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Course Information

Instructor Info:Flavio Risech-Ozeguera
Office Extension x5504
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Wednesday
01:00 PM - 03:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

The U.S.-Mexico border was famously described by Gloria Anzaldúa as the "thin edge of barbwire...where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds." Nowhere else in the world is there such physical proximity of a post-industrial nation and a developing one. While capital, goods and managerial personnel freely cross the border under NAFTA, the Mexican worker is the target of conflicting policies aimed at securitizing the border and disciplining labor on both sides. The political and economic relationship between the two nations produces deeply problematic effects in each, driving northward migration and producing the archetypically Mexican "illegal alien" devoid of rights. Deeply held notions of racial, ethnic and national boundaries mark the social terrain, yet are challenged by the explosive growth of transnational circuits and communities. Emphasizing historical analysis and contemporary theories of nationalism, governmentality, globalization, and transnationalism, the course will challenge students to rethink the meaning of the border, the place of Mexicans in the U.S., and the role of the U. S. in Mexico.

Course Objectives:

The main objective is to develop a deep analysis of the relations between between these countries and peoples, and their historical and ideological roots and present manifestations at both the structural and "on the ground" levels. The course is broadly interdisciplinary and will introduce students to a range of key works by leading scholars.

Another central objective is to help students develop their facility for writing longer analytical papers based on careful research in the scholarly literature, using libraries and academic databases.

Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be required to write a weekly reading reaction blog on the course website forums. Reading blog postings must be done before 11:59 pm the day before the material is scheduled to be discussed. These are short reflections on the analyses and points of view offered by the authors. Offering personal opinions or evaluating the authors' style is not the point. Rather, reflect on what the authors are trying to say, what you are drawing from their analyses and what further questions the readings raise for you. These should also be the bases for your participation in class discussion.

You are expected to come to class prepared for discussion of that day's readings. The reading blogs are intended to help you do so. While some are more eager than others to participate, everyone should make an effort to contribute to the discussions based upon engagement with the readings. It is fine to ask basic questions: if you don’t understand something in the readings, chances are pretty good that others are feeling the same. Take risks, raise your hand, ask. This is a collective learning process, so address your comments and questions to each other as well as to the instructor. Be courteous and try to help create a safe space where even the quieter students can participate.

Students will be reuqired to conceive and carry out an independent research project through various developmental stages which will be submitted for feedback and revision. All of the assigned stages of the project are required, not optional, unless otherwise clearly indicated.

Attendance is required. Students missing more than two sessions may receive no evaluation. Because this is a seminar-style, discussion based class, you will miss a great deal if you miss class.

All writing assignments must be completed on or before due date; NO EXCEPTIONS unless for good cause (as above) and arranged IN ADVANCE. Late work will otherwise not be evaluated. Incompletes will not be given. Read this paragraph again.

All your written work (with our comments on it) should be saved for submission in a final portfolio at the conclusion of the semester. Due dates for assignments and detailed instructions will be provided in due course.

Additional Info:

Required Books

Joseph Nevins, Operation Gatekeeper, Second Edition (Routledge, 2010)

Peter Andreas, Border Games, Second Edition (Cornell, 2009)

Luis Alberto Urrea, Devil's Highway (Basic Books, 2005)

Lynn Stephen, Transborder Lives (Duke, 2007)


Recommended Books

Paul Ganster and David Lorey, The U.S.-Mexico Border into the 21st Century (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007)

Books are available at Food for Thought, 106 N Pleasant St., Amherst. 413-253-5432.

Please consider the impact of your purchasing power and think about supporting local and progressive bookshops such as Food for Thought, as opposed to giant corporate entities such as Amazon and other internet sellers, even if those are somewhat cheaper. FFT is a nonprofit, worker-owned collective and an important community resource offering book readings, panel discussions and community space. I encourage you to visit the shop often during your time in Amherst. Independent bookshops cannot survive if students in their local area buy their books from mass online marketers. It is that simple.