Transnational Encounters: Music and Performance at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Transnational Encounters: Music and Performance at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Transnational Encounters: Music and Performance at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Transnational Encounters: Music and Performance at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Synopsis

Through the study of a large variety of musical practices from the U.S.-Mexico border, Transnational Encounters seeks to provide a new perspective on the complex character of this geographic area. By focusing not only on norte a, banda or conjunto musics (the most stereotypical musical traditions among Hispanics in the area) but also engaging a number of musical practices that have often been neglected in the study of this border's history and culture (indigenous musics, African American musical traditions, pop musics), the authors provide a glance into the diversity of ethnic groups that have encountered each other throughout the area's history. Against common misconceptions about the U.S.-Mexico border as a predominant Mexican area, this book argues that it is diversity and not homogeneity which characterizes it. From a wide variety of disciplinary and multidisciplinary enunciations, these essays explore the transnational connections that inform these musical cultures while keeping an eye on their powerful local significance, in an attempt to redefine notions like "border," "nation," "migration," "diaspora," etc. Looking at music and its performative power through the looking glass of cultural criticism allows this book to contribute to larger intellectual concerns and help redefine the field of U.S.-Mexico border studies beyond the North/South and American/Mexican dichotomies. Furthermore, the essays in this book problematize some of the widespread misconceptions about U.S.-Mexico border history and culture in the current debate about immigration.

Excerpt

One could trace the beginnings of border studies as a scholarly field to the 1950s ethnographic writings about southern Texas culture by Américo Paredes or Octavio Paz’s empirical, if largely mistaken and controversial, take on pachucos in El laberinto de la soledad (1950). Although their reasons to engage the contested space of the U.S.-Mexican border were completely different—Paz denies agency to pachucos as nowhere men unable to assimilate to either Mexican or U.S. mainstream culture in his essentialist attempt to define a Mexican national character, while Paredes’s project seeks to put in evidence the presence of a community systematically dispossessed in U.S. nationalist discourses—they both take expressive culture as a fundamental element in trying to understand border life. Indeed, expressive culture has been a fundamental subject of study in trying to understand the U.S.-Mexico border. Within the wide array of possibilities that expressive culture offers to researchers, music has played a prominent role throughout the development of border studies. From the folklorist perspective in Paredes’s foundational With His Pistol in His Hand (1958) to the sociological and critical gazes in José Manuel Valenzuela’s Jefe de jefes. Corridos y narcocultura en México (2003), and José David Saldívar’s Border Matters (1997), music has occupied a central place in the study of border culture. However, most border music studies have tended to focus on a very few and specific musical practices—namely the corridor (ballad) tradition in its different incarnations—and the styles most often linked to northern Mexican and Mexican-American communities— norteña, Tejano, banda and related styles and genres. Curiously, although music has been a . . .

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