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2007-2008 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship Winner

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Rocío Magaña

Rocío MagañaRocio Magana received the 2007-08 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship. Magana, University of Chicago, earned a B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology with minors in French and Philosophy from California State, Fresno in 2001 and received her MA in sociocultural anthropology from The University of Chicago in 2003. Her master thesis was: "National (In)Security, Contracting Borders & Threatening Others: The historical construction of the US-Mexico border as a national threat." She also attended the Universite de Paris X, Nanterre.

Magana dissertation research title is "Bodies on the Line: The Protection of Life, Death and Authority on the Arizona-Mexico Border." It examines the dynamics around the exposure and protection of life in the Arizona-Mexico region in order to ask what kinds of sociality and sociopolitical engagement become possible in an environment in which deliberate neglect is part of both American and Mexican governmental policies. Under what condition and through what processes to policies that have proven both ineffective and life-threatening become socially, politically and morally sustainable. The monograph she proposes develops a theorization of the politics of life in the production and contestation of authority, in this case, through an examination of competing discourses and practices to protect social and biological life in the Arizona-Sonora border region.

The dissertation is based on over thirty months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Arizona-Mexico border region between 2001 and 2006. The project focuses on Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona cities, towns and settlements. It explores how, in a landscape in which national security and physical safety collide and coexist, the protection of life and the treatment of death become idioms through with sociopolitical authority is produced, rights are exercised and the border is mapped onto its subject. The dissertation develops a theorization of participatory biopolitics-seen here as the multiscalar constitution and contestation of political power on the basis of protection of social or biological life-through analysis of localized intervention efforts to police the border and save lives.

Given the contrasts between the often-intangible character of border security and the brutal physicality of death and injury, the project's methodology was designed to capture how this border and its safety and security "crises" are variously experienced, perceived and imagined. Her data collection focused on the activities, strategies, relations and understandings of those who experience or responded to the presence, death or injury of illegal border-crossers. The characteristics of the region and the phenomena also required a multi-sited approached. For over two years, she visited and stayed in dozens of towns, settlements and sites on both sides of the border. Participant-observation took place on both sides of the boundary and ranged from taking part in multi-day desert hikes and joining patrols, to observing hospital visits and funerals. Over 200 interviews were conducted.

Magana states that her research and career plans are intertwined. She intends to continue to explore issues in which the politics of life (biopolitics) and territoriality issues social tensions, conflict of present challenges to democracy and governmentality. This will happen in three ways: beyond the exploration of her dissertation, she will continue to carry out ethnographic research and anthropological writings on the Arizona-Sonora and the US-Mexico border. Second, her research will involve the field of security and preemptive studies. Third, she intends to explore comparative and interdisciplinary collaborations with scholars working on border and biopolitical issues in Europe and Latin America.



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