Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
How do boundaries configure displaced people’s diasporic community formations? This paper examines how territorial, political, and social bordering processes shape interpersonal support relationships among long-time U.S. resident men, formerly gang-identified, who have been incarcerated in U.S. prisons and deported to Mexico. It is based on ethnographic research on the northern Mexico border, with Mexican national men who struggle to make home in Mexico after being distanced from social networks and a national community in the United States. The strict regulation of human movement on the physical and juridical U.S.-Mexico border not only separates one side from the other, but also reorders life within distinct social spaces. Relegated to Mexico, deported men come together with one another by recognizing shared U.S. Latinx social and cultural affinity, constructed in opposition to “Mexican” identifications and anchored in U.S. family, community, and prison life. They draw on collaborative expressions of masculinities to circulate interpersonal material and emotional care: establishing co-residence, sharing local knowledge, and providing everyday solidarity in the struggle to eke out a living and secure work, stable housing, and meaningful social relationships. This search for collective wellbeing transcends affiliation with adversarial U.S. prison gangs—reinforced through carceral institutions’ rigid sorting mechanisms and residential arrangements—that structure prison and post-prison life. Deported men overcome regional differences and prison animus and, in the face of stigmatization in Mexico, come together in solidarity. Deported men’s socialities reflect how political and geographical bounding practices simultaneously redefine social borders and permit support in circumstances of displacement.