Monday, April 10, 2017

Borderlands literature and Capabilities

I had not heard of borderlands literature before Mary Kate's presentation, so the idea was new to me. As I understood it, borderlands literature discusses a culture which tends to be prevalent on borders, whether they be geographical, psychological, or emotional. The genre first appeared on the U.S., Mexico border but appears to be applicable to all types of borders throughout the nation. Mary Kate concluded that the O'odham experience carries similarities to a borderlands experience, but their culture should not be viewed through this lens. She finished her presentation by stating "if you only focus on this (meaning the borderlands experience), you lose important parts of the O'odham experience." I agree with this analysis. From what I can gather, the mindset of the O'odham people is influenced by their proximity to the U.S., Mexico border, but they are not defined by the border. Jumping from Mary Kate's presentation, I began to understand yet another possible negative consequence of the border to the O'odham people.

There is a danger of cultural marginalization here. If the O'odham culture, the mindset of the tribespeople, and the requests they make are viewed as the result of their proximity to the border, you lose the weight and importance of thousands of years of heritage. It might seem that borderlands literature is not part of the mainstream dialogue, and, therefore, this culture marginalization is not a pressing concern. But I think, even without a knowledge of borderlands literature, many pundits use many of the concepts presented within the literature. The idea of border towns, literally entire communities defined by their proximity to the border, shows how our mainstream dialogue defines areas and individuals. Additionally, if we accept a borderlands culture as a given in areas near a border, then we may accept much of the crime and poverty that is common on some borders as a given. It is clear that viewing the Tohono O'odham as a borderlands culture carries negative consequences.

The negative consequences are all part of the unjust structure of our border. Martha Nussbaum defines minimum social justice through 10 central capabilities. The U.S., Mexico border is a clear violation of Nussbaum's 3rd central capability: bodily integrity. To summarize, bodily integrity means that individuals are entitled to move freely from place to place and not be assaulted. Because so many Tohono O'odham do not have passport and because the San Miguel gate has been closed for some time, the tribe members are cut off from access to half of their ancestral lands. It is unjust for a political border to restrict individuals of their freedom to move from place to place, especially to move from place to place in the lands of their heritage. As a result of this unjust situation, the Tohono O'odham see many negative consequences, including cultural marginalization.

1 comment:

  1. Good point here about "bodily integrity". I'm no expert on Nussbaum's ideas, but I might add "affiliation" as something upon which the border impinges.