Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

Borderless Borders
Edited by Frank Bonilla, Edwin Meléndez, Rebecca Morales & María de los Angeles Torres

(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998)
290pp. Index. $69.95; ISBN 1-56639-619-0. Pb.: $22.95; ISBN 1-56639-620-4.

Borderless Borders addresses themes ranging from the construction of a Latino identity to globalization through an inter-disciplinary approach. The volume begins with essays addressing globalization and interdependence. The next two sections treat the changing identities of Latino groups and how a 'Latino' identity can be problematic. Edwin Meléndez's essay points to successes of community-based development strategies for Latino urban neighbourhoods such as housing and employment programmes and the role small businesses can play in community life. His reflections offer concrete ideas for local activism and economic development. Gerald Torres' essay, searching for the legacy of conquest and discovery in the Americas, proves problematic. He categorizes ethnic and racial categories as 'faux' or 'true', uses the term 'Indian' to lump together both Mayans and Mapuche and ignores the colonial Spanish categorizations of race, accepting the nationalist construct of mestizo as a constant. The final section of the book, calling for inter-disciplinary coordination among the social sciences and for the increasing integration of Latino and Latin American Studies, caters to specialists in the field only.

As a reader I had three expectations which remained unfulfilled. First, I hoped that the essays would offer concrete policy suggestions and community strategies. While the fourth part of the book was supposed to 'redefine... methods for collective action to influence policy outcomes' (p.3) only Meléndez's and Jeremy Brecher's essays met those expectations. My second expectation was that this volume would examine ethnicities beyond the obvious national label. Migrants from Mexico, for instance, come from both the mega-city of Mexico and the green mountains of Oaxaca. While the official myth calls all Mexicans 'mestizos', in an attempt to unite the disparate groups, scholars should delve beyond this nationalistic facade to understand how ethnic and racial relationships from the home country are manifested in the host country. My third hope was that an inter-disciplinary volume would include a historical perspective. Silvio Torres-Saillant's essay, examining Dominican immigration and identities within the context of the relationship between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, stands out as the only contribution with a historical perspective. With the exception of Torres-Saillant and a brief aside by María de los Angeles Torres, the contributions understand history to begin in 1960. Transnationalism is not a new phenomena, though the means by which populations are transnational have changed. Investigations of transnationalism generally would benefit from a longer-term outlook and ignorance of history is not limited to Borderless Borders.

Patience A. Schell, St. Antony's College, Oxford University

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page