In the Mexican border city of Tijuana, two publics contend to represent the city as a whole. One styles itself after the classic bourgeois public sphere, showing the continued relevance of this model even in an only ambivalently Western society such as Mexico's. The other, taking shape through genres of hearsay, significantly expands received conceptions of publicity. Ethnographic examination of the two publics together renders a picture of the public sphere as a broad range of voicings of collective subjectivity and of publics as focused clusters of these. The Mexico–U.S. border highlights the problematic nature of these voicings; each public responds in different ways to the challenges the border poses to the articulation of a Mexican “we.” Through analysis of this conflictive and conflicted setting, the article offers an ethnographic perspective on the dialogic, contextual, and highly contradictory processes that constitute the public sphere and “society” as a subjective whole.
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