Struggles for Place: Citizenship and Inclusion Among Migrant Communities

Saturday, February 7, 2015
10:00am – 11:15am
Jones Hall 102
Moderated by: Dr. Jimmy Huck, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Paths and Obstacles to Cosmopolitan Solidarity Among Excluded Immigrant Workers in Rural Tennessee
Tristan Call, Vanderbilt University

Dispossessed Latin American migrants are among the most recent wave of immigrant and refugee workers to fill ‘precarious’ jobs in rural Tennessee, where they have joined African American and white workers in the fields, slaughterhouses, and factories that employ precarious labor in the South and set the diminishing standards for working conditions throughout the region’s low-wage economy. Based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Tennessee laboring alongside migrant Latino farmworkers and embedded in a union organizing drive with Latino migrants in a rural sweatshop, I trace how the historical exclusions of farmworkers and formerly-incarcerated workers from basic labor protections in the US intersect with citizenship exclusions used to discipline undocumented workers, dividing and racializing the workforce and impeding broader solidarity. I also explore the tactics employers use to maintain divisions in the workforce, and ways that legal exclusion and the underfunding and deregulation of state agencies negatively impact workers’ health and family lives. Finally, I outline the difficulties these workers face as they reach out to potential allies and mainstream ‘business’ unions in their attempts to organize, and suggest paths forward for multilingual and multiethnic solidarity in the rural South.

Immokalee Farm workers and their Social Crisis on Education and Health
Mary Cano, University of Miami

As the immigration movement has gained momentum over the years, many have been the impacts it has had on both authorized and unauthorized immigrants and their families. This paper examines factors that have led to human right violations on adequate health care and proper education in Immokalee, Florida; a town that has always been under the shadows due to its high unauthorized immigrant population has not been shy of the effects the lack of immigration reform has caused. I will build on the knowledge of the factors that have shaped this situation. In particular, I explore how the role of the anti-immigrant sentiment has enabled an environment for human right violations, with particular consequences for issues such as education and health and how its effects on the farm workers in Immokalee. This paper exposes a larger context on the systematic violations of human and labor rights towards one of the most vulnerable segments of the population. I focus on labor market changes, political aspects and the role of the media. Methodologically, this work combines a historical perspective on immigration policy influencing immigrants with field observation research and the use of a wide range of sources of analysis and data. I adhere to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights according to which, access to both health and education are considered to be fundamental human rights. In a town where human rights in education and health seem to be violated, these issues have seen themselves compromised according to the Articles stated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The issues discussed not only present a human rights problem but also a social justice problem. In Immokalee, the absence of legal rights has made this undocumented population exposed to exploitation, crime and social problems including those relating to health and education.

A Legacy of Resistance: The Spatial Politics of Barrio Logan’s Built Environment

Manuel Guadalupe Galaviz, University of Texas at Austin

Barrio Logan, City of San Diego, California is one of many Mexican-American communities that suffered the detrimental impacts of displacement via the construction of both the Coronado Bay Bridge and California’s Interstate-five freeway in 1967. Since the establishment of Chicano Park in 1970 and the initial painting of the Chicano Park murals in 1973, Barrio Logan experienced a social-cultural transformation that positioned Barrio Logan and Chicano Park as a space of political and cultural liberation within the Chicana/o social-spatial imaginary. Barrio Logan’s legacy as a cultural and political space that generates social capital stems from a contentious history including racial segregation, environmental injustices, and capital driven industrial maritime development under the auspices of San Diego City planners, The California Department of Transportation, and The U.S. Navy. In order to establish a clear understanding of the political economy of this US-Mexico borderlands, global port, and militarized Mexican-American neighborhood, my paper examines how Barrio Logan’s residents, artists, and activists negotiate spatial transformations and conflicts, and how their negotiations are articulated in oral narratives and visual artistic Chicana/o representations of the barrio built environment. I examine themes of race, urban development, and place making to explore the sentiments Barrio Logan cultural workers foster towards ideas of cultural citizenship, ethnic identity, and environmental justice.

The Land and Its People: Rights, Responsibilities, and Conflicts

Saturday, February 7, 2015
10:00am – 11:15am
Jones Hall 100A Greenleaf Conference Room
Moderated by: Dr. Kris Lane, Department of History, Tulane University

Ancestral Land or Corporate Land: Conflicts over Identity and Territory in La Guajira, Colombia
Emma Banks, Vanderbilt University

In La Guajira, Colombia, indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and campesino people struggle to defend their land threatened by the Cerrejón coalmine. These communities face a common problem, but must advance their claims through three different legal regimes. The 1991 constitution recognizes ethnic territories, and provides a framework for indigenous and Afro-Colombians, but not for campesinos, to protect their ancestral territories. Furthermore, the state that guarantees these rights also supports a national economic development plan based on mining, two seemingly contradictory responsibilities. Drawing on fieldwork with communities surrounding Cerrejón and analysis of key legislation, this paper explores how both the state and corporate actors manipulate multicultural legal norms to disenfranchise communities and control territory. It also illustrates how communities propose an alternative to narrow state definitions of ethnicity. Although framed as an attempt at recognizing ethnic rights, this paper views the state’s recognition of ethnic communities as a vehicle for regulating land in La Guajira in favor of Cerrejón. Wayuu indigenous communities have successfully claimed their ancestral territories, but as a result have come under greater state control. Legislation for Afro-Colombian and campesino communities falls short in La Guajira, denying their rights to territory and self-identity. In contrast to state legislation, ethnic claim-making “from below” is an attempt to assign land a cultural value and protect it from economic exploitation. The complex struggle over both territory and identity in La Guajira reveals how powerful actors and disenfranchised minorities mobilize multicultural values for disparate goals.

Fenced in Place: Discourses and Practices around Female Workers in China’s Hydropower Projects in Ecuador
Ruijie Peng, University of Texas at Austin

This study explores re/production of social and spatial relations in the biggest ongoing Chinese hydroelectric project in the Amazon watershed in Ecuador. With China’s near dominant role in development investment in Ecuador, the paper relies both on structural analysis of Chinese investment and original and ethnographic accounts and reflections from fieldwork in order to elucidate processes of integration or segmentation Chinese projects entail in the project. Due to different labor regulations, cultural norms and natural environment, Chinese-led development project experience a set of spatial segregation and labor segmentation based on national, ethnicity and gender lines. This produces a new development and management logic that both resembles traditional capitalist insertion in local economy yet distinguishes itself with different types of labor and environmental implications. However, instead of reproducing an imperial model of resource exploitation, China’s engagement with Ecuador and Latin America in general in development has created a new realm of contested social relations and interactions. For example, up to 20% of the workers and other staff have been brought from mainland China to work with Ecuadorians under a labor regime that creates more disadvantages for Chinese labor force than its Ecuadorian counterpart. Does Chinese investment and development in Ecuador represent a different paradigm than global capitalism’s engagement in production and profit? What spaces and social relations produce and are produced by South-South cooperation in development? Reflections from this work urge state and non-state actors to rethink ways in which Chinese state-led investments, Latin American states and grassroots advocacy groups can achieve more equitable and sustainable resource development.

This Isn’t Child’s Play: Delineating Mobility and Property in the Eastern Andes, 1630-1651
Nathan Weaver Olsen, University of Minnesota

In February of 1650, a property dispute between two brothers-in-law, Lorenzo de Chavez Orellana and Juan Sanchez de Aguilera, escalated into a fistfight as the local lieutenant general attempted to give Sanchez formal possession of what Chavez claimed to be his land, in full view of the Chavez family home. Of course on one level, the fistfight, which the Lieutenant General did not mention in his official report, was simply a physical manifestation of rising tensions between the two men. But on another level, this fight in a sparsely populated valley in the eastern Andes was a battle between proxies representing different notions about the origin and meaning of property rights, local citizenship (vecindad) and personal reputation. While Sanchez temporarily won possession of Chavez’s land, he would ultimately lose out in his effort to separate Chavez from his property, and did not prevent the sale of Chavez’s land to the regionally powerful don Pedro de Cuellar Mimbreño. The loss signified a change taking place in the valley in which years of military service in defense of the frontier no longer trumped literacy, documentary evidence, and the knowledge of Spanish civil legal codes. In this talk I will discuss how changing ideas about personal property in the seventeenth-century Andes help us to better understand how frontier spaces became bordered places, and the social implications of such changes for frontier communities.

Constructing a Nation, Defining its People: The Formation and Preservation of Ethnic Identities

Saturday, February 7, 2015
11:30am – 12:45pm
Jones Hall 102
Moderated by: Dr. Rosanne Adderley, Department of History, Tulane University

Out of Blood, Let the Dance Begin: The Metaphor of Blood in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue
Sean Anderson, Lehigh University

While European slave societies placed much emphasis on blood’s purity in a racial sense, the enslaved also placed certain emphases on blood’s meanings in the Americas. Often concerned with European colonial perceptions such as the Spanish limpieza de sangre or the classification system of Moreau de Saint-Méry, much scholarly research has focused on European racial categories rather than specific African ideas and practices concerning blood. This paper will explain the role blood occupied in the Bois Caiman ceremony, which occurred in 1791 at the start of the Saint-Domingue insurgency. According to archival accounts, the ceremony was centered around an African blood-oath ritual. While blood-oath rituals are often interpreted by scholars as creating symbolic union between people and groups, this paper will examine how traditional African symbolic conceptions surrounding blood ritual were transformed by early insurgents. In Saint-Domingue, blood-oath ritual appeared traditional but acted socially and symbolically differently by both integrating various people while demarcating lines of difference among early insurgents. Further, in various contexts, such as at dances and in insurgent camps, blood as a metaphor for both unity and disunity emerges in the archival documents of late eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue, which exposes a rich world of African, European, and American confluence around the multivalent social metaphor of blood. Drawing on the works of diverse scholars such as James H. Sweet, Joan Dayan, Robin Law, and Michael Taussig, this paper will show that the Haitian metaphor of blood was deeper than studies on racial classification reveal. To that end, African cultural forms and symbolic meanings about blood will be examined within the diverse social context of Saint-Domingue to show how an emerging Haitian identity was crafted over the revolutionary period out of many trans-Atlantic symbolic currents.

Cajun Identity Formation during the 19th Century
Jessica DeJohn Bergen, University of Texas at El Paso

This paper will look at the Louisiana Acadians during the early nineteenth century. Following their 1755 deportation by the British Empire from present day Nova Scotia, most Acadians, as subjects of the French Empire, returned to France and/or settled in various regions the Spanish Empire in North America. Many of them relocated to southern Louisiana where they remained until the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the American Empire. Despite this intriguing trans-imperial history, scholars interested in race, racialization, imperialism, and post-colonialism have largely overlooked the Acadians commonly refer to as Cajuns. This oversight stems from the present understanding of Acadians/Cajuns solely and simply as French or European, thus white; therefore, not a mixed-race or metis peoples. From the earliest settlement of Acadians in Nova Scotia to those of south Louisiana, Acadians/Cajuns have a mixed ancestry of Native American, African, French, and Spanish to name a few. This paper argues that at the nexus of Northern and Southern hemispheric empires, Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns formed alliances with communities that accommodated, resisted, and facilitated European imperialisms. I will discuss the ways that Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns were tied to the nation and the ways the state tied them to emerging constructions of race and nation. Moreover, I will explain what it meant to be Acadian/Cajun under French, Spanish, and U.S. imperial rule and how Acadians/Cajuns perceived themselves likewise. Over time conflicting nineteenth century racial and national ideas promoted discord and Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns sought to divorce themselves from the “other” through a relational process that frequently stressed their “whiteness.” Moreover, this analysis speaks to the ways that French speakers in Louisiana have claimed an Acadian past to racially legitimized a Cajun identity or whiten themselves.

Saint Domingue in Flames, 1791-1793: A Spanish Colonial Perspective of Violence, Spatiality, and Power
Jesús Ruiz, Tulane University

Interrogating Gender: Traditions and Opportunities in the Framing of Women’s Identities

Saturday, February 7, 2015
11:30am – 12:45pm
Greenleaf Conference Room, Jones Hall 100A
Moderated by: Dr. Supriya Nair, Department of English, Tulane University

Poto Mitan or Helpless Victim: An Analysis of Women’s Representation in Haitian Proverbs
Rachel Denney, University of Kansas

This work examines competing notions of Haitian female identity as reflected through Haitian proverbs. Using a postcolonial feminist framework, this research analyzes entries from one of the world’s largest collection of Creole proverbs to understand how gender norms are both constructed and reinforced. These proverbs present a complex picture of female identities and gender relations in Haiti, in which women appear as entrepreneurs, partners, and caregivers, experiencing and eliciting the full range of human emotion. In doing so, they contradict the stereotypical “victim narrative” of Haitian women that permeates the underlying ideology of much humanitarian assistance, as well as undermine simplistic notions about women’s strength and resiliency. This project builds on literature that examines the social construction of identity through content and rhetorical analysis.

Ancient Maya Women’s Identity: An Analysis of Costume in Pre-Columbian Maya Art
Elizabeth Haughey, Tulane University

Ancient Maya textiles were made of natural wool or cotton that was dyed with natural vegetal dyes and woven by women on a backstrap loom. Evidence for these practices can be found in ancient Maya depictions of the act of weaving (often performed by the goddess Ixchel, or Goddesses O and I), as well as Jaina Island figurines and more. While some of the methods of textile production have changed throughout time, others have largely remained the same. Evidence from the Conquest period suggests that some Pre-conquest elements in Maya costume were also retained in 19th century women’s garments and beyond. Specific designs and colors in Guatemalan textiles today can often be linked to certain towns or regions of the country, especially the woman’s huipil (blouse) and corte (skirt) (both elements that originated in ancient times), and serve to provide the wearer with a sense of identity; not only Maya identity, but a specific identity tied to birth town or town of residence. Though little evidence exists that specifically links the Post-Classic Maya period to the period of the Spanish conquest, it may be true that the element of regional identifiability in textiles has persisted since ancient times. Ancient Maya women’s costumes may be seen worn on prominent Maya women, such as Lady Xok of Yaxchilan, Lady Rabbit of Bonampak, Lady Night of Piedras Negras, and others. These ladies can be found on a variety of ancient Maya art, including painted pottery, carved stone lintels and stelae, three-dimensional figurines, and the Maya codices, from sites such as Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Motul de San José. Analysis of such depictions of women’s costume in Pre-Columbian Maya art can be employed to discover the ways in which the Pre-Columbian Maya may have distinguished regional identity.

(Sup)Plantation Narratives: Reading Andrea Levy’s The Long Song as a Textual and Sexual Revision of The History of Mary Prince

Laura Mellem, Tulane University

This paper examines a contemporary novel, Andrea Levy’s The Long Song (2010), alongside a prominent historical text describing the experiences of an enslaved woman in the West Indies, The History of Mary Prince, originally published in 1831. In depicting the sexual encounters of enslaved women–coerced, for pleasure, and for economic or legal gain–in Jamaica in the period between the abolition of the slave trade and full emancipation (1807-1838), I argue that Levy’s novel especially responds to the deliberate silencing of aspects of Mary Prince’s sexual experiences as an enslaved woman in the original slave narrative. Ultimately, Levy’s novel reveals what Prince’s testimony does not say, that sexuality was a central tenet of enslaved women’s lives and that they did with it what they could. Writing back to the public furor that erupted over Prince’s sexual omissions, moreover, Levy pieces together the claims made about Prince and reinvents a full story of her life, and other enslaved women’s lives. In doing so, she makes clear the contradictions inherent in the unrealistic Victorian demands being made of enslaved women, including the idealization of motherhood and the insistence on women’s chastity. Unapologetically portraying an enslaved woman’s rejection of her dark-skinned child and highlighting her relationships with men, both black and white, for economic gain, Levy disrupts the binary logic of “the woman card” in the debates between abolitionists and pro-slavery supporters. Instead, she portrays a complex female character who is neither simply victim nor concubine. Reading Levy’s The Long Song alongside The History of Mary Prince allows us to fill in the blanks deliberately left in Prince’s testimony, while also appreciating, perhaps even more, the boldness of Prince’s original work.