo Paredes and Gloria Anzaldúa, films by Lourdes Portillo, John Sayles, and María Novaro, performance art by Marisela Norte and Guillermo Gómez-Peña, music by Chela Silva, Tish Hinojosa, and El Vez, and short fiction by Mexican fronteriza/o writers Rosinda Conde and Federico Campbell. Scholarship we will engage includes works by Norma Alarcón, Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Debra Castillo, Claire Fox, Rosa Linda Fregoso, José Limón, Walter Mignolo, Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Ramón Saldívar, and Sonia Saldívar-Hull.