Introduction: Immigration and Diaspora
Issue #60, April 2002
One of the most vexing issues in today's increasingly "borderless" world is immigration. Everyday on the news we hear argument after argument for or against the free-flow of capital, commodities, and ideas across the globe. The last several administrations in the US have strongly favored free trade. GATT, NAFTA, and the WTO have all come on line in the last generation to expedite the movement of goods in a "fair" and profitable manner. However, there is an interesting lag in the rush toward a borderless world. The one "item" seemingly left behind in this world of unfettered movement is the human body. We can ship trinkets made in Chinese prisons anywhere at discount — bottom of the basement discount — prices. Or, I can have a watermelon grown in Australia that compensates for the time when watermelons are out of season in the Northern Hemisphere. At the grocery, department, or superstore we can choose from a myriad of goods! But the bodies — the hands that assemble, the legs that trudge to work, the eyes that see poverty and deprivation on a daily basis — had best be very cautious when approaching the frontier of the developed world. The message seems to be "We love your cheap labor, but we don't love you. Your bodies, especially the darker ones, need to stay where they are and keep on greasing the wheels of the new and improved borderless world." This issue of Bad Subjects, then, explores the complexity involved in the movement from "third" to Western World, the difficulty of living in the West once the "borderless" border has been traversed, and some of the issues involved in moving between "first" world countries.
Elizabeth Hurst and Jo Rittenhouse discuss the painful realities of trying to maintain a cross-border, same-sex relationship in the face of the unwieldy, and wholly unsympathetic practices of the INS — even for those privileged enough to live in the "first" world! Binoy Kampmark explores how the recent debates in Australia concerning the fate of refugees marooned off the nation's coast in a leaky, decrepit tanker helped to produce a new stereotype of the threatening immigrant. Robert Hamilton's piece explores the unequal, and often inaccurate, use of Japanese cultural symbols as both fetish items for consumption and the foundation upon which many in the US base their perceptions of this "Oriental" nation. Aaron Shuman has a long "sit down" with Kathleen Cleaver as they discuss the legacies of the Black Panther Party and the global significance of the rise of Western economic imperialism. Tom Crumpacker reveals the hypocrisy inherent in the US push toward "open borders", even as the government works overtime to maintain the Cold War status quo with Cuba. Stunned by the cultural insensitivity displayed in an episode of the popular show "Will and Grace", Celia Perez-Zeeb identifies the cultural signifiers that mass media employ to ensure the continuation of the stereotypes that comfort the "first" world privileged and that remind all of us who belongs where in this nation's social hierarchy. Thad Blanchette, drawing on his own personal experience, offers a detailed, and at times humorous, account of the shifting meaning of the term "Gringo" in Brazil. He sees in the term a possible alternative to the time-worn concept of immigrant. Gabriele Sanchez-Martinez appears as the first non-English essay in Bad Subjects! Congratulations for breaking the language barrier! Ms. Sanchez-Martinez's piece explores the complexities of the border, both as actual geo-political line and as trope for the formation of personal identity, in Los Angeles and Southern California. Joe Lockard offers a fierce and touching piece about the travails of the academic job market. Arturo Aldama posits a series of critical questions concerning the increasingly dangerous road north for the migrant laborers the US depends on for its economic prosperity, but whom it refuses to admit legally. Finally, Gilbert Rosas articulates the complexity of teaching young people about the nature of power in a highly reactionary and nationalistic post-9/11 border community.