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Border Studies as an Emergent Field of Scientific Inquiry: Scholarly Contributions of U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Studies

Ellwyn R. Stoddard


In America, the institutions of higher learning are generally ascribed the task of accumulating knowledge and gathering additional truth about man and his world. This is done in a segmented fashion as various academic disciplines circumscribe the limits of their expertise and establish elaborate supportive mechanisms for self-preservation and professional control. Narrower scholarly interests produce fields of inquiry which, though of equal academic acumen, do not have the direct and continued support from academie which are enjoyed by the traditional academic disciplines. Should such narrow fields of study emerge along the marginal periphery of various disciplines often their scholars suffer from rejection by mainstream reward systems. Although verbally espoused as a desirable situation, a multidisciplinary context which produces an infertilization of ideas is coincidentally an adulteration of strictly disciplinary frameworks and/or conceptual development. Thus, the continuance of a specialized field of scientific inquiry depends largely upon its demonstrated utility, competency and legitimacy.

The field of U.S.-Mexico Borderlands studies has survived the scrutiny of mainstream scholars in many different disciplines and has now reached a level of professional development at which it may begin its own professional journal. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to briefly re-examine our scholarly heritage and to assess the impact of various contributions made by our colleagues of prior decades and centuries. In order to improve our analytical assessment, some arbitrary chronological periods or phases within the field have been created (See Table I). Although not all border scholars would conceptualize the field in the same fashion, this classification does serve to examine those dynamic processes which have brought our field to its present level of development.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
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