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Maintaining the environmental-racial order in northern New Mexico

  • Author(s): Wilmsen, Carl
  • et al.
Abstract

The environmental - racial order in northern New Mexico is maintained through a process of racial triangulation in which Anglos, Native Americans, and Hispanos are valued relative to one another along axes of environmental stewardship and victimization (Kim C J, 1999, "The racial triangulation of Asian Americans" Politics and Society 27 105 - 138). Both axes involve the juxtaposing of three long-standing images: (1) Spanish injustices to the Indians; (2) the inability of Mexicans to manage their land properly; and (3) Indians being preeminent environmental stewards. In contrast to Kim's formulation of racial triangulation, however, the axes also involve imagery that contradicts these images: the debauched, poverty-stricken Indian; and European culture as a despoiler of the environment. Also in contrast to Kim's formulation, racial triangulation can involve the creation of new identities. In the 1960s Hispano activists began claiming to be heirs to a hybrid culture that included elements of both Native American and Spanish cultures. While this claim to hybridity enabled the creation of new oppositional discourses, the reconciling of contradictory imagery by historicizing the discourses and by other means undermines the new Hispano oppositional discourses as well as Hispano identity itself Racial triangulation is thus a fluid and contested process in which identity formation and the interchange between predominant and oppositional discourses are constitutive of power relations. Contradictory imagery in the discourse facilitates the maintenance of the environmental - racial order, even as it enables subordinates to challenge their racialized positions and to effect change in the distribution of material wealth, rights, and privileges.

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