Slantwise: Beyond Domination and Resistance on the Border
Drawing on extensive participant observation and interviews concerned with barriers to census enumeration in colonias (irregular migrant settlements along the United States-Mexico border) and Mexican migration to the United States, we argue that recent ethnography has overemphasized the role of domination and resistance. While power is fundamental to cultural analysis, we also need to examine behavior we call slantwise, that is, actions that are obliquely or only indirectly related to power relations. Ethnographic fieldwork from both sides of the United States-Mexico border uncovered a range of behaviors (including unorthodox building techniques in colonias, hybrid language practices, complex and fluid household structures, nonlinear mobility patterns, and unpredictable political loyalties of migrants) that do not fit neatly into the domination-resistance axis. We argue for the relevance of the slant-wise concept for understanding such behaviors, not as a replacement for studies of naturalized domination and resistance, but as a complement to them.