Anonymous Brown Bodies: The Productive Power of the Deadly US-Mexico Border


Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School


The New School

66 West 12th Street Orozco Room (A712), New York, NY 10011

New York, NY, 10011

Join us for the last event of the Zolberg Institute‘s Spring Lecture Series. Professor Nicholas De Genova will present his talk Anonymous Brown Bodies: The Productive Power of the Deadly US-Mexico Border.

Over the last several years, we have witnessed a remarkable escalation in migrant deaths within the U.S.-Mexico borderzone. In light of the evident systematicity of this (infra-)structural violence, which converts the desert into a landscape that kills, we are challenged to critically comprehend the spectacle of border policing in relation to its brute material effects, above all, a ghastly accumulation of dead brown bodies. These largely anonymous brown bodies, however, must likewise be apprehensible as specifically Mexican or Latina/o migrant lives. Thus, we are confronted not only with a lethal border but one that contributes systematically to the production of Mexican and other Latina/o lives as disposable. Assessing the real effects of this deadly border, we are left to ask: do Brown Lives Matter within the U.S. border and immigration regime? Hence, we begin to see not only the cruel extremities of U.S. border control as a regulatory regime, but also the regularities that it truly produces — foremost among them, the “irregularity” of “illegal” migration. Thus, there is a profound continuity between ever-rising border body counts and the disposablity of life at the border with the deportability of illegalized migrant labor.

Nicholas De Genova is currently an independent scholar, based in Chicago. He most recently he held a permanent appointment as Reader in Urban Geography and Director of the Spatial Politics research group at King’s College London. He previously held teaching appointments in anthropology at Stanford, Columbia, and Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as visiting professorships or research positions at the Universities of Warwick, Bern, Amsterdam, and Chicago. He is the author of Working the Boundaries: Race, Space, and “Illegality” in Mexican Chicago (2005), co-author of Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship (2003), editor of Racial Transformations: Latinos and Asians Remaking the United States (2006), co-editor of The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement (2010), and most recently, editor of The Borders of “Europe”: Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering (2017). He is currently writing two new books — one on The “European” Question: Migration, Race and Postcoloniality and another on The Migrant Metropolis.