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Crossroads of Death

Chapter

Abstract

The crossroads in this story wind through the desolate landscapes of the Sonoran Desert where the Mexico/U.S. border becomes at once an intensely violent inscription and almost an afterthought. Sometimes this border seems meaningless, part of our deterritorialized global “reality.” Sometimes the consequences are monumental, the difference between life and death. The official crossroads, represented by lines on the maps, have become impossible for some—for those whose names are destined for little white crosses, those who carry their dreams and lives on their backs, those who do not get cited in our academic journals. Those who are not us. I can still cross with relative ease. So can you. For an afternoon of shopping, cheap drink, trinkets, and souvenirs. Yes, it is different for us. For others, another story most of us will never read. They cannot cross where we can cross. But, there are many other ways, though infinitely more deadly. The deadliness of these other crossing points gives rise to this story and to the struggles I have in telling it in the way I think it should be told, with words worthy of the human beings who live it and those who die in it. Of course, I cannot claim that this story, which is ultimately my story, is the one others would tell were we to listen. I cannot pretend to know what their stories would be. For there are other unauthorized crossroads that snake through risky territory and these, too, must be considered.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Helene Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 38.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I borrow the phrase, “ethics of encounter,” from Michael J. Shapiro in “The Ethics of Encounter: Unreading, Unmapping the Imperium,” in Moral Spaces: Rethinking Ethics and World Politics, ed. David Campbell and Michael J. Shapiro (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michael Taussig, The Nervous System (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 10.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jacques Derrida, “Circumfession,” in Jacques Derrida, trans. Geoffrey Bennington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Edward Hirsch, The Demon and the Angel-Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2002).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Otto Rene Castillo, “Apolitical Intellectuals,” in Tomorrow Triumphant: Selected Poems of Otto Rene Castillo, trans. Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade and ed. Magaly Fernandez and David Volpendesta (San Francisco: Night Horn Books, 1984).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The other three deserts are the Great Basin, the Mojave, and the Chihuahuan. Unlike the Sonoran, these are all classic rain-shadow deserts, having developed in the rain shadows of mountain chains. See Alex Shoumatoff, Legends of the American Desert: Sojourns in the Greater Southwest (New York: Harper Perennial, 1997), pp. 55–57.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Patricia L. Price, Dry Places: Landscapes of Belonging and Exclusion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), p. 56.Google Scholar
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    See Don Mitchell, The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), pp. 30–35.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (New York and Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2004).Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    John Annerino, Dead in their Tracks: Crossing America’s Desert Borderlands (New York and London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999)Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 171.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    For an excellent account of the origins of Operation Gatekeeper, which has become symbolic for all the other border operations that have attempted to make it more difficult to illegally cross into the United States from Mexico, see Joseph Nevins, Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary” (New York and London: Routledge, 2002).Google Scholar
  14. 48.
    See Peter Andreas, Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2000)Google Scholar
  15. J. M. C. Heyman, “Putting Power in the Anthropology of Bureaucracy: The Immigration and Naturalization Service at the Mexico-United States Border,” Current Anthropology, 36:2 (1995), pp. 261–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 49.
    See Michael J. Dillon, “The Scandal of the Refugee: Some Reflections on the ‘Inter’ of International Relations and Continental Thought,” in Moral Spaces: Rethinking Ethics and World Politics, ed. David Campbell and Michael J. Shapiro (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), pp. 92–124.Google Scholar
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    Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 24.Google Scholar

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© Elizabeth Dauphinee and Cristina Masters 2007

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