From backyard celebrations in the urban sprawl of Dallas, Texas, to patron saint festivities in the highlands of Guanajuato and mobile home get-togethers along the lush back roads of northern Mississippi, my book manuscript, Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño(Forthcoming, Duke University Press), follows the moments of huapango arribeño—a musico-poetic form that hails from north-central Mexico—within the lives of both audiences and practitioners. Based on several years of ethnographic research, this book represents the first extended study of huapango arribeño and offers a fine-tuned ethnographic analysis of how Mexican migrants construct meaningful communities amidst the contemporary politics of immigration in the U.S. I explore how “Mexican sounds”—as a locus of aesthetics, performances, and signifying practices—resonate across physical, aural, and cultural borders and what they reveal about transnational migrant lives. I employ sounds of crossing as a graphic model to trace the pathways—or crossings—of moving bodies and bodies of musical and poetic discourses that illustrate how migrants voice the conditions of life in Mexico, their clandestine treks across the border, and the workday problems of life in the U.S.
Humor, Chronotopes, and U.S.-Mexico Migration
My article in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology "So ¿Te Fuiste a Dallas? (So You Went to Dallas?/So You Got Screwed?): Language, Migration, and the Poetics of Transgression” contributes to literatures that explore the ways in which language and linguistic practices and interactions aid migrants in shaping transnational personhood. There, I consider the biopolitical dimensions of ethnic-Mexican speech play laced with erogenous humor as an embodied aesthetic capable of discursively impressing reconceptualized senses of self revolving around the geographies and violences of the US-Mexico border. Taken within the social field of systemic productions of illegality that target migrant bodies, corporeally-produced expressive negotiations rooted in undocumented migrant day-to-day life, I propose, deeply shape alternative senses of transnational subjectivity that refute dominant indexical orders of criminalization and, in turn, offer chronotopic recalibrations of the spatialized logics that push the US-Mexico border out and in.
Intimacy, Migration, and the Separation of Family
In my article, “Intimacy at Stake: Transnational Migration and the Separation of Family” in the journal of Latino Studies,I explore the issue of “separation of families,” which has emerged in the debate over immigration as a humanistic appeal to those who favor a legal absolutist approach to deportation and migrant deportability. However, I argue, the image of the “family” privileged in this national discussion mobilizes a highly gendered, racialized, and monolithic portrayal of the ideal U.S. Latino family unit to the exclusion of the many relationships forged in the context of transnational migration—in this case among migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border—which are not limited to those of “nuclear families.” This article, therefore, explores how the act of kinning, or creating family, among migrants exceeds the conventional emphasis on mainstream notions of the idealized Latino family. I turn to the concept of “chosen families” as a way of conceptualizing the vernacular theorizing migrants engage in to imagine complex relationships of intimacy.
Precarity, Ritual Poetics, and Post-National Imagininings
In the post-NAFTA era of massive out-migration, an explosion of narco-violence, and increased calls for indigenous autonomy across Mexico, the growing perception of a waning Mexican state has taken hold in both the local and the global imagination. This is especially so in parts of Mexico where levels of violence carried out with impunity and waves of social unrest are immediately felt. This work through this tensive social landscape and attends to a grassroots politics of culture with specific focus on the New Years Eve ritual huapango performance in the town of Xichú, Guanajuato. There, two huapango arribeño ensembles face across from one another in the central plaza, engaging in a marathon musical and poetic duel that begins at midnight on December 31st and lasts for hours. One of the music’s most salient features is the use of the Spanish décima as poet-practitioners use the form to assemble poetic narratives. Recently, the topics of contemporary Mexican politics, activism, and social unrest have emerged with greater frequency. This emergent discursive field, I argue, disturbs the mythologizing discourses of Mexican cultural nationalism and official state politics, enacting a cultural dialogics of self-authorization that fashions a public beyond the scriptings of the nation-state.
Culture, Ethnography & the Horizons of Sentiment
In the wake of what ethnography has been and as an exercise in imagining what it might become I am currently exploring the highly textural and intensely intimate musical performance of vinuetes as part of ritual mourning in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The ethnographic moments presented and theorized elevate intersubjectivity as a way to reach the current edges of ethnography as an objectifying practice—echoing those who have recently explored issues of reflexivity and the embedded self. As such, this work both critiques current thinking (reflective of a decades-old battle that continues to rage on around empiricist evidence) and intensely performs how ethnography may be repositioned with fundamental concern for the phenomenological dimensions of field research—in sum, with acute attention to the horizons of embodied sentiment emergent from everyday experiences that make up the lifeworld of the ethnographer including moments that brush up against the afterlife.
Looming of Memory
Composed of both textual and visual collage, this developing book project mines through a collection of notebooks containing the poetic works of my grandfather—a once prominent huapango arribeño practitioner from Querétaro, Mexico—and the artifacts placed within them by his immediate family in a weaving together of memory-traces and situated-knowledges that index an assemblage of events ranging from the Mexican Revolution, Bracero migration, and the onset of structural adjustment in the last quarter of the 20th century. A porous cartography of lived moments both constituted and subsequently reorganized by individuals inhabiting a continually oscillating horizon of the “present,” this vernacular archive provides a window for understanding the (re)configurations between remembered and anticipated events, revealing the powerful social-locatory capacity of memory and its politicized relationship to the dynamic character of temporality. My rendering—at once literary, poetic, and theoretical—falls within the autoethnographic style and engages with works in the areas of critical theory, human geography, history, metaphysics, and hermeneutics.