B/ordering Violence: Boundaries, Gender, Indigeneity in the Americas

As Gloria Anzaldúa’s description of the Mexico-US border in her 1987 book Borderlands/La Frontera attests, borders can be “una herida abierta (an open wound) where the third world grates against the first and bleeds.” Borderlands throughout the Americas and beyond constitute sites of conflict, friction and—more hopefully—solidarity. Although borderlands are not unique sites of violence, they are critical fault lines along which the legacy of colonialism and the impact of globalization have become especially severe.

Borderlands, in the words of José Antonio Lucero (Joff Hanauer Honors Professor in Western Civilization, Jackson School of International Studies), are “the contact zones, imagined geographies, and discourses that produce both order and violence.” Led by Lucero, along with Matt Barreto (Political Science), and Juan Guerra (English), B/ordering Violence: Boundaries, Gender, Indigeneity in the Americas is the intellectual focus of a 2012-13 John E. Sawyer Seminar.

The Sawyer Seminars program was established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments, with institutions invited to submit proposals. Sawyer Seminars generally meet for one year and function like temporary research centers. B/ordering Violence is the UW’s second Sawyer Seminar in as many years, following Now Urbanism: City-Making in the 21st Century and Beyond.

The seminar will explore the complexities of multiple borderlands that characterize the politics of belonging in nation states, diasporic and Indigenous communities, and across the interrelated domains of nature and society. Over a dozen scholars will be visiting the UW during the 2012-13 year, collectively shedding light on how borders are both seen and not seen and concentrating on border-making practices, gendered violence, and Indigenous perspectives on borders. Fall 2012 speakers include María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo (Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University), Alicia Schmidt Camacho (American Studies, Yale University), Robin Derby (History, University of California, Los Angeles) and Juan Flores (Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University). See a complete schedule of speakers and themes.

The organizers of B/ordering Violence have invited ten UW faculty members and an additional four graduate students to join the seminar to shape its agenda, serve as moderators and discussants, and seed a steering committee for future collaborations. According to Lucero, the goal is to create conditions of possibility for ongoing mentorship, co-thinking, and intellectual community. As he explains, the point is to create a place where various voices can come together, or as he states, “To put it differently, it is an attempt to explore nepantla, the Nahuatl word for ‘land in the middle’ and the term that Anzaldúa in her later work used in place of ‘Borderlands,’ as it offered a less fixed label for the psychic, emotional, and political liminality that she sought to understand. Using an Indigenous term to name zones of contact that have too often been zones of conquest seems like a proper place to end, and start.”

Read more about B/ordering Violence.

B/ordering Violence, a 2011-2013 Sawyer Seminar generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality.