Essay excerpts                                                                                                                  © by Beatriz Badikian-Gartler

    Multiplicity in the borderlands

 Dr. Beatriz Badikian-Gartler


Neither here nor there I stand, one foot
on this side of the border, one on the other. Were
I to have three more feet, I'd easily place them on
three more lands.  Neither here nor there, where
am I? And the people say: you are everywhere, multiple,
you are fortunate. But I respond: 'many' carries
the danger of becoming 'none.'  Invisible I stand.

... One of the consequences of this temporal and situational condition is the experience of misrecognition.  People react to multiethnic individuals with "preconceived ideas about the meanings their bodies convey.  These misrecognitions can be amusing; often they are painful" (Moya 145). They also affect the kinds of jobs they will qualify for or where they can live or go to school by the categories they will be placed in, the one box they must select rather than acknowledge their multiplicity. The single classification into which any given individual is place in the U.S. today is predicated much more on how she or he looks, sounds, speaks, acts, walks, than on the individuals, self definition. ...

     ... Along similar lines, the writer and critic bell hooks declared the margins as a space of radical openness, a location from where the marginalizes can critically evaluate the center as well as its own place on the periphery. When this periphery becomes multiple borderlands, that longed-for sense of belonging is complicated many-fold. And herein lies the paradox:  it is certainly difficult to identify with some other or others, yet it is infinitely easier to find something to connect with all those around us.  Granted, deep down one can only really connect with similar folks, yet our multiplicity makes us flexible, accommodating, useful.  I find this openness particular significant in the classroom. When I teach composition and writing in English, my presence and ability in a language that clearly isn't my native tongue reinforces the principle to the students that you can do it to, no matter how foreign and difficult this language feels right now.  Non-native speakers, especially latino/a students, identify with me, realizing a comfort and safety that encourages learning. Native speakers also learn to abandon preconceived notions of foreigners, immigrants, those of us who speak with an accent.  When I teach African-American literature, the black students who often make up the majority of the class, if not the entirety, see me as an ally who can speak about these writings with knowledge and affection, who is -- in their own words -- one of us. ...

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