The Borderlands of Culture

Américo Paredes and the Transnational Imaginary

The Borderlands of Culture

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 536 Illustrations: 33 b&w photos, 1 map Published: April 2006

American Studies, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Poet, novelist, journalist, and ethnographer, Américo Paredes (1915–1999) was a pioneering figure in Mexican American border studies and a founder of Chicano studies. Paredes taught literature and anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin for decades, and his ethnographic and literary critical work laid the groundwork for subsequent scholarship on the folktales, legends, and riddles of Mexican Americans. In this beautifully written literary history, the distinguished scholar Ramón Saldívar establishes Paredes’s preeminent place in writing the contested cultural history of the south Texas borderlands. At the same time, Saldívar reveals Paredes as a precursor to the “new” American cultural studies by showing how he perceptively negotiated the contradictions between the national and transnational forces at work in the Americas in the nascent era of globalization.

Saldívar demonstrates how Paredes’s poetry, prose, and journalism prefigured his later work as a folklorist and ethnographer. In song, story, and poetry, Paredes first developed the themes and issues that would be central to his celebrated later work on the “border studies” or “anthropology of the borderlands.” Saldívar describes how Paredes’s experiences as an American soldier, journalist, and humanitarian aid worker in Asia shaped his understanding of the relations between Anglos and Mexicans in the borderlands of south Texas and of national and ethnic identities more broadly. Saldívar was a friend of Paredes, and part of The Borderlands of Culture is told in Paredes’s own words. By explaining how Paredes’s work engaged with issues central to contemporary scholarship, Saldívar extends Paredes’s intellectual project and shows how it contributes to the remapping of the field of American studies from a transnational perspective.


“An indispensable book on Paredes. . . . The scholarship is deep, as the many pages of interesting notes and the extensive bibliography testify, making this an excellent resource for those interested in American and Chicano/a studies. . . . Essential.” — B. Almon, Choice

“[E]stablish[es] many possible directions for future writing on Parades’s life and work and, for those who are willing to read selectively, many fine arguments for what Paredes’s accomplishments mean for American literary and cultural study today.” — Rachel Adams, The Americas

“[T]here is enough warmth and admiration for the subject matter in this well-researched study to keep even the non-academic reader engaged. The extended interview excerpts of Paredes in Chapter two are themselves worth the price of the book.” — Thomas Macias, Journal of American Ethnic History

“[T]his book and the larger trilogy it belongs to represent an impressive accomplishment by one of today’s most influential historians of Latin America. For readers less familiar with the events of the Pinochet regime, and particularly for those interested in questions of historical memory, Battling for Hearts and Minds will be rewarding reading.” — Sujay Rao, The Historian

“[This] interdisciplinary tour de force de-essentialized Paredes’s approach to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, demonstrating its global formation and implications as it moves the reader well beyond With His Pistol in His Hand.” — Seth Fein, American Historical Review

“Beautifully crafted, thoroughly researched, and well documented, this is a remarkable and important book that will no doubt become a landmark volume in the fields of American Studies, Ethnic Studies, English, Chicano Studies, Folkloristics, Borderland Studies, and Transnational Studies. The reader can look forward to learning a great deal about Américo Paredes, the man, the artist, the writer, and scholar. Saldívar deserves much praise for this extraordinarily nuanced and comprehensive study.” — Olga Nájera-Ramírez, Journal of Folklore Research

“Complementing Saldívar’s brilliant and sensitive analysis of Paredes and his work are thorough deeply textured notes; evocative photographs of Don Américo, his contemporaries, and the times; and an extensive bibliography.” — Olivia Cadaval, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“On the surface, The Borderlands of Culture is a study of Paredes’s life and literary writings. However, it is also a study of a place, the ‘borderlands,’ understood, not only as the regions of South Texas and Greater Mexico, but also as a more abstract space. . . .” — Michael Hames-García, A Contracorriente

“Saldívar provides a comprehensive study. . . . For historians, this book offers splendid insights into the intellectual formation of one of the finest scholars and interpreters of the borderlands experience. Saldívar provides many sophisticated and thought-provoking critiques of Paredes’ early work in fiction and journalism. . . . [I]ts clear organization and prose make this expansive work accessible and informative. However, it is the inclusion of Paredes’ own narrative of his life and the many excerpts from his body of work that, above all, make this compelling and informative reading.” — James Starling, EIAL

“Saldívar’s work is of great value to scholars because it combines rigorous and insightful textual analysis with considerations of political and historical context in order to advance theoretical conclusions about memory, writing and identity whose relevance extends far beyond the borders of this particular study.” — Ryan F. Long, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"[M]uch of the book will appeal to anyone interested in Paredes' work—and will offer food for thought regarding our current national debate on immigration." — Jeff Salamon, Austin American-Statesman

“A major work of literary and cultural criticism, TheBorderlands of Culture weaves together an insightful and thorough study of Américo Paredes’s career with sustained reflections on the larger lessons and contemporary contexts of his writing. This is an original, wide-ranging, and provocative piece of scholarship by one of the profession’s leading scholars of transnational literature.” — Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Columbia University

“This is a magnificent book. Ramón Saldívar situates Américo Paredes as the founder of an aesthetic and an epistemology for the world at large by those who dwell in the borders—not just the borders between Mexico and the United States but the borders of Western imperialisms. His years of research, personal acquaintance with Paredes, and passionate scholarship have produced a work of lasting value and one that will no doubt become a canonical volume of Latino/a scholarship.” — Walter D. Mignolo, author of Local Histories/Global Designs


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ramón Saldívar is Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Chair of the Department of English, and the Hoagland Family Professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. He is the author of Figural Language in the Novel: The Flowers of Speech from Cervantes to Joyce and Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: In Memoriam 3

Part I. History and Remembrance as Social Aesthetics

1. “The Memory Is All That Matters” 23

2. A Life in the Borderlands 64

Part II. Fictions of the Transnational Imaginary

3. The Checkerboard of Consciousness in George Washington Gómez 145

4. Transnational Modernisms: Paredes, Roosevelt, Rockwell, Bulosan, and the Four Freedoms 190

5. Paredes and the Modernist Vernacular Intellectuals: George I. Sánchez and Emma Tenayuca 226

6. The Borders of Modernity 241

7. Bilingual Aesthetics and the Law of the Heart 264

8. Border Subjects and Transnational Sites: The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories 289

9. Narrative and the Idioms of Race, Nation, and Identity 318

10. The Postwar Borderlands and the Origins of the Transnational Imaginary: The Occupation-Era Writings in Pacific Stars and Stripes and El Universal 344

11. The Shadow and the Imaginary Functioning of Institutions 395

Conclusion: A Transsentimental Journey 432

Notes 439

Works Cited 477

Index 503
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2006 Prize in U.S. Latina/Latino and Chicana/Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies, Modern Language Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3789-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3776-8
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