Enforcing Borders in the Nuevo South

Natalia Deeb-Sossa & Jennifer Bickham Mendez

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Deeb-Sossa, N. & Bickham Mendez, J. (1). Enforcing Borders in the Nuevo South. Gender & Society, 22(5), 613–638. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243208321380

borderlands , citizenship , Gender , migration , other construction , social boundaries

Drawing from ethnographic research in the Research Triangle of North Carolina and Williamsburg, Virginia, the authors build on Anzaldúa’s conceptualization of “borderlands” to analyze how borders of social membership are constructed and enforced in “el Nuevo South.” Our gender analysis reveals that intersecting structural conditions—the labor market, the organization of public space, and the institutional organization of health care and other public services—combine with gendered processes in the home and family to regulate women’s participation in community life. Enforcers of borders include institutional actors, mostly women, in social services and clinics who occupy institutional locations that enable them to define who is entitled to public goods and to categorize migrants as undeserving “others.” We reveal how a particularly configured matrix of domination transcends the spheres of home, work, and community to constrain women migrants’ physical and economic mobility and personal autonomy and to inhibit their participation in their societies of reception.

Main finding
The social membership and positioning of migrant women and men in Williamsburg, VA, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina is the result of multilayered social structural, institutional and interpersonal conditions embodied in the labor market, the organization of public space, and the institutional organization of health care and public service facilities. Latinx migrants’ social, economic, and physical mobility is limited by dispersed and suburbanized public spaces. The policing of public spaces increases men's risk of deportation in particular due to their greater mobility and more significant participation in the labor market. The isolation of migrant women due to domestic gender roles is exacerbated by their access to health and childcare resources, regularly excluded by institutional actors (often other women of color) such as healthcare staff and social workers. Policies should aim to increase women's access to public transportation and affordable childcare centers in order to promote and enhance migrant participation in society.

Description of method used in the article
Data was drawn from two separate ethnographic projects studying Latinx migrants and their families in two areas of recent immigration, Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina, a region overlapping nine counties situated between three major research universities. The first project took place from 2002–2004 in the Research Triangle, with the first author conducting ethnographic observations in four of six units at a private community clinic and interviews with 21 employees and healthcare workers. The second project utilized semistructured interviews with 14 Mexican and Central American immigrants in Williamsburg, VA, and 6 interviews with family members in migrants’ home communities in Mexico conducted between 2003 and 2006. Interview questions included asking participants about their impressions of life in Williamsburg compared to their home countries, their experiences accessing social services, and their perspective regarding participation in their communities.

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