Border crossing identities: "critical multicultural ways of knowing".

Author:Soto, Lourdes Diaz
Position:In the Shadow of Race: Growing Up as a Multiethnic, Multicultural, and "Multiracial" American - American Conversations: Puerto Rican, White Ethnics, and Multicultural Education - Book review
 
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... there will be no peace in the Americas until there is justice for the earth and her children ...

--Leslie Marmon Silko (1996, p.154)

Texts reviewed:

Teja Arboleda. (1998). In the shadow of race: Growing up as a multiethnic, multicultural, and "multiracial" American. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ellen Bigler. (1999). American conversations: Puerto Rican, white ethnics, and multicultural education. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

The discourse of identity captures the imagination of scholars from multiple fields with multiple lenses. Identities can be viewed from philosophical traditions presenting the process of self reflection; psychoanalytic inquiry with its scientific lens; anthropological perspectives focusing on elements and characteristics of 'humankind'; feminist perspectives explicating the complexities of gender issues; poetry and literature infusing personal views and experiences, and curriculum scholars capable of explicating the complexities of the multicultural sphere. Even Hollywood has entered the discourse of identity with its recent thriller entitled, Identity: The secret lies within (2003). Director James Mangold's advertising describes "Identity" as a secret, as a mystery, and as a killer.

This article will review two texts by focusing on the complexities of border crossing identity from multiple theoretical perspectives proposing 'critical narrative knowing' that moves toward 'critical multicultural ways of knowing.' The texts chosen proceed from an individual (an autobiography), to a community (an ethnography) proposing questions and answers for educators (teachers) working with the opportunities and complexities in the post-modern educational sphere. The texts chosen include Arboleda's life story as "the ethnic man," and Bigler's treatment of a diverse community.

Border Crossing Identities

Border crossing identities can be viewed as sub-altern (Spivak's, 1985, notion), fluid, hybrid, complex, multiple, layered, and dynamic. Anzaldua's work has been instrumental in the production and re-production of the discourse of the 'Borderlands." Her piece captures the notion of a border crossing identity as she examines the evolution of a 'new mestiza consciousness':

To live in the Borderlands means you are neither hispana india negra Espanola ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all five races on your back not knowing which side to turn to, run from; cuando vives en la frontera people walk through you, the wind steals your voice, you are a burra, buey, scapegoat, forerunner of a new race, half and half-both woman and man, neithera new gender To survive the Borderlands you must live sin fronteras be a crossroads (1987, 216-7) Anzaldua's work is itself is a mestizaje with a post-modern mixture of poetry, historical texts, autobiography, and narrative. Similar to W.E.B DuBois, Azaldua names border crossing identity as a dual identity. Those of us who find ourselves in a space of border crossing identity can often feel displaced not been from here nor from there as "los de aqui y los de alla," not fitting into neat stereotypical categories. This notion of the Borderlands is symbolic rather than geopolitical and narrowly constructed as opposed to universal.

Identity construction has not been our own project as society /science define us as the'other,' the 'minority,' the inferior ones. As patriarchy and colonialism 'name us' our struggle is to name our own condition and our own identities continues. The Borderlands has been a source of theoretical advance in multiculturalism, feminist studies, the postcolonial, and the postmodern with the 'mestiza consciousness' affording border crossers the ability to name our condition with positive confidence. Viewing bilingual/bicultural experiences in this way becomes a form of resistance against cultural domination, linguicism, racism, and hegemony; since our project is to critically re-construct, critically re-claim, critically re-narrate, and critically re-name our own daily-lived realities.

Teja Arboleda (1998) eloquently describes his daily-lived reality as the "ethnic man" whose ancestors were Asian, African, and European leaving him a multiracial legacy. Mr. Arboleda's story is a story of displacement and yet for him the hybrid space is "void of borders":

I saw myself in the clouds, not as a body, but more like a player: changing, moving and wandering the planet. I thought, if spirits are carried by clouds that travel the globe and if my spirit has seen many lives, then I have traveled the world hundreds, maybe thousands of times void of borders. (p.235) Teja Arboleda's intent with this autobiography is to convince the reader that there is no pure culture or pure race and that to understand our commonality is to see a rich tapestry not from the anthropologists', psychologists', or political lens but from a broader and more humane perspective filled perhaps with an...

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