Unequal Neighbors: Place Stigma and the Making of a Local Border

ISBN : 9780197557204

Kristen Hill Maher; David Carruthers
368 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
May 2021
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San Diego and Tijuana are the site of a national border enforcement spectacle, but they are also neighboring cities with deeply intertwined histories, cultures, and economies. In Unequal Neighbors, Kristen Hill Maher and David Carruthers shift attention from the national border to a local one, examining the role of place stigma in reinforcing actual and imagined inequalities between these cities. Widespread "bordered imaginaries" in San Diego represent it as a place of economic vitality, safety, and order, while stigmatizing Tijuana as a zone of poverty, crime, and corruption. These dualisms misrepresent complex realities on the ground, but they also have real material effects: the vision of a local border benefits some actors in the region while undermining others. Based on a wide range of original empirical materials, the book examines how asymmetries between these cities have been produced and reinforced through stigmatizing representations of Tijuana in media, everyday talk, economic relations, and local tourism discourse and practices. However, both place stigma and borders are subject to contestation, and the book also examines "debordering" practices and counter-narratives about Tijuana's image. While the details of the book are particular to this corner of the world, the kinds of processes it documents offer a window into the making of unequal neighbors more broadly. The dynamics at the Tijuana border present a framework for understanding how inequalities that manifest in cultural practices produce asymmetric borders between places.


Introduction: Tijuana and the Politics of Place Stigma
1. Bordering Places
2. The Making (and Unmaking) of a Bordered Imaginary
3. Images of Place and Race in Historic Tourism Promotion
4. Urban Folklore, Urban Legend: Tales of Tijuana in San Diego
5. The Look of Tijuana: Interpreting Markers of Distinction and Inequality
6. Framing the Neighbors: A Decade of Photojournalism
7. Image Work in Tijuana: Crisis and Reinvention
8. Imagining the Border City Relationship
Methodological Appendix
Reference List

About the author: 

Kristen Hill Maher is Associate Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University. David Carruthers is Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University.

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