on border justice… a paidagogos

0. i am a mexican citizen
1. born and raised on the mexico/united states border
2. ever since i can remember, international travel has been just a short drive away
3. ever since i can remember i have been fortunate enough to afford international travel
4. ever since i can remember i have been fortunate enough to afford LEGAL international travel
5. LEGAL international travel across the mexico/united states border is a commodity that you can either afford… or not.
6. it is not a right
7. it is not a privilege
8. i have at least three concurrent legal statuses that allow me to enter the united states legally
9. as a border crosser, i must not cross too far, or else i need to afford a special permit
10. as a trusted traveler, i must always adhere strictly to every rule and regulation that was explained in painfully detail when i requested, and paid for, such trust
11. as an international student i am allowed to legally reside in the united states, so long as i remain a student, so long as my status does not change, so long as i can afford my status
12. am i allowed to speak of ‘border justice’?
13. of immigration issues?
14. am i, by virtue or affording and acquiring any [or all three] of these legal statuses, a de-facto supporter of any and every effort to keep at bay and criminalize all those people who do not afford legal statuses?
15. a few months ago i was invited by sonora review [the graduate student-run literary journal of the university of arizona] to speak of ‘border justice’
16. am i allowed to speak of ‘border justice’?
17. a few weeks ago i spoke on border justice

18. roberts and steiner [2010] “suggest that the liminal figure of the paidagogos, the slave in ancient greece charged with the supervision of children, offers a productive metaphor for thinking about the critical public pedagogue as a servant-leader who traverses the space between the normative sphere of subjective articulation and the political realm of institutional determinacy” [p. 20]
19. if we go back far enough we are all migrants
20. if we go back far enough we are all LEGAL migrants
21. if we go back far enough, could i traverse “the space between the normative sphere of subjective articulation and the political realm of institutional determinacy” [ibid] am would i then be allowed to speak of ‘border justice’?
22. if all i am speaking of is the comings and goings of fictitious characters carrying bits and pieces of cultural heritage in their personhood, am i speaking of ‘border justice’?

23. although the event was sponsored by a journal affiliated officially with the university of arizona, i was told that it could not occur within university grounds since it was a controversial and potentially political issue [personal communication]
24. roberts and steiner [ibid] speak of a radical democracy “in which fully autonomous political agents come together in public spaces to debate how to organize and move forward as a democratic society” [p. 21]
25. under what circumstances can radical democracy be encounter?
26. under what circumstances is radical democracy desired to be encountered?
27. can radical democracy be encountered in a room far removed from the danger of being “controversial and potentially political”?
28. roberts and steiner [ibid] say that “disagreements concerning ‘political morality’ are part of the terrain of democratic societies” [p. 22]
29. would it be fair to characterize borders as “disagreements concerning ‘political morality'”
30. how many new borders are traced if we accept the characterization above?
31. earlier [15] i related that i had been invited to speak on ‘border justice’
32. perhaps i should’ve asked ‘which border’?
33. is speaking of murder tantamount to speaking of legal/illegal border?
34. is there justice within the legal/illegal border?
35. which justice?

36. so, is the legal/illegal border and arbitrary one?
37. are all borders arbitrary?
38. could all borders be characterized as an arbitrary here/there binary?
39. north/south border?
40. home/not home border?

41. will borders be obliterated in the future?
42. no longer traced?
43. all i can say is ‘ojalá’

44. but of course borders are not likely to be obliterated, arbitrary as they might be
45. isn’t the origin of all borders a basic fact of all natural, biological life?
46. aren’t all borders based on the i/you border?
47. the i/you binary…
48. the i/you border IS a fact of all natural, biological life
49. is the i/you border too large to be bridged?
50. burdick and sandlin (2010) advocate for “a ‘methodology of discomfort’… often in the form of divulging or examining one’s own ‘positionality'” [p. 119]
51. could a methodology of discomfort bridge the i/you border?

A few years ago a relatively well-known, older (as in traditionally trained and published) poet was in the audience at one of the last slams I actually competed in. After I had performed my first-round piece he walked up to the slam host, who was sitting right next to me, and said “oh, I get it; this is just about who can say the most outrageous thing! In that case I win” and tossed a piece of paper at her with what we could only take to be an “outrageous” poem printed. Admittedly, this is a critique that I had also wielded on more than a few occasions regarding poetry slams and the entire genre of slam poetry in general; however never had I thought of myself (obviously) as outrageously shocking. Sure I knew (and still know) that in order for slam poetry to be effective, some amount of discomfort must be present; be it through choice of language, intimate details or challenging points of view, most effective slam poetry creates some kind of discomfort for both the audience and the poet. On the other hand I also knew (and still know) that a barrage of discomfort will eventually become normalized, predictable and quite boring.
It is in this sense that I found the figure of the paidagogos so alluring. By incorporating two or more seemingly irreconcilable personas within–the master and the slave–it seems that it can accommodate and facilitate the freedom necessary for slam poets (as critical public pedagogues that most of us claim to be) to straddle, cross and eventually obliterate the seemingly arbitrary and surely subjective lines that divide the challenging from the outrageous; the offensive from the lasting image; the us from the them; the here from the there; the I from the you.
To extrapolate these notions into a discussion on border(s) justice(s) seems quite fitting; after all, borders are never more relevant and obsolete–self-contradictory as they are-than when multitudes cross them cotidianamente.


Roberts, Patrick A. & Steiner, David J. (2010) Critical Public Pedagogy and the Paidagogos: Exploring the Normative and Political Challenges of Radical Democracy; in Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Schooling Beyond Schooling; Ed. by Sandin, Schultz & Burdick. Routledge; New York, NY.

Burdick, Jake & Sandlin, Jennifer A. (2010) Educational Inquiry and the Educational Other: On the Politics and Ethics of Researching Critical Public Pedagogies; in Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Schooling Beyond Schooling; Ed. by Sandin, Schultz & Burdick. Routledge; New York, NY.