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Racial Borderlands: Suburban Plantation Culture and 'Rancho California (por favor)'
Unformatted Document Text:  Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.5 media production (derived from cultural theory and then media practice). These included notions of: self-representation, hybridity (resistant cultural mixing and matching); poaching and appropriation (in the creation of community media on the margins); lay image-making (by migrant workers); and participatory community projects (cooperative involvement with community members and non-profit organizations). I. Theory’s Borders: Symbolic Alternatives. My experience working in the arroyos and communities during this period increasingly involved a tension between two different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives—a model of human agency from cultural theory developed in academia, on the one hand, versus a pragmatic sense of human agency built from a series of lived experiences and confrontations on the other. As I discovered, fieldwork sometimes provides vantage points that can be both messier and more provocative than those favored in the seminar room. Scholars like Judith Butler (1990), Henry Jenkins (1992), and Sherry Turkle (1995), now celebrate the ways that identity can be performed-- endlessly by individuals--in empowering ways. In the age of commercial consumer culture and digital media, apparently, anyone can be anyone else, endlessly. The things I looked for and found seemed at first to support these ideals. Everybody now theorizes the platitude, for example, that you can't represent the "other." So I went to find examples of self-representation in the arroyos. A Oaxacan migrant worker named Modestio proudly videotaped the ramshackle home of his four children with a camcorder in a camp of approximately 80 residents in the suburbs of Carlsbad. At first, my partner (Devora Gomez) and I noticed the careful ways that families such as Modestio’s negotiated the tough living conditions on this hillside (his wife had just given birth one week earlier, and a van from the Vista clinic was waiting for her obstetric exam across the creek as we talked). Modestio narrated his video tour with an ostensible contentment that one might expect when talking to newcomers like us: “There are a lot of families and children here. Yes. Everything is fine here.” But he also invoked an optimism about his children’s futures that was much less like the

Authors: Caldwell, John.
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Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.5
media production (derived from cultural theory and then media practice). These included notions of:
self-representation, hybridity (resistant cultural mixing and matching); poaching and appropriation
(in the creation of community media on the margins); lay image-making (by migrant workers); and
participatory community projects (cooperative involvement with community members and non-profit
organizations).
I. Theory’s Borders: Symbolic Alternatives.
My experience working in the arroyos and communities during this period increasingly
involved a tension between two different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives—a model of
human agency from cultural theory developed in academia, on the one hand, versus a pragmatic
sense of human agency built from a series of lived experiences and confrontations on the other. As
I discovered, fieldwork sometimes provides vantage points that can be both messier and more
provocative than those favored in the seminar room. Scholars like Judith Butler (1990), Henry
Jenkins (1992), and Sherry Turkle (1995), now celebrate the ways that identity can be performed--
endlessly by individuals--in empowering ways. In the age of commercial consumer culture and
digital media, apparently, anyone can be anyone else, endlessly. The things I looked for and found
seemed at first to support these ideals. Everybody now theorizes the platitude, for example, that
you can't represent the "other." So I went to find examples of self-representation in the arroyos. A
Oaxacan migrant worker named Modestio proudly videotaped the ramshackle home of his four
children with a camcorder in a camp of approximately 80 residents in the suburbs of Carlsbad. At
first, my partner (Devora Gomez) and I noticed the careful ways that families such as Modestio’s
negotiated the tough living conditions on this hillside (his wife had just given birth one week earlier,
and a van from the Vista clinic was waiting for her obstetric exam across the creek as we talked).
Modestio narrated his video tour with an ostensible contentment that one might expect when
talking to newcomers like us: “There are a lot of families and children here. Yes. Everything is fine
here.” But he also invoked an optimism about his children’s futures that was much less like the


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