Binaries and Borderlands
Chicanos, people of Mexican descent (PMD) living in the U.S., are often described as cultural hybrids. Chicana essayist, Gloria Anzaldua, locates and conceptualizes the Chicano experience using a borderland metaphor. My research extends Anzaldua's physical/cultural emphases to include the linguistic positionality and meanings of the social category Chicano. The project involved a theoretical and an empirical phase. I used structuralist theory to show that social categories could be examined within a linguistic framework. I then established Chicano as a term which defied definition by normative standards because it fell outside of the normative binary system upon which structuralists claim society is based. I proposed that linguistically Chicano occupies the space characterized by Derrida as the indeterminate space between the binaries. Using Derrida's theory of deconstruction I argued that by defying the binary, Chicano defies conventional definition. By being indeterminate, Chicano disrupts the binary and the structural nature of society. I hypothesized that identifying as Chicano is a conscious decision wherein one agrees to inhabit a cultural borderland.This borderland is associated with a distinct vision of society from that embraced by other PMD's who define themselves with more traditional labels, American, Mexican. The empirical portion of my study carried out this Fall involves interviewing differently identified PMD?s about ethnic labels and social and political issues in U.S.society. This study should contribute to our understanding of current group dynamics in contemporary culture.
Baca, Michelle P., "Binaries and Borderlands" (1999). URC Student Scholarship.
Occidental College Summer Research Program