Scholar Research

Benita Heiskanen—U. of Southern Denmark—Odense, Denmark

Border Violence

My project studies the ramifications of the violence on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border community within the past two decades. Based on fieldwork and oral history interviews, it explores the intersections of real life experiences and cultural responses to the violence. The work conceptualizes violence, and its impact, on three levels: as physical realities, representational manifestations, and as what Slavoj Žižek refers to as “systemic violence,” subtle forms of coercion that sustain “relations of domination and exploitation, including the threat of violence.” While violence has often been characterized as being instrumental for serving particular purposes that rationalizes its necessity, the crimes in this region go mostly unpunished; without an identifiable agent or obvious targets, they become faceless, anonymous, and silenced. How, then, to respond to violence that is not officially acknowledged, that ostensibly has no name?

Jenny Karubian—Emory University— Atlanta, Georgia

Jenny Karubian is a visiting researcher from the Department of Women’s Studies at Emory University. She is currently conducting dissertation research in the border region concerning public responses to violence. Through an ethnographic analysis of artistic and activist communities at the US-Mexico border, her research questions the relationship between gender and representations of violence. A Los Angeles native, Jenny holds a B.A degree in Women’s Studies from UCLA and an M.A degree in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research in New York City.

Torsten Weller—University of Paris VIII— Paris, France

El Paso/Ciudad Juárez—A Geopolitical Analysis

With about 2 million inhabitants, the twin cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua form the largest urban area on an international boundary.  The two cities are not only geographically separated by the Rio Grande and a sophisticated security system installed after 9/11, but the drug related violence that has escalated since 2008 has cut a deeper divide between these border communities; more so than any security device could possibly do.  In my research I will apply the approach of the French Institute of Geopolitics that relies mainly on two heuristic tools (Lacoste 1982).  The first is a multi-scale approach that permits understanding of how international and national policies influence regional and local policy makers.  The second is geopolitical representation; it describes how people perceive a certain territory or a geographic element like the border and scale strategies and phenomena, like border enforcement, the United States and Mexico counter drug efforts and the drug related violence have uneven effects on different communities in both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.