Download a PDF of this page here
Borderlands theory in service-learning research: Remapping the metaphor
Rachael Wendler, doctoral candidate, University of Arizona []

Keywords: Borderlands metaphor, mestiza consciousness, privilege, predominately white institutions, hybrid identities

Conference track: Contexts and methods: Theoretical and conceptual frameworks, research designs, and methodological issues

Format: Research/Scholarly paper

The metaphor of Borderlands has spread rapidly in service-learning (SL) scholarship, appearing everywhere from the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning to the 2011 IARSLCE conference Proceedings (Chesler, Ford, Galura, & Chareneau, 2011; Hayes & Cuban, 1997; Keith, 1998; Taylor, 2002). This theory, originally from Anzaldúa (1987), is used to understand the blurring of boundaries that occurs in SL. However, while Anzaldúa defined people of the Borderlands as those who have been termed minorities in various ways, SL scholars have applied the metaphor to all students. What is lost in this different application of the metaphor? This presentation argues that Anzaldúa’s Borderlands can serve as a critical wedge for understanding the experiences of border students, a fluid category incorporating students who, for reasons such as ethnicity, class, or language, feel the service site is just as much—or more— home than the university. As the vast majority of service-learning scholarship focuses on students who encounter “the other” (Shadduck-Hernandez, 2006), Borderlands may help us theorize the experiences of students who encounter some form of themselves. In particular, this theory might shed light on the experiences of non-dominant students in predominately white institutions.

This presentation explores Anzaldúa’s (1987) description of hybrid identities and analyzes student reflections through this frame. This analysis highlights the complex dynamics of belonging and not belonging at service sites and in university settings due to factors such as common identities and experiences, different motivations for service, structural and internalized racism, and curriculum geared toward helping privileged students understand privilege. Finally, building from Anzaldúa’s (1987) mestiza consciousness, this session emphasizes that these hybrid identities are not a problem to be addressed by SL research, as underrepresented students are often framed, but rather these students are in a uniquely generative position that has much to teach our field.

Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/La frontera. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.

Chesler, M. A., Ford, K. A., Galura, J. A., & Charbeneau, J. M. (2011). Peer facilitators as border crossers in community service learning. The Journal of the British Sociological Association, 34(4), 341–356.

Coles, R. L. (1999). Race-focused service-learning classes: Issues and recommendations. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 6(1), 97–105.

Delgado Bernal, D., Aleman, E., & Garavito, A. (2001). Mentoring Latina/o elementary students: A borderlands analysis of shifting identities and first-year experiences. Harvard Educational Review, 79(4), 560–586.

Giroux, H. (1992). Border crossings: Cultural workers and the politics of education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gramsci, A. (1992). The prison notebooks. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Green, A. E. (2001). ‘But you aren’t white’: Racial perceptions and service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 8(1), 18–26.

Hayes, E., & Cuban, S. (1997). Border pedagogy: A critical framework for service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 4(1), 72–80.

Henry, S. E. (2005). I can never turn my back on that: Liminality and the impact of class in service-learning experience. In D. Butin (Ed.), Service learning in higher education: Critical issues and directions (pp. 45–66). New York, NY: Palgrave.

Keith, N. (1998). Community service for community building: The school-based service corps as border crossers. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 5(1), 86–96.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Lee, J. J. (2005). Home away from home or foreign territory? How social class mediates service-learning experiences. NASPA Journal, 42(3), 1–10.

McCollum, K. C. (2003). Perceptions of college students of color about community service learning through tutoring. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

McLaren, P. (1995) Critical pedagogy and predatory culture: Oppositional politics in a postmodern era. New York, NY: Routledge.

Shadduck-Hernandez, J. (2006). ‘Here I am now!’ Critical ethnography and community service-learning with immigrant and refugee undergraduate students and youth. Ethnography and Education, 1(1), 67–86.

Taylor, J. (2002). Metaphors we serve by: Investigating the conceptual metaphors framing national and community service and service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9(1), 45–57.

Teranishi, C. S. (2007). Impact of experiential learning on Latino college students’ identity, relationships, and connectedness to community. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 6(1), 52–72.

Yeh, T. L. (2010). Service-learning and persistence of low-income, first-generation college students: An exploratory study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 16(2), 50–65.

To access materials from this session please click on the file link(s) :

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
No Comments