group photo from tijuana tour, May 3, 2008
(1 unit, S/NC only)
Arroyo Residential Seminar: The California Border from Alta to Baja
Spring Quarter 2007-2008, Stanford University
Instructors:  Todd Davies and Marc Pauly
Excursion Assistants: Nate Hardison and Elizabeth Pratt

Meeting Times:  Excursion from approximately noon on Friday, May 2, until 11 pm on Sunday, May 4, 2008; plus pre-trip events listed below.

Locations: Arroyo House, Wilbur Hall, and various places in the California/Mexico borderlands

Instructor's Office: 460-040C (Margaret Jacks Hall, lower level)
Phone: x3-4091; Fax: x3-5666
Email: davies at
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10:30 AM - 12:00 Noon

Course website: (this syllabus)

Course blog: (you must register for site to post comments - your first comment must be approved)

This version: June 5, 2008  - watch here for updates

Prerequisites: Admission to the course by the instructors' permission; see "Admission to the Course and Excursion" below. There is no language requirement.  Every participant will need documents for re-entry into the U.S. to take to Mexico by May 2, 2008.  See "Border Crossing Documents" below.

Background and Motivation:

Political boundaries are perhaps the most significant application of well-defined, but socially-constructed categories. Citizenship, borders, and jurisdiction are defined quite precisely, and with vast consequences.  And no where is this truer than on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has been called the world's only major border between a wealthy country and a much poorer one. 

Two siblings - one born in San Diego (and therefore a U.S. citizen), the other born in Tijuana (and a Mexican citizen) - could have very different life options because of where their parents happened to be when each sibling was born.  The law insists that we take this distinction seriously, and many people are prepared to take up arms to defend it. But what are the assumptions on which the border depends? Do we really know all the relevant facts about cross-border flows of people and capital between the U.S. and Mexico?  Does one's perception of issues like immigration and globalization change when one moves from abstract discussions of principle to encounters with the real border and the people whose lives it most affects? 

This one unit mini-course is an experiment in group learning.  By crossing the border, touring Tijuana, meeting and learning about those who cross from Mexico to the U.S. and about working class Tijuanenses, and experiencing the rapidly developing "U.S. colonies" on the coast south of Tijuana, students in the course will gain much more knowledge about the border, migration, and U.S.-Mexico trade than most U.S. citizens have, including many who have very strong opinions about these issues.  The trip from Stanford to Baja California will be augmented by a series of events in Arroyo House, as well as a course blog, that will offer orientation to the issues and a chance to discuss them both before and after our excursion.

Course Overview:

The main component of the course is a two-and-a-half day group excursion to San Diego, Tijuana, and Playas de Rosarito, in the middle of Spring Quarter.  In addition to the excursion, there will be a series of at least five pre-trip educational events (films and discussions held in Arroyo House). 

The excursion has been planned to accommodate 23 students plus the instructors.  It has been funded by a grant from the Learning Expeditions Fund of Residential Education, with supplemental funds from the Arroyo House RF Program Fund.


Students should set aside $20 from their own funds for the excursion.  If this presents a serious hardship and you are accepted into the course, you should email Todd with a request for supplemental funds.  With the exception of some incidental (unchartered) ground transportation expenses, all other necessary excursion costs (airfare, chartered buses, meals, and lodging) will be covered by the University for up to 23 students, including the two excursion assistants. 

Admission to the Course and Excursion:

There are 21 spots available to applicants.  Applications for enrolling in the course will be done in rounds.  The first round is only for Arroyo residents.  Later rounds will be held only if spaces remain to be filled after the first round. 

Arroyo residents who want to take the course should send an email message with a simple statement of interest in the course (e.g. "I am interested in taking Symbsys 16") no later than 5 pm on Friday, February 29, 2008.  If the number who indicate an interest is 21 or less, then all those who have done so will be accepted into the class. If the number is greater than 21, a procedure will be announced by Monday, March 3, for determining the class list.  If the class does not fill up in the first round, later rounds of applications will be held. 

The final passenger list for the excursion must be submitted on Friday, April 25.  Students who are registered for the course but who have not attended three or more pre-trip course events by that time will risk losing their spot to students who were not accepted into the course initially but who attend pre-trip course events.  If any spots open up during Spring Quarter, students who were not accepted initially will become eligible for these spots.  Priority for these additional spots will go to students who have applied for the course, and an ordered waiting list will be created if there are more applicants than spots in the course.

Course Requirements:

Requirements for the course consist of: (a) attendance at three or more course pre-trip events in the period from the beginning of Spring Quarter through Thursday, April 24, (b) the excursion, including all parts of the tour of Tijuana on Saturday, May 3 or the excursion without the Tijuana tour plus attendance at the post-trip discussion on May 27 (see below), and (c) posting one pre-trip comment by May 2, and one post-trip comment from May 4 through June 11, each of 300 words or more, on the course blog.   As a make-up for pre-trip events, you may view and write a 2-page paper about one of the films which is available in the library. These must be received by Friday, April 25, at noon.

For travel to Mexico, every participant will need documents for re-entry into the U.S. by May 2, 2008.

Border Crossing Documents:

In order to take the course, you need to be able to re-enter the U.S. when we arrive at the Mexico border on May 2nd. This requires bringing either (a) a passport from any country, U.S. passport card (available in spring 2008), or WHTI-compliant document; or (b) a government-issued photo ID, such as a drivers license, along with proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate. If you do not have the necessary documents, you should arrange now to secure them in time for the trip.  If you are a U.S. citizen and do not have a passport, we recommend getting
one. They will be required for all Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and Caribbean Region travel, including by land or sea, soon, and are already required for re-entry to the U.S. from those countries by air. You need a passport to travel to other countries too, of course. U.S. passports take up to 6 weeks to get via routine (nonexpedited) processing.


Pre-trip events

The schedule below is tentative.  All events will include discussion. The film descriptions are culled from online sources.

Trip schedule (revised):

Friday, May 2

Saturday, May 3

Sunday, May 4

Post-trip events