Precarious Becomings: The Politics of Migrant Life in Chile

My book Precarious Becomings: The Politics of Migrant Life in Chile, based on my dissertation, examines state and community responses to migrant precarity that rely on different conceptualizations and transformations of urban space. The book incorporates three revised chapters from my dissertation and adds two new chapters. The dissertation chapters focus on self-built migrant encampments in Chile’s northern border city of Antofagasta. They provide a history of how the Chilean state came to conceptualize poverty, crime, and risk as static and discrete spatial phenomena, and to target them by eradicating their manifestations in space. I combine this history with ethnographic research showing how predominantly Black and Indigenous Colombian, Ecuadorian, Bolivian, and Peruvian women who built these encampments rely on “ecologies of care” that entangle their lives and livelihoods with dangerous environments. These ecologies of care—from domestic violence shelters to informal credit systems and situated ethical modes of being—thus suggest a different politics based not on eradicating precarity but learning how to live with it. The new chapters examine how the emerging phenomenon of border crossings reconfigures space, precarity, and care in Chile’s northern border zone at large. One of the new chapters, based on household surveys and phone interviews that I conducted for a multi-country, NSF-funded project, shows how migrant women transformed community venues in their encampments into informal spaces of asylum for persecuted unauthorized migrants. The other new chapter, based on follow-up research that I will conduct in Summer 2024, explores solidarity networks through which migrant women in Antofagasta draw attention to the systematic sexual assault of unauthorized migrant women in intercity highways. Precarious Becomings thus examines how changing patterns of migration and ways to control it transform urban space and make migrant women vulnerable, while also engendering new forms of care.

Maddening Borders: Anti-Haitian Worlds Across the United States and Chile

My second book will situate my work on the changing relations between migration, space, and precarity at a transnational scale. It examines the mental health effects of progressive alternative-to-detention programs in the United States and how they shape transnational Haitian family dynamics between the U.S. and Chile. In 2021, thousands of Haitian migrants previously deported by Chile’s anti-Black “humanitarian return” mass deportation scheme were detained in the U.S.-Mexico border. Maddening Borders will examine how Haitian women endure the mental health effects of detention through novel relationships in their private sponsor homes and how these effects reverberate through the everyday lives of their family members in Chile. A person-centered, community-engaged, and transnational ethnography, my second book will build on participant observation and interviews with both Haitian women in the United States and their family members in Chile, as well as media analysis of the various digital communicative practices through which migrant women sustain broken family ties across continental space. I also plan to conduct participant observation and interviews with community case managers and mental health care professionals working for organizations that both advocate for migrant rights and participate in restrictive bordering, detention, and deportation regimes. My future research thus considers mental health as a key domain for studying the transnational anti-Black logics of migration regimes and how they configure racialized and gendered forms of migrant precarity and care.

Addiction, Spiritual Warfare, and Recovery in Peru

This secondary research project, which resulted in a publication in Third World Quarterly, examines clandestine Pentecostal addiction treatment ministries that care for coca paste-addicted young men in different cities in Peru’s war-torn Upper Huallaga Valley, formerly a major coca leaf production zone. The project investigates how these clandestine ministries re-articulate addiction as demonic possession. Accordingly, ministries treat addiction through spiritual warfare against the Devil and change the locus of the War on Drugs from trade networks to sinful bodies.

Between Easter Island and Rapa Nui: The Making and Unmaking of an Uncanny Lifeworld

Based on my undergraduate honors thesis, this project focused on Indigenous Rapanui people’s contemporary relationships with their colonized and dispossessed ritual landscape. It examined how the “restoration” of a dispossessed and ravaged landscape by outsiders into what some scholars call “Museum Island” produces in Rapanui activists today an uncanny affect when re-encountering their landscape and the emplaced persons within. This project resulted in a publication in the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal and was then extended through a community-based illustrated ethnographic film funded by the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize.