This essay is a part of our series, Borders in the Classroom -- for more information, please see HERE.
The Socially Polysemantic Border: Positionality and the Meaning of the Fence
Short Title: The Socially Polysemantic Border
Abstract: This paper documents the experience of teaching college students how to rethink the border by doing fieldwork in El Paso, Texas. Students were asked to encounter the border fence through, for example, personal visits to a part of the borderline, journaling, photography, writing poetry, or creating multimedia. Classroom discussions before the assignments revealed that many students had not previously taken the time and effort to study their communities from a larger social, theoretical, and historical perspective. This article discusses the initial challenges and the overall pedagogical success of this approach by showcasing some of the student work reflecting on the border fence. The paper includes some of the insights that border residents have about the U.S.-Mexico border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso. These reflections and testimonies show how various individuals create different social meanings about the border region in general and the border fence in particular depending on their own positionality based on age, gender, ethnicity, language, and immigration experience. The border changes form along its distance and different actors interpret their encounters with it in diametrically different ways. The border is not a moving target but it manifests differently in the lives of border residents.
For Full Article
Edited by Benita Heiskanen, Andrae M. Marak, and Jeanne E. Grant
(c) 2014 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 8, Spring, 2014. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal's not-for-profit educational open-access policy.