I am Assistant Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies at the University of California-San Diego. I co-direct the Mexican Migration Field Research Program, training undergraduate and graduate students to do on-the-ground research in migrant communities. My core interests lie in gender, “everyday politics,” and migration between Mexico and the United States.
My book Undocumented Politics: Place, Gender, and the Pathways of Mexican Migrants (University of California Press, 2018) traces migrant communities’ struggles for rights and resources across the U.S.-Mexico divide. For two years, I lived with unauthorized migrants and their families in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the barrios of Southern California. By setting two distinct groups side-by-side, I reveal how local laws, policing, and power dynamics shape migrants’ political agency. Yet I insist that the process does not begin or end in the United States. Rather, migrants interpret their destinations in light of the different hometowns they leave behind. As they do, their counterparts in Mexico must also come to grips with migrant globalization. Finally, I upend assumptions about gender and migration. I expose how U.S. policies abet gendered violence. Yet, I also uncover how men and women transform patriarchy as they fight to belong. Thus, the book reveals how the excluded find unexpected spaces for political voice.
My current project, meanwhile, explores the political impacts of deportation. Together with Fatima Khayar Camara and a group of undergraduate students, I am examining the conditions that help and hinder deportee advocacy, including engagement with Mexico and/or ongoing fights for inclusion in the United States. As part of this project, I look at how deportees get channeled into Mexican labor exploitation, and at how the fragmentation of families shapes their politics.
I have also studied power dynamics within transnational social movements and the role of gender in global politics. I am particularly interested in how states use ideas about gender to reinforce power inequalities and how grassroots groups transform gender relationships as they confront unfair conditions. To this end, I co-edited a theoretical handbook called The Social Life of Gender (Sage, 2018). I also co-lead the Gender and Power Network, a group of cutting-edge sociologists working to theorize the complexities of gender, power, and the state.