On the Move: The Construction of Cultural Identities

Friday, February 6, 2015
4:00pm – 5:15pm
Rechler Conference Room 202, Lavin-Bernick Center
Moderated by: Dr. Josefa Salmón, Department of Languages and Cultures, Loyola University

Ride to Live, Live to Ride: Motorcycle Dispatches from Maceió
Katherine Layton, University of Texas at Austin

Though motorcycles are commonly associated with risk taking behavior, male aggression and rebellious independence, the truth is much more complex. These are totalizing tropes constructed through state and other majority attitudes towards motorcyclists, which in fact reveal underlying social anxieties about counter-hegemonic attempts to engage with normative structures. The ubiquity of these stereotypes contributes to transnational imaginaries and subsequent physical infrastructure that marginalizes motorcycles, among other non-automobiles, on and off-the-road. Over several months of field work, I investigated the ways motorcyclists in the Northeastern city of Maceió – AL, Brazil negotiate the city space in the face of these prejudices, in a daily struggle to stay alive. I collected anecdotal testimonials about on and off-the-road structures that influence motorcycling practice in Maceió and the reciprocal tactics that motorcyclists employ in order to navigate them. I engaged in participant observation and conducted interviews among motorcyclists (motorcycle clubs, motoboys & mototaxistas, riders in general) as well as individuals otherwise related to motorcycling practice (officials from police, health, agriculture, and labor sectors).
Using the information I gathered and an anthropological theoretical framework, I explore two major struggles for citizenship and survival in which these motorcyclists are engaged: (1) the guarantee of free mobility, access, safety, security, and inclusion on Maceió’s roads and highways; and (2) the legalization of professional motorcycling activities including delivery and taxi services (motoboy & mototaxi), which are currently permitted by federal law in Brazil, but titularly prohibited at state and municipal levels in Maceió, Alagoas (though still widely practiced). This paper discusses the alternative realities of motorcycling, and the unconventional assertions of citizenship that their riders employ, in the face of normalized exclusion.

Reinterpreting Regionalisms: The Use of the Terms “Kolla” and “Camba” in a Rural, Andean Town in Bolivia
Jennifer North, University of Miami

The Andes today is a region in motion, as people permeate regional divides and images slip through borders. Migration and international media force contact between the urban and the rural, between different ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, and nationalities. This study considers the interpretation of a Peruvian ethnic comedy program, El Cholo Juanito y Richard Douglas, in a rural Quechua community in Bolivia as a tool for understanding the construction of ethnic identities in this dynamic context. El Cholo Juanito y Richard Douglas, produced in Cuzco, Peru, comically portrays the conflict-ridden relationship between a Quechua migrant to the city and a self-declared non-indigenous urbanite. Despite its ethnic slurs and portrayal of the very real discrimination many indigenous migrants face, the program enjoys widespread popularity in Andean Bolivia. By considering the ways by which Quechua-speaking villagers in Bolivia judge and interpret this program, this study illuminates the continued negotiation of ethnic, regional, and national identities in the region. Specifically, the use of the Bolivian regional identifiers “Kolla” (highlander) and “Camba” (lowlander) is examined. In the Andes, ethnic groups are crossed by national borders, and each nation is further divided by deep regionalisms. This study reveals the ways in which Quechua-speaking Bolivians expand and adapt the Bolivian regional identifiers “Kolla” and “Camba” to interpret their own and others’ ethnic identities on both a transnational and localized scale.

Canto y pluma: Mexican Corridos Amid the Great Depression (1929-1949)
Michelle Salinas, University of California, Los Angeles

This study attempts to create a more holistic historical account of the Mexican and Mexican American communities’ experiences in the United States during Great Depression (1929-1939). Abraham Hoffman contextualizes the Great Depression in the Mexican and Mexican American community by discussing the repatriation. He describes repatriation as an initiative led by both federal and private community committees that organized to send immigrants back to their countries as a supposed attempt to relieve public resources and the labor market (1974). I center Mexican and Mexican American perspectives as expressed through alternative media such as Mexican-origin music and Spanish language publications to discuss a less visited account of the Great Depression in the United States. Thus, I analyze six corridos written between (1929-1949) found in the Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings digital archive. I define corridos as a traditionally Mexican song form reinterpreted in the United States Southwest to express the Mexican diasporic experience. In addition, I explore relevant articles from the Los Angeles local Spanish language newspaper La Opinión. I examine these primary sources through Lindsay Perez Huber’s (2010) Latina/o critical theory (LatCrit) and the concept of racist nativism to demonstrate how this alternative media provides collective historical counterstories to the mainstream accounts given by government and Anglo American media. Time can be rewritten: critical archaeology, onto-politics, and the un-extirpation of idols