The Tijuana zonkey as a postcolonial symbol of conviviality in approaching life at the border Tijuana as the illegitimate lovechild from the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico

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The Tijuana "zonkey" as a postcolonial symbol of conviviality in approaching life at the border Tijuana as the illegitimate lovechild from the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico
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    KU Leuven Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen Parkstraat 45 3000 LEUVEN, BELGIË The Tijuana "zonkey" as a postcolonial symbol of conviviality in approaching life at the border Tijuana as the illegitimate lovechild from the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico Jasper Vanhaelemeesch Political Anthropology (s0D66a) CADES  Academiejaar 2013-2014    2 The Tijuana "zonkey" as a postcolonial symbol of conviviality in approaching life at the border Tijuana as the illegitimate lovechild from the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico Keywords : Tijuana; U.S.-Mexican border; zonkeys; counter-hegemony; revolutionary zonkeism; simulacrum; paratopia; totemism; conviviality; resistance. Index: 0. ABSTRACT ...............................................................................................................2 1. INTRODUCTION: A VIEW FROM THE MARGINS.........................................3 1.1   H EGEMONY  .............................................................................................................6 1.2   C OUNTER  - HEGEMONY  ............................................................................................7 1.3   P OSTCOLONIAL RELATIONS OF CONVIVIALITY ( AND POWERLESSNESS ) ...................7 1.4   T HE PARATOPICAL NATURE OF SIMULACRA  ............................................................9 2. CASE STUDY: TIJUANA ZONKEYS .................................................................10 2.1   T HE ZONKEY AS A SIMULACRUM  ...........................................................................16 2.2   T HE ZONKEY AS A MASCOT  ...................................................................................17 3. CONCLUSIONS .....................................................................................................19 4.. BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................20 0. Abstract In this anthropological and ethnographic analysis of the cultural representation and practice of the Tijuana “ zonkey ”, the aim is to legitimize the theoretical assumptions that a “state” is equally constituted as an “artifact” by the effects that it has been generally acclaimed to produce.  An anthropology of the state, in terms of We  ber’s traditional discourse on the state , generally focuses on political and economic notions such as sovereignty and authority over a particular population in a specific territory. We will, however, attempt to envision the Mexican state through the lens of its margins in a transnational approach of discursive as well as sociocultural power. The focus on the cultural and (discursive) representational frames that we will set out to explain ideally leads us to a deeper understanding of the cultural foundation of the Mexican state. Moreover, by placing the symbolic, spatial theory of cultural representation in a transnational framework we attempt to highlight the translocality of the state (Gupta, 1995), as well as the dangers in trying to see the state as a centralized and unitary entity that regulates beyond its actual cultural reach. The object of discussion is a cultural performance that srcinates in one single  3 avenue in a Mexican border city and how it came to be seen over the past century as the ultimate articulation of border identity. The simulated zebra-donkey is becoming the most appropriate form of expression and identification with regard to both approximation and ironical distancing between two great nations, and also as a form of resistance against inter- and intra-national stereotyping and hegemonic (i.e. idealistic) discourses on Mexican border territory and its inhabitants. Through the analysis of the representations of this hybrid animal we are forced to rethink the “state -territory-  people” paradigm and the presumed symmetry of its constituent parts (Sharma & Gupta, 2008: 22), in favor of a syncretic, pluralistic, inclusive vision on coping with life at the limits of two nations in a postcolonial relationship. 1. Introduction: A view from the margins Margins and borderlands are central to the territorial definition of the state. It is at these overlapping boundary zones that the state comes into being, where the state is scrutinized and where resilience and resistance to the state is most evident. The main objective of the present paper is not to focus on the abstract concept of the state, but on how it intervenes in people's lives, and on how  people deal with the state's procedures. Anthropology as such is concerned with the state as a set of  practices and experiences, not as a set of institutions. Within these practices, inhabitants constantly negotiate their positions and explore their own boundaries in everyday life. Studying the effect of the state (Mitchell, 1999) thus means, in anthropological terms, analyzing the micro-politics of the day to day experiences of the nation's inhabitants. The state's margins are looked at as an artificial construct, as a line which is arbitrarily drawn across the landscape and which creates the transitional, overlapping border zone. The margins are neither defined as a lack of state nor of legislation, but as a site of (re-)definition of the state. Borders, being territorial, national limits, are in fact not inert divisions but extremely vivid and constantly shape shifting “shady” zones of negotiation. Creativity and ways of coping with the state effects flourish greatly in these  borderlands.  Nation-states decide about exclusion and inclusion, about the militarization of checking  points and the organization of border patrols. At the border, the state exerts its power in stopping illegal border crossings, while paradoxically feeling the need for migrant workers to fulfill cheap  4 labor, both in the U.S. and also in the man y “sweatshops” along the borderline. The state, in the classical definition of the modern nation-state, according to Max Weber (1968), is an entity that is clouded with authority and that guarantees the sovereignty over a fixed territory. In this view, the state stands for sovereign authority, for an institution of decision making and it also symbolizes an identity. The increased global interaction and communication have further led to an explosion of space, and it has been acknowledged that the Darwinian t emporal perspective of a “denial of coevalness” between nations has become obsolete, giving way to a “denial of the denial of coevalness” (Fabian, 1983). Space has been reduced in its role of limiting element and the new frontiers are deemed to be cultures and languages. This spatial understanding of cultures and nations stands in con trast with the state’s sovereignty of exerting its authority within its limits, while at the same time defining a national identity. It will become clear that in order to fully understand the identity of inhabitants of the border regions, both sides of the dividing fence have to  be considered. According to Tsing (1994: 279), margins are “the zones of unpredictability at the edges of discursive stability, where contradictory discourses overlap, or where discrepant kinds of meaning- making converge.” This is why  margins are also a very fertile breeding ground for economic and social resilience and resistance. The present paper will render two approaches on envisioning life at the border. On the one hand we will try to indicate the potential ideological implication behind the cultural representation of the “ zonkey ” , which is a cultural tradition that is preserved and reinforced in the last century, and on the other hand we will pose an alternative and relativized perspective. The alternative that is proposed is a discussion of the role of the “ zonkey ”  in the society of Tijuana as a symbol of burlesque and hybridity that is adopted and celebrated by Tijuana locals. In consonance with An a Tsing, we intent to envision margins as an “analytical placement that makes evident both the constraining, oppressive quality of cultural exclusion and the creative potential for rearticulating, enlivening, and rearranging the very social categories that  peripheralize a group’s  5 existence” (1994: 297).  For this purpose a "view from the margins" (Tsing, 1994) is adopted as to analyze the effects (and affects) that the state has on the borderland inhabitants (cfr. Mitchell, 1999). This view from the margins is justified by the fact that the state and its effects become most tangible at its extremes, where it comes into contact with the effects of another state (cfr. Mary Pratt: "contact zones ” 1 ). The following paragraphs are devoted to Kurtz's discussion of Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony and the subversion of this "ideological domination" in the form of counter-hegemonic  practices. In general, Gramsci's political theorizing stems from Marxist ideology, but he goes  beyond Marx in stating that the hegemonic preponderance of the ruling class cannot be broken in material terms. Where Marx stated that the capitalist system would automatically invoke rebellion and resistance, Gramsci noted that the capitalist power is too strong to take over society by mere controlling the means of production. The reason that it has become too strong is that the hegemony, the ideological domination of a ruling class, is responsible for the integration of the capitalist social order and the maintenance of its status quo. Gramsci's concept of power is thus determined not only economically but also culturally in terms of dealing with social order. In considering the  postcolonial power relations between the United States and Mexico , and the border inhabitants’ response, we first turn to a classical interpretation of ideological domination, upon which we turn to Achilles Mbembe's interpretation of postcolonial worlds of meaning (1992). Only when we have established these frameworks of international power relations we can examine the “ Revolutionary Zonkeism” (cfr. infra) that is adopted by the Tijuana citizens and municipality as an emblem to confront national and international stereotypes with regard to Mexican border identity. 1   “the space in which transculturation takes  place  –   where two different cultures meet and inform each other, often in highly asymmetrical ways ”  (1991: 584)
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