III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

IV Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 15-19 de diciembre de 2010


Ponencias aceptadas


Secc. II. 2. De las especialidades al debate general


Stephen Aron (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)


A history of borderlands


This paper explores the historiography and history of borderlands. As developed by Herbert Eugene Bolton and deployed by scores of his students, the construct possessed a limited geography and chronology. Bolton and "Boltonians" understood the borderlands to begin at what became the boundary between the United States and Mexico and follow the limits of Spanish colonial claims in what is now the United States. Their histories of borderlands commenced with the arrival of the Spanish and closed with the transfer of the territory to the United States. In recent years, however, scholars have dramatically expanded the reach of borderlands ­ geographically, chronologically, and metaphorically. In North America, this has entailed the adoption of a much-less Eurocentric vision (in particular, diverse Indians have moved from supporting to leading roles) and an enlargement of these borderlands to include both sides of the eventual U.S.-Mexico boundary. No longer ending the history of borderlands with the takeover of the United States, recent work stretches the chronology to the present. In an even greater departure, scholars working far away ­ in place and time ­ from Bolton’s base have unfurled the banner of borderlands. Borderlands, it now seems, are every where, or at least on everyone’s mind. Indeed, the concept has gone global with exciting implications for understanding (and comparing) borderlands around the world and across the ages.

Taken together, work on borderlands has effectively contested conventional accounts in which directives from "cores" determine relations at "peripheries." Studies of border regions have instead emphasized how frequently and effectively inhabitants of these "edges" defied imperial, national, and metropolitan edicts, turning and twisting these decrees in unexpected ways. While borders (both geographic and social) have shaped political and cultural distinctions, studies of borderlands have shown how they have simultaneously stimulated new networks that cut across (and often subverted) them.

But the currents of scholarship leave much to debate about the state and fate of borderlands. If, as I suggest, borderlands have become a catch-all construct, have they lost their history? That is, what happens to borderlands when they seem to become borderless? If borderlands are everywhere and ever enduring, lacking any meaningful historical or geographic boundaries, how useful are they as a category of analysis?

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