Mobilizing in the Barrio: Conflicting Identities and the Language of Politics (Working Paper #78)

Emmanuelle Le Texier, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies

Abstract: American ghettos and barrios have been overlooked because of their low capacity for mobilization and political participation. In particular, barrio residents have been considered to be either culturally or structurally unable to participate in American politics. The use of such concepts as the “sub-culture of poverty” or the “underclass” has maintained a vision of these segregated spaces as non-political. Indeed, low voter registration and turnout, the lack of party campaigning, and a large proportion of disenfranchised individuals may characterize the barrio. However, although the barrio is not at the core of electoral politics, it is a paradigmatic urban arena where the use of social capital transforms a non-political space into a political one. The narratives of San Diego Barrio Logan residents show that conflicting identities and strategies are elaborated both to preserve the Barrio as a specific place and to participate in the definition of “Latino politics.” Not only are forms of mobilization present within the Barrio, these narratives are a performative discourse that provides the conditions for articulating and claiming citizenship rights and a self-definition of the common good.

Working Paper #78»