The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region

Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions

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The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region presents advanced anthropological theorizing of culture in an important regional setting. Not a static entity, the transborder region is peopled by ever-changing groups who face the challenges of social inequality: political enforcement of privilege, economic subordination of indigenous communities, and organized resistance to domination.

The book, influenced by the work of Eric Wolf and senior editor Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez, centers on the greater Mexican North/U.S. Southwest, although the geographic range extends farther. This tradition, like other transborder approaches, attends to complex and fluid cultural and linguistic processes, going beyond the classical modern anthropological vision of one people, one culture, one language. With respect to recent approaches, however, it is more deeply social, focusing on vertical relations of power and horizontal bonds of mutuality.

Vélez-Ibáñez and Heyman envision this region as involving diverse and unequal social groups in dynamic motion over thousands of years. Thus the historical interaction of the U.S.-Mexico border, however massively unequal and powerful, is only the most recent manifestation of this longer history and common ecology. Contributors emphasize the dynamic “transborder” quality—conflicts, resistance, slanting, displacements, and persistence—in order to combine a critical perspective on unequal power relations with a questioning perspective on claims to bounded simplicity and perfection.

The book is notable for its high degree of connection across the various chapters, strengthened by internal syntheses from notable border scholars, including Robert R. Alvarez and Alejandro Lugo. In the final section, Judith Freidenberg draws general lessons from particular case studies, summarizing that “access to valued scarce resources prompts the erection of human differences that get solidified into borders,” dividing and limiting, engendering vulnerabilities and marginalizing some people.

At a time when understanding the U.S.-Mexico border is more important than ever, this volume offers a critical anthropological and historical approach to working in transborder regions.


Amado Alarcón
Robert R. Álvarez
Miguel Díaz-Barriga
Margaret E. Dorsey
Judith Freidenberg
Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz
James Greenberg
Josiah Heyman
Jane H. Hill
Sarah Horton
Alejandro Lugo
Luminiţa-Anda Mandache
Corina Marrufo
Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri
Anna Ochoa O’Leary
Luis F. B. Plascencia
Lucero Radonic
Diana Riviera
Thomas E. Sheridan
Kathleen Staudt
Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez

“The contributors are thus forward-thinking in that they emphatically reject nation-as-container thinking… As such, they help us understand how long-standing transborder relationships can challenge as well as play into the Border Rubik’s Cube.”—American Ethnologist
“Deeply rooted in critical anthropology, this book seeks to add to our understanding of the cultural, social, and environmental conditions that unfold along the US-Mexico border.”—Journal of Historical Geography
The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region
408 Pages 6 x 9
Published: April 2017Paperback ISBN: 9780816535156
Published: April 2017Hardcover ISBN: 9780816536269
Published: April 2017Ebook ISBN: 9780816537259

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