Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts: Culture, Capitalism, and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts: Culture, Capitalism, and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts: Culture, Capitalism, and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts: Culture, Capitalism, and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border


Established in 1659 as Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Mansos del Paso del Norte, Ciudad Juárez is the oldest colonial settlement on the U.S.-Mexico border-and one of the largest industrialized border cities in the world. Since the days of its founding, Juárez has been marked by different forms of conquest and the quest for wealth as an elaborate matrix of gender, class, and ethnic hierarchies struggled for dominance. Juxtaposing the early Spanish invasions of the region with the arrival of late-twentieth-century industrial "conquistadors," Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts documents the consequences of imperial history through in-depth ethnographic studies of working-class factory life. By comparing the social and human consequences of recent globalism with the region's pioneer era, Alejandro Lugo demonstrates the ways in which class mobilization is itself constantly being "unmade" at both the international and personal levels for border workers. Both an inside account of maquiladora practices and a rich social history, this is an interdisciplinary survey of the legacies, tropes, economic systems, and gender-based inequalities reflected in a unique cultural landscape. Through a framework of theoretical conceptualizations applied to a range of facets--from multiracial "mestizo" populations to the notions of border "crossings" and "inspections," as well as the recent brutal killings of working-class women in Ciudad Juárez--Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts provides a critical understanding of the effect of transnational corporations on contemporary Mexico, calling for official recognition of the desperate need for improved working and living conditions within this community.


The scope of the modern European expansion which began in the fifteenth
century far exceeded that of any previous “world” conquest. During the
1500s and 1600s it proceeded to enmesh in its web of domination the
natives of the Americas, Africa, southern Asia, and the islands of the South
Seas … As in the wake of other conquests, there were many different
trends and counter-trends with respect to the acceptance and rejection of
what the conquerors offered as a new and superior way of life…. In most
cases, after the native peoples were subjugated, strong sentiment grew up
in the conquering nation regarding the injustice of the original conquest
… but only a segment of the dominant nation was influenced by such
sentiments. In contrast in every country stood those generally classed as
practical people who remained dominated by the old urge for conquest,
but now expressed in new terms, such as political integration and cultural


If we knew the sixteenth century better … we would no longer discuss
globalization as though it were a new, recent situation…. Right from the
Renaissance, Western expansion has continuously spawned hybrids all
over the globe, along with reactions of rejection…. Planetwide mestizo
phenomena thus seem closely linked to the harbingers of economic glob
alization that began in the second half of the sixteenth century, a century
which, whether viewed from Europe, America, or Asia, was the Iberian cen
tury par excellence, just as our own has become the American century. This
glance backward is merely another way of discussing the present …


CIUDAD JUÁREZ, CHIHUAHUA, Mexico, founded in 1659 and with a current population of approximately 1.3 million people, is both the oldest colonial settlement along the U.S.-Mexico border (Arreola and Curtis 1993) and one of the largest industrialized border cities, not only in the Americas but in the world. Of major importance is the fact that many of the sociocultural markers of empire . . .

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