Am I that Race? Punjabi Mexicans and Hybrid Subjectivity, or How To Do Theory So That It Doesn’t Do You

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2012-03-10 20:34Z by Steven

Am I that Race? Punjabi Mexicans and Hybrid Subjectivity, or How To Do Theory So That It Doesn’t Do You

Hastings Women’s Law Journal
Volume 21, Number 2 (Summer 2010)
page 311-332

Falguni A. Sheth, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory
Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts

This paper explores the conceptual and racial status of “Punjabi Mexicans” at the turn of the twentieth century. I refer primarily to marriages between East Indian men and Mexican or Mexican-American women on the West Coast and in the Southwestern United States. The scant information available about these alliances has been uncovered by several historians and an anthropologist.  In that literature, this group appears to be a “given,” i.e., it is portrayed as a coherent identity that emerges from a simple set of circumstances.  Yet, it is anything but a given; its existence and its collective and individual consciousness is created out of a complex nexus of legal, political, social, and natural environments that spurred the migration of East Indian men and Mexican women from their homelands and to their adopted lands. I am interested in examining the collective consciousness of individuals who are located in the same moment, but who are living in distinct but overlapping contexts. The structural sources – laws, institutions, explicit and implicit prohibitions, cultural trends, and economic interests – converge to give this population its subjectivity. By subjectivity, I refer to the complex existence of human beings, whose self-understanding is found in the nexus of historical, political, and social circumstances; juridical and social institutions such as laws and government; as well as in their creativity and imagination in negotiating and resisting those circumstances in order to survive or flourish. In other words, as Michel Foucault says, “There are two …

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