Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Exploring Gloria Anzaldua's Methodology in Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Exploring Gloria Anzaldua's Methodology in Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza

Article excerpt

New Symbols, Codes, and Categories

My initial reading of Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza came in the winter of 2001, and immediately I was fascinated by the complexity and originality of her theory of the borderlands. She surprised me at every turn of the text, in each new chapter, by taking her analysis of the emergence of a New Mestiza consciousness into unexpected and unexplored territories. Her method of inquiry has revealed to me new intellectual, psychological, and spiritual spaces that are in the process of being formed via new symbols, codes, and categories, and has brought me fresh understandings of the complex and heterogeneous worlds that are emerging around us.

My initial fascination with Borderlands never waned, for I soon found myself dipping into the work again and again. I attribute this attraction to my training as a theorist, for I am always seeking, almost instinctively, to make sense of a particular work by tracing its theoretical and methodological influences and thereby situating it within a particular field or tradition. Thus, each new reading of Borderlands produced on my pad a new batch of notes on the various theorists, artists, and methodological approaches that the text had brought to mind. It was only after Gloria's untimely death in 2004 that I decided to bring my notes together into a more systematic presentation of my thoughts.

An easy thing to think but not an easy thing to do, I soon discovered. For another look at my copious notes showed me a very diverse laundry-list of items: Marx, Vasconcelos, Said, Freud, dialectics, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, psychoanalysis, Nietzsche, Juan Rulfo, Foucault, Habermas, postmodernism, Mannheim, DuBois, Octavio Paz, Jung, Hillman, Weber, Carlos Castaneda, and Simmel! Was there really a chance I could arrive at any categorization that could make sense of that near chaos of persons and influences? And how could such a piecemeal approach hope to do justice to Gloria's theoretical and methodological unity in Borderlands? One can of course speak of her eclecticism, but that word doesn't even begin to suggest the complexity-within-unity of her method.

Gradually the realization dawned upon me that Borderlands doesn't fit into the usual critical categories simply because Anzaldua follows inclination of interest, as opposed to working at achieving systematization. Not only does she shift continually from analysis to meditation, and refuse to recognize disciplinary barriers, but she speaks poetically even when dealing with cultural, political, and social issues. Indeed her method, like Simmel's, is more akin to "style" in art (1) than it is to "analysis" or "inquiry" in the social sciences. (2)

A critic proclaims her/his own incompetence, however, if the mere fact that a text has a certain interdisciplinary quality scares him/her away from her/his rightful task of elucidating its various historical, philosophical, sociological, psychological, and literary elements. Thus, I herewith take up that pleasant task, via this brief sketch pointing us toward a deeper comprehension of Anzaldua's Borderlands.

Gloria Anzaldua meets "the Usual Suspects"

The first theorist who popped into my mind, during my first reading of Borderlands, was Michel Foucault. The connection cropped up owing to my image of Anzaldua as an archaeologist of knowledge, digging for concepts in her historic and mythic past, searching out such intellectual and spiritual ideas as nepantla, the Coatlicue state, the Shadow Beast, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, among many others. The immaterial findings unearthed by her digs seemed to me almost palpable methodological tools of real use in digging up discursive fields. Foucault's link to Anzaldua also is grounded in the way her analysis in Borderlands always is touching upon postmodern, postnational, postcolonial identities. The problem with calling Borderlands a bit of postmodernism, however, is that the latter term has gradually become an empty signifier, one that can be filled with almost any content. …

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