Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Passing: An ethnography of status, self and the public in a Mexican border city
by Yeh, Rihan, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2009, 555; 3369464
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the formation of publics in Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego, California. Through detailed analysis of texts and interactions, I ask how publics cohere through (1) genres of rational debate (i.e. in the tradition of the Habermasian bourgeois public sphere) and (2) genres of hearsay. These two publics represent the split public sphere for which Mexico is known; not only that, they vie for status as national subject: the "middle class," embodying a possible future for Mexico as a proper modern democracy, and the pueblo, enshrined by the Revolution but now again on the wane. The genres of public communication mentioned above are the media through which these collective subjects are not only imagined but inhabited and made a reality on an everyday basis.

But at the border, the public takes shape entirely in relation to US state recognition, as its categories ground social status in general: the public of rational debate imagines itself as documented, in possession of papers to cross the border legally, while the public of hearsay is paradigmatically undocumented. Here, the conundrums facing the articulation of the national "we" are brought to a peak, crystallized in the strange, ambivalent and thoroughly quotidian relation to the US and its state. In Tijuana, practices of passing the border literally and of passing in public for that which one is not are intimately intertwined. These two kinds of 'passing' come together most forcefully in the interview for the US nonimmigrant tourist visa, which, I argue, is key to the territorialized Mexican citizenship that, however contradictorily, anchors the documented public of rational debate. Practices of 'passing' offer a unique perspective on the relation between forms of public communication, processes of state recognition, socioeconomic status and how one manages recognition of it, and long-term projects of self-making—questions that are central not just to the contemporary border, but to any understanding of the public in Mexico or beyond.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rutherford, Danilyn, Lomnitz, Claudio
Commitee: Siegel, James, Silverstein, Michael
School: The University of Chicago
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Border city, Mexico, Public sphere, Publics, Self, Status, U.S.-Mexico border, United States-Mexico
Publication Number: 3369464
ISBN: 978-1-109-31574-5
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