Border Thinking: Latinx Youth Decolonizing Citizenship


 Presenter (s) Andrea Dyrness, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Enrique Sepúlveda, University of Colorado, Boulder

As anti-immigrant nationalist discourses escalate globally, Border Thinking offers critical insights into how young people in the Latinx diaspora experience belonging, make sense of racism, and long for change. Every year thousands of youth leave Latin America for the United States and Europe, and often the young migrants are portrayed as invaders and, if able to stay, are told to integrate into their new society. In both the United States and Europe, popular and policy discourses of integration construct immigrant young people’s transnational affiliations as suspect and a threat to democratic society. But what meanings do young people attach to their transnational experiences, and what are the implications for citizenship? Border Thinking engages young people’s border crossing and transnational experiences as a central object of inquiry and reflection, in order to excavate the cultural knowledge and border thinking of diaspora youth as a resource for democratic citizenship. Border Thinking asks not how to help the diaspora youth assimilate, but what the United States and Europe can learn about citizenship from these diasporic youth.

Working in the United States, Spain, and El Salvador, Andrea Dyrness and Enrique Sepúlveda use participatory action research to collaborate with these young people to analyze how they make sense of their experiences in the borderlands. Dyrness and Sepúlveda highlight the differences between school-based learning, which mirrors nationalist discourses of belonging that construct migrant youth as outsiders, and the out-of-school learning offered by migrant youths’ connections to family and friends in multiple places. Using a variety of participatory methods, Dyrness and Sepúlveda engage students in reflecting on their experiences of belonging and exclusion in multiple places. They find that because of their transnational experiences and connections to both home and host countries, diaspora youth have a critical perspective on national citizenship, and develop cultural knowledge for transcending inequality that is not found within the boundaries of a single nation-state. However, this knowledge must be cultivated in safe spaces to support active citizenship formations. Using ethnographic cases from three different continents, Dyrness and Sepúlveda demonstrate how acompañamiento—spaces for solidarity and community-building among migrants— allow youth to critically reflect on their experiences, support one another, and cultivate new cultural resources for navigating unfamiliar and difficult terrain.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rethinking Youth Citizenship in the Diaspora
1. Acompañamiento in the Borderlands: Toward a Communal, Relational, and Humanizing Pedagogy
2. In the Shadow of U.S. Empire: Diasporic Citizenship in El Salvador
3. Negotiating Race and the Politics of Integration: Latinx and Caribbean youth in Madrid
4. Transnational Belongings: The cultural knowledge of lives in between
5. Feminists in Transition: Transnational Latina Activists in Madrid
Conclusion: Reflections on Acompañamiento in the Borderlands

Andrea Dyrness is associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is author of Mothers United: An Immigrant Struggle for Socially Just Education (Minnesota, 2011).

Enrique Sepúlveda III is assistant professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is coeditor of Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations.

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