Accepted Paper:

The state, NGOs and the daily making of remoteness at the U.S.-Mexico border  


Marko Tocilovac (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)

Paper Short Abstract:

I propose to study the role of State and non-state actors in the making of the U.S.-Mexico border. By analyzing the case of the Sonoran Desert, I intend to enlighten the power dynamics at stake in an area constructed as a quintessence of remoteness.

Paper long abstract:

The making of the U.S.-Mexico border cannot be understood without considering the power relations between the State and the remote places it creates. On its southern border, the American Federal State deployed a vast and diverse set of tools whose objective is deeply interspersed with the idea of securing the homeland from different forms of threats. Far from the double or triple fencing, typical of most of the urban areas along the line, the Sonoran Desert is characterized by a lack of border infrastructure and is used as a "natural deterrent" by the U.S. Border Patrol. Over the years, and despite the hostile conditions it implies, the Sonoran Desert became one of the most popular routes for people seeking to cross illegally into the United States. I this paper, I propose to use part of the data I collected during a fourteen months' fieldwork in California (USA) to question the intervention of the State in this area. More specifically, I will examine the case of a local search and rescue NGO operating east of San Diego. The study of its daily interactions with both migrants and Border Patrol agents reveals the importance of unexpected actors in the daily management of these marginal zones. The analysis of the border as a political space finally shows how the State and its technologies of power can be contested, confronted and even replaced by non-state actors, enlightening the understanding of the power dynamics at stake in an area constructed as a quintessence of remoteness.

Panel P016
The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder