Solidarity, saviors, and the scales of authority : (social) media practices of the U.S.-Mexico border

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2021-05-06

Authors

Bordelon, Julia Jayne

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Abstract

This thesis uses feminist geopolitics to interrogate the scales of authority in (social) media messaging about the U.S.-Mexico border. The deft use of media by the U.S. Border Patrol and immigrant advocacy and activist groups alike indicates evolving bordering practices. I bridge feminist geopolitical work on scale and geopolitical scholarship on media through a discursive analysis of media publications and Twitter posts from two advocacy groups, Border Angels and Southern Border Communities Coalition, and key leaders in the Border Patrol. This analysis explores how these three actors use media to scale their own authority, and the themes about the border that emerge from this authority.
I find that the two advocacy groups build a capacious, shared authority that is scaled at the body and the local through grounded data, personal experience, and a sense of justice and responsibility. This authority discursively constructs a border at embodied scales, characterized by positive emotions, and predicated on the humanization of migrants. The Border Patrol, in turn, contours their authority through the appearance of control, self-referentiality, and a sole savior narrative. Although the agency’s messaging tends to reify national scales of the border, I find that social media has allowed them to embody the border and selectively share this embodiment, scaling their authority in new ways. The themes that emerge through their authority construct a border that is varied in scale and scope, rife with fear, and predicated on the dehumanization of migrants, but the humanization of Border Patrol agents.
This work contributes to feminist geopolitical scholarship by positioning media, including and especially social media, as a terrain of everyday, embodied feminist research. Further, this thesis shows that attention to peace in migration research, as opposed to violence, can provide openings for grounding other securities in Border Security.

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