militarization and everyday life in the u.s.-mexico borderlands
This project in collaboration with Drs. Melissa Wright and Hector Padilla undertakes a bi-national study analyzing how militarized approaches to border governance and territorial control reconfigure everyday life for residents of the United States and Mexico borderlands. We pursue this research by investigating how militarization materializes in and reconfigures three social arenas: rights, mobility, and landscape. With generous funding from SSHRC and NSF, we conducted qualitative research in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas. We also pursued research in Nogales, Sonora and southern Arizona.
This research project examines the environmental dimensions of United States’ border security policies in the US-Mexico borderlands, with a specific focus on protected areas like national wildlife refuges. Border enforcement strategies initiated in 1994 shifted border traffic to areas that are “remote” and “difficult to cross,” where, enforcement officials assumed, biophysical features like rivers, deserts, and mountains would serve as natural barriers. While such policies did not reduce the number of migrants entering the US without documentation, they have transformed the geographies of border traffic.
the place of nature in boundary enforcement
My research suggests that nonhuman entities and their human allies inflect, disrupt, and obstruct the daily practices of boundary enforcement in important, yet neglected ways. To account for these natural entities as actors in boundary enforcement without framing nature as a system independent from and outside of social and geo-political relations, I elaborate a framework that draws from posthumanism, relational ontologies, political ecology, and feminist geopolitics.
the cultural politics of objects left behind
I am fascinated by the materials and objects lost and discarded by migrants as they travel across the Mexico-US boundary on foot. The objects left behind are the subject of increasing controversy in the borderlands as political clubs and humanitarian groups organize their members to “clean up” the landscape. My research analyzes how these objects figure in claims to national belonging as well as the production of quotidian geo-political identities. I have collaborated with documentary photographer Michael Hyatt to reflect on how border crossers interact with desert landscapes as they journey on foot through the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Check out our online exhibit: Faith, Fencing & Fate: New Cultural Landscapes of Migration in the United States-Mexico Borderlands.
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