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Gender/ Nation/ Borders

Tutor: Anca Cretu

"The U.S.-Mexican Border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds’ (Anzaldúa, Borderlands 1987:3)

"the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy" (Anzaldúa, Borderlands 1987:19).
Borderlands (1987) was conceived by Gloria Anzaldúa, as a teaching tool, a philosophical work, and a personal essay to educate a broad audience on Chicanx history. Andalzúa aimed to “spread and produce knowledge” from her positioning as a working class, Chicana lesbian writer, educator, activist and a border subject from South Texas. Anzaldúa argued that rather than doing what Audre Lorde described as “using the masters tools”, “I wanted to write in a mestiza style, in my own vernacular, yet also use the knowledges and histories of white cultures and other ethnic cultures” (The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader 188-89) The result was an interdisciplinary work that drew on psychology, history, linguistic and Aztec cosmology and mythology and was written in a mixture of poetry and prose using English, Spanish and some Nahuatl.
This work explores the concept of borderlands as a physical and metaphorical hybrid space and questioned binary constructions. Anzaldúa used her personal story as a starting point to think about the complex intersection of group identity markers (gender, sexuality, race, disability, class, national and regional locales) and invited others to do the same. She combined prose poetry personal narrative and historical narrative in the search for consciousness raising and coalition building. She came to call this style auto-historia teoria. (“Putting Coyolxauhqui Together” in Light in the Dark, 95-116) Anzaldúa saw the writing process as important in breaking down the boundaries between knowledges and empowering border subjects and the marginalised. Borderlands became an influential work for academics and activists interested in queer theory and borderlands studies.

Seminar questions:

  • What does Anzaldúa mean by ‘Meztiza Consciousness’?
    How does Anzaldúa mobilise historical narrative in her writing?
    How do Anzaldúa’s ideas relate to Third World feminism, transnational feminism and intersectional feminism?
    How is Borderlands useful for the historian of gender and sexuality?

Core reading:

Anzaldua, Gloria, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). Chapter 7, ‘Towards a New Consciousness’.

Lugones, María, “On Borderlands/La Frontera: An Interpretive Essay” Hypatia (1992) pp. 31-37.

Perales, Monica, On Borderlands/La Frontera: Gloria Anzaldua and Twenty-Five Years of Research in the Borderlands’, Journal of Women’s History (2013), pp. 163-173.

Further reading:

Maria Torres et. al, “Lockdown and the list: Mexican refugees, asylum denial, and the feminist geopolitics of esperar (waiting/hoping),” Politics and Space (2022), 1-18.

Ahmed, Sara (Ed.), Uprootings/Regroundings (London: Routledge, 2003).

Anzaldúa, Gloria, Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Colour (San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books, 1990).

Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Moraga, Cherrie (eds.) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Colour (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Colour Press, 1981). Especially Anzaldúa, La Prieta, pp. 198-209.

Anzaldúa, Gloria, Keating, Ana Louise, Mignolo, Walter, Silverblatt, Irene, and Saldívar-Hull, Sonia (Eds.), The Gloria Anzaldua Reader (New York: Duke University Press, 2009).

Blunt, Alison, and Rose, Gillian, Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies (London: Guildford Press, 1994).

Blunt, Alison, Domicile and Diaspora: Anglo-Indian Women and the Spatial Politics of Home (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

Bost, Suzanne, “Gloria Anzaldúa’s Mestiza Pain; Mexican Sacrifice, Chicana Embodiment and Feminist Politics” Aztlán, (2005) 46-55.

Bost, Suzanne, Mulattas and Mestizas. Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850-2000 (Athens: U of Georgia, 2003).

Robert Con Davis-Undiano, “Mestizos Critique the New World: Vasconcelos Anzaldúa and Anaya” LIT Literature, Interpretation, Theory. (2000), pp. 117-42.

González-López, Gloria, Family Secrets: Stories of Incest and Sexual Violence in Mexico (New York: New York University Press, 2015).

Lavie, Smadar, “Staying Put: Crossing the Israel Palestine Border with Gloria Anzaldúa” Anthropology and Humanism, (2011) pp. 101-21.

Rosaldo, Renato, Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis, (London: Routledge, 1989).

Saldívar, José David, Border Matters. Remapping American Cultural Studies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

Torstrick, Rebecca, The Limits of Coexistence: Identity Politics in Israel, (University of Michigan Press, 2000).