The Fence and the River: Culture and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Fence and the River: Culture and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Fence and the River: Culture and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Fence and the River: Culture and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Excerpt

The Border Is Fashionable.

-BAW/TAF

We look at the material solidity of a building, a canal, a highway, and behind it we see
always the insecurity that lurks within a circulation process of capital, which always asks:
How much more time in this relative space?

-David Harvey

This study is about representations of the U.S.-Mexico border that have appeared in literature, art, and mass media in the twentieth century, focusing especially on texts from the past three decades. Although intended as a critique of the current fashion in postnational, non-site-specific border imagery in contemporary cultural theory, my work is no doubt also symptomatic of that trend and indebted to it for much of its source material. Some artists and writers, such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña, argue that border art had already peaked in the 1980s and that its current popularity can be attributed to opportunists promoting mannerist derivatives of earlier images. Others argue that due recognition of the border region has not occurred yet. Even in Chicano/a studies, where the idea of “borderlands” is an overarching metaphor in much fiction and criticism, Charles Tatum recently noted the scarce appearance of the geographical border: “It is unusual that although the United States-Mexican border plays a dominant role in the history of Chicanos in this country, it has not become an important literary space in contemporary Chicano letters.” I believe that an accurate description of the current situation lies somewhere in between these two arguments. While the border has received a great deal of attention in recent literature and art, this body of work has not yet been fully acknowledged by scholars and critics. Meanwhile, an abstract, metaphorical “border” has gained widespread currency . . .

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