‘Transborderism’ and Social Imaginary in the U.S.-Mexican Border


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Atelier 4 - Norma Iglesias-Prieto

The starting point is the idea that the border—both in its geopolitical and symbolic dimension—marks the life and experience of subjects and that this condition, in turn, marks the way in which we represent the border. That is, the social imaginary is built from a series of varied social representations that respond to different border conditions. My work analyzes the levels of transborderism and their relationship to the levels of complexity of social representations in the U.S.-Mexican border, particularly that of Tijuana and San Diego. In my presentation, I will speak first of the theoretical statement that support the notions of border and transborderism; second, I will analyze diverse cultural expressions (visual arts, oral narratives, cinematographic animations) that show the different levels of complexity of social representations in this particular border.

Transfrontiérisme et imaginaire social à la frontière américano-mexicaine

Mon point de départ est que la frontière – à la fois dans sa dimension géopolitique et symbolique – marque la vie et l’expérience des sujets et que cette condition affecte, à son tour, la manière dont nous représentons la frontière. L’imaginaire social est construit à partir d’une série de représentations sociales qui répondent à différentes conditions de frontière. Mon travail analyse les degrés de transfrontiérisme (transborderism) et leur relation aux niveaux de complexité des représentations sociales à la frontière américano-mexicaine, en particulier dans la région de Tijuana-San Diego. Dans ma présentation, je parlerai tout d’abord de l’énoncé théorique qui fonde la notion de frontière et de transfrontiérisme ; ensuite, j’analyserai différentes expressions culturelles (art visuel, récits oraux, animations cinématographiques) qui montrent différent niveaux de complexité des représentations sociales sur cette frontière particulière.

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‘Transborderism’ and Social Imaginary in the U.S.-Mexican Border

  1. 1. Stripes and Fence Forever: Homage to Jasper Johns (1997) by Marcos Ramirez “Erre” Norma Iglesias-Prieto niglesia@mail.sdsu.edu Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies San Diego State University, 2012. Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  2. 2. Basic Statements about International Borders • Borders are human constructions • Historical. The U.S.-Mexican border is the result of a war (1846–1848) in which Mexico lost half of its territory: Texas, Utah, Nevada, Photo: KPBS, Espinosa territory: Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and California An open wound/Llaga abierta Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  3. 3. Basic Statements about International Borders • Borders are not natural but tend to use natural barriers in order to naturalize them • There are sophisticated cultural, social, and political processes that naturalize borders, but there are also sophisticated processes that question their existencethat question their existence • Borders are real and symbolic limits of Nation States. Their main function is to limit or control the free movement of people, goods, ideas, cultures, ideologies, religions, languages, etc. • Borders are supported by the notion of “others are dangerous” or “others are problems and generate risks” Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  4. 4. 28°Political San Diego Ceuta Israel India China Hong Kong Strategic location that embodies the world’s inequalities - Concentration of wealth - Areas of extreme tension Borders as Laboratories (of globalization, postmodernity, exclusion, inequality…) http://www.politicalequator.org/ * Teddy Cruz Map: dreamstime.com 28° 33° Political Equator* Equator San Diego Tijuana Ceuta Melilla Israel Palestine India Kashmir China Hong Kong Shenzhen Other Aspects of Inequality Geographic criteria: North vs. South, Urban vs. Rural Social criteria: Social Class, Ethnicity, Race, Gender
  5. 5. Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  6. 6. Border • As a territory, as a geopolitical demarcation, as a boundary of a Nation State • As a socially and culturally produced space • With legal forms and delimitations that generate a variety of individual and social conditions • This variety of conditions marks people’s experiences and social representations • Diverse conditions create a universe of symbolic constructions of the borderborder (N-S, with or without papers, by car or foot, day or night, woman or man, in English or Spanish, for work or for shopping, on Monday or Saturday, with B.C., California, or Sinaloa plates) Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  7. 7. Borderisms or Borderlands Borderisms or borderlands question the notion that culture is only tied to a space and focuses more on: • conditions • cultural and social practices • identity marks • cultural and social forms of CONTROL and EXCLUSION • mechanisms of liberation as forms of resistance or ways of questioning structures of power Humans cross borders in many waysHumans cross borders in many ways Humans are crossed by many borderlands (borderisms) and in many ways Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  8. 8. Borderisms or Borderlands Borderisms as sites/conditions/identities that are vague, ambiguous, flexible, hybrid, and in constant processes of transition. Borderisms and Borderlands theory critiques the binary logic and emphasizes the and, as well as the tensions, conflicts, contradictions, and negotiations of non- fixed identities. Borderisms and Borderlands theory underscores the possibility of being in several places/conditions simultaneously, generating a series of third choices. The expression of these multiple third choices is the best way of criticizing borders as limits and controls and of criticizing the logic of separation and exclusion (Anzaldúa). Borders are there to be crossed Photo:NormaIglesias-Prieto
  9. 9. Tijuana-San Diego as a Laboratory With high levels of interaction, interdependence, contrast, unbalance, asymmetry … Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  10. 10. Tijuana works as a magnifier of global social, economic, environmental, and cultural trends and conflicts. Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  11. 11. Every border has at least two sides • San Diego is not seen on the U.S. side as a border city. The border is only associated to, and recognized on, the Mexican side.side. • The border—in the national social imaginary of both countries—refers to something negative. A place of loss. The “border brings the worst of both worlds” (Touch of Evil, 1958).Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  12. 12. The position of the border as only on one side reproduces and naturalizes asymmetry • The Mexican side of the border serves as the backyard of the U.S. “Backyard available. In perfect natural state. Ready to be used as a toxic, nuclear, or industrial waste dump.” Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  13. 13. San Diego (mine) Three theoretical approaches, border practices, and social identities (level of interaction and level of commitment, awareness, understanding, acceptance, and social investment toward the neighboring city and its inhabitants ) San Diego (mine, our, us) USA Non-Border, Border Dynamics Bilateral, Binational +- Collaboration San Diego (our) San Diego Transborder, Third Space/Condition/Identity E x c h a n U.S. National Identity POWER + MEXICO Tijuana (yours, theirs, them) +- emphasis on separation, differences Tijuana (yours) (our) Tijuana Borders refer to the Mexican side. BORDER AS RISK AND DANGER n g e T r a d e Maintain differences but promote collaboration for the benefit of both cities. BORDER AS OPPORTUNITIES An integrated common space and condition. TRANSBORDER AS A CONDITION - Condition of life and meaning - Levels of transborderism (A condition that is flexible and includes tension, conflict, and constant negotiation and adaptation) Border Identity POWER - Source: Norma Iglesias-Prieto, 2012
  14. 14. Borderisms or Border/lands and transborder/lands as a condition of meaning A relation Transborderism as a condition of meaning A relation BORDER as geopolitical delimitations (territoriality, areas of legal competences) BORDERISMS or BORDERLAND as cultural and social conditions mark, constrain, mold, affect Border and transborder experience(s) mark, constrain, mold, affect Meanings Social Representations Social Imaginary Individual and Social
  15. 15. Social Representations as: - Interpretations of reality - Symbolic structures that attribute sense to reality - Systems of codes, interpretive marks, value, systems of classification - Codes that define and guide behaviors and orient collective practices Artist: Marcos Ramírez Erre Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  16. 16. Source: Norma Iglesias-Prieto, 2012
  17. 17. Transborderism Level and complexity of the experience on both sides of the border. The most intense, dense, and full-of-meaning action in the transborder condition is the act of crossing the international border. In the act of crossing, subjects and processes, define much of their identity. Crossing (frequency, intensity, directionality,Crossing (frequency, intensity, directionality, type or scale of activity, material and symbolic exchange, social and cultural meaning attached to the interaction, etc.) Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto,
  18. 18. Transnational and Transborder Transnational TransborderTransborder Diasporas/ Deterritorialized Territorialized, dense, intense, simultaneous Source: Norma Iglesias-Prieto, 2012
  19. 19. A higher level of transborderism is associated with greater cultural capacity and richness, increased complexity in the ways people experience and perceive the border, and richer concepts of self-identity. “Taking the place of the border, I have placed a war trench, creating a place neither from here nor from there. When I cross the border, I feel I’m crossing a line of war, a constant and internal war that exists in my mind, between my two cultures and identities: my Mexican self and my American self.” Mental Map : SDSU students. Class CCS 355 Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  20. 20. Social Representation of the U.S.-Mexican Border Direct relation between the level of transborder activity and the level of complexity in the representation. Four types or levels of interaction and representation thatrepresentation that range from the most basic sporadic, commercial interactions, to the regular (daily) intense interaction of bilingual, bicultural individuals (many of them with dual citizenship). Mental Map : SDSU students. Class CCS 355 Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  21. 21. “The boundary is not a spatial fact with sociological consequences, but a sociological fact that forms itself spatially.” Georg Simmel Artistic practices as processes of liberation. Border/lands, Transborderism, and Creativity All mechanisms of control have cracks. All walls have holes. Borderlands and holes generate great energy and great creative potential. Border/lands, Transborderism, and Creativity Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto,
  22. 22. Tijuana: • Flexible • Creative • Chaotic • Graphic • Intense • Dynamic • Diverse Tijuana is an inspirational location, the muse, the studio, as well as the site that provides topics, materials, and conditions to CREATE. Photo: Gabriela Juárez, • Diverse • Contrasting • Fascinating A location that: • Confronts • Inspires • Challenges Tijuana from “cultural desert” to “artistic hotspot” Creativity, Art, and Agency Photo: Gabriela Juárez, Photo: inSite97,
  23. 23. The Transborder Condition in Tijuana Art • The subjects’/artists’ trajectories, activities, dynamics in which he/she participates • The artists’ practices (individual or network) • Topics or themes of artTijuana Art Practices is Expressed in: • Topics or themes of art pieces • Form of art production • Characteristics of artistic events • Audiences/publics Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto,
  24. 24. Tony Capellán, El buen vecino/ The Good Neighbor, inSite97 The Transborder Perspective Border as an open wound, as a barrier that divides people, families, communities. Photo: inSite97
  25. 25. Marcos Ramirez ERRE inSite97 Toy-an Horse/Caballo de Troya In the middle of the border crossing, a two-headed wooden horse; one body, two directions, two different projects, two opposing views, but it can never move in opposing directions.opposing directions. Negotiation. Transparency in cross-border relations. Photos: inSite97
  26. 26. The body of crime (2008) by Marcos Ramirez ERRE An installation consisting of a Chevrolet Suburban, bullets, video, wood and metal wall pieces, photographs mounted on glass, and photographic prints. A narcocorrido video parody of the drug trade in Tijuana. The artist plays the role of three characters: the assassin, the victim, and the police officer. He thus stresses the responsibility shared by all in the social reality we have constructed or we have allowed. The three characters played by the same person create confusion, as in the city, where nobody knows who anybody is anymore. ERRE gatheredknows who anybody is anymore. ERRE gathered forensic material and elements of the crime and placed them on display in the gallery (the car, the bullets, and the car radio playing narcocorridos). He also includes photos of the three characters mounted on mirrors with tags “I,” “You,” “Him” etched along the bottom, and leaving the next pronoun—“we”— open for the audience to fulfill. ERRE finally stresses “us” and sets aside the discourse of victimization that puts an emphasis on “others.” The project not only problematizes issues of truth and identity, but it also makes transborder responsibilities evident. Photos: Marcos Ramírez “Erre”
  27. 27. An installation consisting of a Chevrolet Suburban, bullets, video, wood and metal wall pieces, photographs mounted on mirrors, and photographic prints. The body of crime (2008) by Marcos Ramirez ERRE Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto Photo: Marcos Ramírez Photo: Marcos Ramírez Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  28. 28. Jaime Ruiz Otis • Produces art from industrial trash (Maquiladoras) • Waste gained new meanings as art pieces and, by that, dignified the work and the workers • Industrial work is not only his theme but his main supplier of materials • He criticizes in his art pieces the asymmetrical relation with the U.S. and the role of Tijuana as provider of cheap labor and the backyard of the U.S. • His art work critically approaches the logic of mass production, repetition, homogeneous globalproduction, repetition, homogeneous global consumption, toxic waste pollution , industrial urban landscapes, etc. Trade Marks series made from cuts that workers incised into plastic sheets. The multiple squares or circles show the repetitiveness of the work. Photo: Jaime Ruiz Otis Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  29. 29. Jaime Ruiz Otiz • Requiem-Km 142 • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2O3i_uH9Rc Photos: Jaime Ruiz Otis and Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  30. 30. Joao Louro’s project The Jewel/In God We Trust traces an inverted trajectory of the recycling dynamics that characterizes the border zone. His project begins with the selection of a European car recovered from a junkyard in Tijuana and transformed into a “jewel” through the addition of golden layers of paper. Once this trash object was transformed into an opulent golden sculpture, it was exhibited and auctioned in San Diego. The money from the sale was given to an elementary school in Tijuana and it was used to support visual art workshops for children (InSite 05). Photos: inSite05
  31. 31. The rules of the game/ Las reglas del juego By Gustavo Artigas Four teams play in the same court at the same time. Two U.S. teams play basketball and two Mexican teams play soccer. Both sports represent cultural and national identities. This artistic event suggests the possibilities of negotiations with low conflict and respecting differences in a shared space. Photos: inSite2000
  32. 32. One Flew Over the Void (Bala perdida), 2005: Transgression of Borders and Borderlands Building on a collaborative process that is evident throughout his artistic practice, Javier Téllez’s project One Flew Over the Void (Bala perdida) involved a sustained engagement with psychiatric patients from the Baja California Mental Health Center in Mexicali to co-create a public event and to document its evolution and final performance. Inspired by the traditional “human cannonball” circus performer, Téllez explored the notion of spatial and mental borders in the context of Tijuana and San Diego. He developed an event that involved sending a human cannonball across theinvolved sending a human cannonball across the border between Mexico and the United States. Through successive creative workshops and exchanges, the world’s most famous human cannonball, Dave Smith, the psychiatric patients, and Téllez collectively devised the backdrop, music, costumes, print advertising, and radio and television announcements for the event. The performance took place on August 27, 2005, at the border fence between Playas de Tijuana and Border Field State Park (inSite05). Photos: inSite05
  33. 33. With Brinco, Judi Werthein created a project that links migrants’ efforts to cross the border illegally with the increasing global corporatization of goods and labor. The project is a uniquely designed sneaker, trademarked Brinco. The shoe design is inspired by information and materials that are relevant to, and could provide assistance to, those crossing the border without documents. Underscoring the tensions sparked by the global spread and mobility of the maquiladora, Brinco (2005): Art Object or Useful Item? by the global spread and mobility of the maquiladora, the sneaker was manufactured in China. Counterpoint to its potential for utilitarian use by Mexican migrants, the sneaker was sold as a one-of-a-kind art object and was available in the United States during inSite05 in a high-end sneaker store located in a very nice area of San Diego. In a single object, Judi reveals the contradictions among fashion, competition in the manufacturing industry, and migratory flows, themes that lie at the heart of the dynamics of labor geography in today’s world (inSite05). Photos: inSite05
  34. 34. Brinco (2005): Art Object or Useful Item? Photos: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  35. 35. Daniel Ruanova Photos: Norma Iglesias-PrietoPhoto: Daniel Ruanova archive.
  36. 36. Children’s Social Representations Project: The Other Side of the Line (2008) One of the four phases of this project coordinated by Norma Iglesias Prieto and Yvon Guillon consists in the creation of two short animated films by children from Tijuana and San Diego based on the theme “The other side of the line.” The cartoons that resulted were the work of twenty-two children between the ages of 11 and 13, in two workshops offered by French animated-film experts Sébastien Water and Guilles Coirier. Through the workshops, children from each city produced a short animated film about the children on the other side of the border. The two groups of children discussed the way they think about and portray the other side. Subsequently, the children came to consensus regarding the story, characters, situation, context, sets, etc. They also wrote the script, built thecharacters, situation, context, sets, etc. They also wrote the script, built the set and characters out of paper and fabric, shot the entire sequence of scenes, recorded the soundtrack, and edited their respective film animations. The 22 children who participated in the project were of mixed gender and possessed a variety of levels of transborderism and experiences of the “other side.” This experience ranged from those who had never crossed the border (usually because their parents had never wanted to, in the case of San Diegans; or because they lacked a United Stated visa, in the case of Tijuanenses); those who crossed regularly for reasons of family or school; and those who at some time had lived on the other side/el otro lado. The two short animated films (5 minutes each) are: Wacha el Border (2008) by children from Tijuana, and Beyond the Border (2008) by children from San Diego. Photo: Norma Iglesias-Prieto
  37. 37. Children’s Social Representations • Wacha el Border 2008) by Children from Tijuana, • Beyond the Border (2008) by Children from San Diego http://delotroladodelalinea.wordpress.com/ Through their film-making, the children of Tijuana and San Diego revealed strikingly different attitudes and conceptions of each others’ cities. But their collaborations also showed that taking an early interest in and working through children's imagery of the borderlands, it is possible to generate more positive commitments to a collective future in an increasingly integrated and diverse world. Films available at: