A discussion with Dr. Cynthia Bejarano, Regents’ Professor at New Mexico State University. Dr Bejarano will deliver the School of Transborder Studies 2016 Wells Fargo Distinguished Lecture, titled “The Barrio, The Book and The Border: Violence and the Pedagogies of Resistance in Borderlands Studies”.
Jose Cardenas: This week the school of transborder studies 2016 wells Fargo distinguished lecture series featured Dr. Cynthia Bejarano, regents professor at New Mexico State University. The lecture was titled the Barrio, the book and the border, violence and the pedagogies of resistance in borderlands studies. Here to talk with us is Dr. Cynthia Bejarano. You are appearing as part of a series of lectures through the transporter studies series at ASU.
Cynthia Bejarano: Yes I'm very excited to be related to the transporter studies. I have mentioned to Dr. LUGO, the director, I graduated from 2001 from Arizona State University and I certainly would have enrolled in it if had been there.
Jose Cardenas: It's really developing into one of the centers of studies here. Your work has been considered pioneering work in this area. The application what you call border theory to the analysis of these issues. I know it's not the specific focus of your lecture but I would like to talk about your first book, urban youth cultures and border identity. What's up? This was a study of the distinctions that Mexican and Chicano youth draw between themselves. Explain that.
Cynthia Bejarano: Sure. I was part of an ethnographic group of researchers from ASU that were invited to a high school, urban high school to enquire about issue of urban and youth violence that were occurring at this particular high school. I had an interesting youth gang because of the area I grew up in near the U.S.-Mexico border. It was riddled with a lot of youth gangs, violence, and I was asked to be part of this team. After about six months working in this high school I came to my own conclusions that much of the difficulty that young people were having had to do with identity issues and identity conflict between Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrant youth. That became the basis of tEJANDA. In addition I found it interesting that issues of border theorizing, border thinking were central to how they understood their own positionality, their own subject position as being from this side of the border or that side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jose Cardenas: You talk about those kids who might actually have been born in Mexico but who identify more with the Chicanos and Chicanas who are more American and Vice versa. Some Chicanas, Chicanos refer to themselves as Mexican.
Cynthia Bejarano: There were a group of kids I referred to as the in between group that were very fluid in their identities. They vacillated from one group of youth to another. It was interesting for our research team and the school administrators to find out that what they were misconstruing as youth gangs were just young people that were misunderstanding each other, that were part of a social hierarchy that they saw themselves sort of pitted against each other because of their citizenship status. I feel that opens up a plethora of solutions and strategies around conflict-based resolution to be able to identify really to pinpoint what were the issues, how could Chicano youth and Mexican immigrant youth that really aspired to assimilate into American culture, really break bread to learn from each other.
Jose Cardenas: One thing you have talked about was teaching. How did this study inform that?
Cynthia Bejarano: The title is violence and pedagogies of resistance and borderland studies. This encapsulates the work that I did from 2005 when it was published to the current setting where I work with young people that are farm workers along the -- I see that these kids are really grappling with the issues, the young people I worked with, we're dealing with 15 years ago. Part of what became very instrumental to my work and after that in other advocacy efforts I have been engaged in is looking at the border as a place of logic, illogic on many levels. A place for critical understanding and critical analysis, and bringing the margins to the center of discussion. So for me that's what border theory has offered us, which is why I'm elated. I'm excited that ASU now has the school for transporter studies. It provides multiple, multiple opportunities and lessons learned and issues of resilience, survival for border communities and others certainly transporter studies stem from Chicano-Chicana studies. There are places that are lab stories that are of teaching, learning available at the U.S.-Mexico border as I hope I have indicated in the book and in my more recent work looking at gender based violence issues.
Jose Cardenas: I want to talk about that. That's been a major focus of yours. Your book, terrorizing women in the Americas. Focused on what's been going on in Juarez.
Cynthia Bejarano: Right. So 1998 I was actually introduced to a family whose daughter had been killed in Juarez. She was abducted April 16, 1998. I just attended her 18th year memorial mass this past Saturday in Juarez. I was distraught. I was living here in Arizona, living in Tempe studying and I had no idea what was occurring back home. Hundreds, thousands of women at this point. It's very complex, very difficult situation since 1993 there have been hundreds of women and young girls that have gone missing. Many of them were found in clandestine gravesites in the outskirts of Juarez and neighboring communities like Chihuahua City, about 360 kilometers from Juarez. This had been occurring very, very routinely throughout these years. There were some very large cases where women's bodies were found, one of them being the cotton field murders in 2001 where eight women's bodies were found.
Jose Cardenas: On the Mexican side.
Cynthia Bejarano: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: One of the points I understand you're trying to make is the violence which is associated -- it's over there.
Cynthia Bejarano: Right.
Jose Cardenas: It's occurring on the U.S. side as well.
Cynthia Bejarano: Right as it refers to femicide, because of their gender, it's work that U.S.-based sociologist Diane Russell worked to develop that conceptualization along with anthropologist. The term FEMICIDE connotes murder of women because of their gender, based on power structures. Really it's crimes against humanity. That's what my colleague and I built upon that work to have a better sense and understanding of how rampant violence against women is, how gender-based violence is infused in every facet of life. It certainly isn't just in places like Juarez. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, we have the west Mesa murders where 11 women's bodies were found. It's a phenomenon, an issue that is universal, it's worldwide. It isn't something that's specifically located in urban centers this. Since 1993, between 2006 and 2012, there were -- the drug wars were occurring throughout Mexico. So, thousands upon thousands of men, women. and children were killed in Mexico.
Jose Cardenas: It's an important topic. I apologize we're out of time. I know that your audience appreciated having you here. Hopefully we'll have you back. Thank you so much for joining us.
Cynthia Bejarano: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Cynthia Bejarano: Regents' Professor at New Mexico State University