Cultural Production and Reproduction in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: Tropes at Play among Maquiladora Workers

Essay Excerpt

In this article I make two propositions. First, if we want to better understand the contribution of tropes to our understanding of cultures, we must follow Turner in considering synecdoche to be the highest level of tropic complexity. Second, however, in order for us to consider synecdoche as the highest level of meaning, we must not treat it as a simple trope, but as a crucial ideational product and source of what I call the minor tropic relations: metonymy and metaphor. Through these propositions, I raise questions about recent issues regarding metaphor theory and Sahlins's structure-praxidsichotomy (Sahlins1981, 1982, 1985). I hold that the "structure of the conjuncture,"as Sahlins defines it in Islands of History, is the nest and territory of synecdoche. Sahlins (1985:125, 1982:48) claims that the structure of the conjuncture operates between what he calls structure-" culture-as-constituted" (ideology, values)-and event-''culture-as-lived" (human behavior). For example, a human being behaves in a certain way because of a certain value he or she holds. What coordinates the actual behavior and the value is the structure of the conjuncture, which, I believe, is itself a product of several factors: ecological, psychological, technological, social, and historical (Sahlins 1985:125). It is a "situation qui resulte d'une rencontre de circonstances" ([Robert] in Sahlins 1985:125n). I hold that the structure of the conjuncture is responsible for the manifestation of the particular value and behavior that the researcher identifies at a particular time and place.2 I will demonstrate that it is the structure of the conjuncture, that is, this synecdoche (as a most vital trope), which should be identified and analyzed if we want to get at the core of culture-that is, at the process through which behavior and ideologies are produced, reproduced, and transformed. To systematize the production, reproduction, and transformation of culture-occurring at the level of synecdoche, at the structure of the conjuncture-is the ultimate goal of this article. (Lugo, 174)

About the Author

Alejandro Lugo is currently a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University in 1995, his M.A. in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1988, and his B.A. in anthropology from New Mexico State University in 1985. Prof. Lugo has taught at Bryn Mawr College (Spring 1992), at the University of Texas at El Paso (1992-1993 to 1994-1995), and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he has been teaching anthropology and Latino Studies since the fall of 1995. From 2006-2007 to 2009-2010, Prof. Lugo served as Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Head of the Department of Anthropology.        

Professor Lugo is the author of Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts: Culture, Capitalism, and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border (University of Texas Press, 2008), which has received two national book awards. He is also co-editor (with Bill Maurer) of the 2000 volume Gender Matters: Rereading Michelle Rosaldo  (University of Michigan Press) and editor of the 2012 special publication, “Engaging and Celebrating Renato Rosaldo’s Culture and Truth” in Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies.  In addition to having served from Spring 2010 to Fall 2011 as Associate Editor of the interdisciplinary journal Latino Studies, he also served in the Editorial Boards of the journals Reviews in Anthropology from 2003 to 2005 and Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies from 2006 to 2008.

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