New Program Bolsters UA’s Standing as Borderlands Leader

With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the UA’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry will launch a new program focused on exploring the narratives of those who live at and journey across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jan. 22, 2019

The newly established “Fronteridades: Nurturing Collaborative Intersections in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands” program at the University of Arizona is aimed at collecting and sharing the stories and art of people at the U.S.-Mexico border while creating new learning opportunities. The program, supported by an $800,000, two-year grant from the Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities program of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is part of the University’s larger aim to become the leading institution for borderlands scholarship, deemed its Border Lab initiative.

“In Spanish, ‘border’ is ‘frontera’ and ‘humanities’ is ‘humanidades,’ so we call it Fronteridades because this program is really about intersecting the two,” says Javier Duran, professor of Latin American and Border Studies, and director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, which oversees the program.

The program will work closely with UA’s Center for Latin American Studies and will partner with two local NGOs: The Southwest Folklife Alliance and the Colibrí Center for Human Rights. It is designed to achieve its goals through three main outlets: facilitating border community storytelling, creating border fellowships, and hosting a series of border-related symposia called El Intercambio conferences.

The creation of border-related stories will be facilitated by UA students and faculty working alongside families and communities at the border. These stories will be told in a number of ways, including through video, multimedia art installations, murals, and written word. Fronteridadeswill work closely with the Southwest Folklife Alliance’s VozFrontera program in both Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, to tell stories through art. It will also support the Colibrí Center’s program Historias y Recuerdos which aims to tell the life stories of missing migrants.

The semester-long border fellowships will be awarded to at least one community fellow, one research fellow, and one public border artist, with the call for applications going out in the summer and the first fellows beginning their work in spring 2020.

The series of symposia will be aimed at facilitating transnational dialogue between borderlands experts.

“If we don’t engage with our colleagues south of the border, we’re not getting a full picture, so we’re thinking the Intercambio will be an important component of our collaboration,” says Duran.

The creation of the Fronteridades program comes on the heels of the UA’s release of its new strategic plan, including the Border Lab Initiative. According to the strategic plan, the goal of this initiative is to “make the UA the leader in the field of border studies by creating new knowledge and transnational collaborations and thus position the University as a top destination for students and faculty pursuing border related scholarship in global, binational and regional contexts.”

Duran says Fronteridades is the first major success of the Border Lab initiative: “We truly believe this funding is going to ignite ideas we’ve proposed in the initiative. We’re elevating our comparative advantage. The goal is for the UA to be the top institution for studying the border. This grant is one important first step in that direction.”

With the border just 60 miles away from UA’s campus and a major focus in political news today, Duran believes Fronteridades is a natural fit for the University, galvanizing its existing efforts to understand the borderlands.

Duran added that the University already has roughly 70 faculty experts on the borderlands across several disciplines, and the Fronteridades program will bring many of them together for collaboration. Those already involved include Maribel Alvarez, associate research professor in the College of Social and Behavioral Science’s Southwest Center, and Robin Reineke, assistant research social scientist at the Southwest Center.

“We are really proud that the work of the Confluencenter has been recognized by such a prestigious institution (Mellon) and we’re thankful for the institutional support we’ve had from the President’s office, the office for Research, Discovery & Innovation, and the UA Foundation. This was a team effort, and we’re delighted and excited for the opportunity from the Mellon Foundation,” says Duran.

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