In a course like this, our students do not regard culture as a fine object of discriminating study, nor do they limit their interest only to objects and events considered aesthetic. Instead, they examine culture and its artifacts as sites where meaning in a deep sense is given form so that resulting political identities impact on such questions as our paychecks and our most ordinary pleasures. In performing these identities, our students not only come to understand their various selves as constructed ones; they also begin thinking in very active ways about their audiences or their publics. To confront students in, say, a history classroom with such issues would be very useful in prompting queries in the students' minds about the public role of writing history and its role in the contest over culture. I am thinking, for instance, of a history teacher who decides during Black History Month to let her students read James Baldwin or Alice Walker, Toni Morrison or Amiri Baraka, Henry Louis Gates Jr. or Angela Davis…and then encourages her students to produce poetry and plays that give voice to their own identities, and to their fears and desires in relation to the formation of black and white identities in this culture. In such cases, I'm arguing here, performativity is not only about deconstructing identities, it is about entering a pedagogical process of coming to recognize and own one's voice.
Of course, a teacher might object that this is not the goal of the history classroom. The burden of this paper has been to demonstrate the contrary. And to suggest that immigrants, who have been called “the prophets without papers, ” are indeed challenging not only the borders between nations but also, through the interjection of other voices and other concerns, the borders between disciplines.