I am Director of the Mexican Migration Field Research Program, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, and affiliated faculty in Sociology at the University of California-San Diego. I am a leader in collaborative, community-led research at the US-Mexico border. I am also an award-winning teacher who runs collective field projects with large teams of undergraduates.
I run several community-action research projects at the US-Mexico border, including a partnership with Al Otro Lado to document Mexican state violence, a project with Espacio Migrante mapping anti-black racism in the borderlands, a project with Innovation Law Lab looking at how ICE facilities block communication between migrants and advocates, and a project with Al Otro Lado and the UCSD-Alacrán Community Station to identify and bridge information gaps that block asylum seekers from understanding asylum and meeting their basic needs.
My scholarly research focuses on state violence, gender, and grassroots advocacy among migrants from Mexico and Central America. I also look at how to nurture care, regeneration, and joy amidst intersecting climate and refugee crises. As a teacher, I integrate undergraduate and graduate students directly into collaborative, applied, and trauma-informed research to make the world more just for migrants and us all.
My most recent book, Banished Men: Erasure and Agency Carceral Deportation, will be out with UC Press in 2023. It examines how deported men’s lives – and their engagement in varying urban spaces in Mexico – are shaped by the US carceral state. From 2009-2020, the United States deported more than five million people. Over 90% of those people were men, and most spent time in prison and/or immigration detention before the US removed them. I ask: What becomes of men the US locks up and casts off as criminal? How does exile shape their families, their struggles for rights and resources, and, more fundamentally, their sense of themselves as men? And how does US incarceration interact with urban spaces in Mexico to produce a new geography of migrant displacement? Nearly 30 Latinx undergraduate and graduate students contributed to the project, some of whom had parents deported during the work. Their voices shaped the text and bring deep attention to the emotional lives of men.
My first book, Undocumented Politics: Place, Gender, and the Pathways of Mexican Migrants (UC Press 2018) traced how “voiceless” undocumented Oaxacan communities confront state exclusion, upend patriarchy, and fight to belong.
Throughout my work, I take a feminist, decolonial lens. I am interested in how states use ideas about gender to reinforce power inequalities. I also draw attention to the ways grassroots groups transform gender relationships as they confront unfair conditions. I share this institutional and political focus with a group of feminist scholars I met at Berkeley, many of whom helped write a theoretical handbook I co-edited, called The Social Life of Gender (Sage, 2017). I also help coordinate the Gender and Power Network, a group of cutting-edge scholars who theorize the complexities of gender, power, and the state.
For a blog post I wrote on how sociology must step up to meet the climate crisis, click here.