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"Gilberto Rosas's exploration of the seamy underbelly of neoliberal state sovereignty in the sewer tunnels beneath the US-Mexico border takes us to a vexed and murky place, both ethnographically and theoretically. His work invites us to consider provocative and urgent questions about the deep complicity between policing and criminality, and the racialized relegation of human life to abjection and unnatural death on the new frontier. Rosas's insistence upon directing our critical gaze to a dark and dank place of subjection, power, and violence ought to instigate vital new lines of debate in the study of border enforcement and subjectivity within the wild zones of state power."—Nicholas De Genova, coeditor of The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement —
"In this raw and compelling ethnography, Gilberto Rosas grapples with the violence, racism, and determined attempts by border youth to build their own sense of freedom in the cage of the US-Mexico border and its economy of escalating inequalities. Barrio Libre is a significant contribution to border and borderlands studies, one that enriches our understanding of the lives of youth."—Lynn Stephen, author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon —
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Rosas argues that although these youths participate in the victimization of others, they should not be demonized. They are complexly and adversely situated. The effects of NAFTA have forced many of them, as well as other Mexicans, to migrate to Nogales. Moving fluidly with the youths through the spaces that they inhabit and control, he shows how the militarization of the border actually destabilized the region and led Barrio Libre to turn to increasingly violent activities, including drug trafficking. By focusing on these youths and their delinquency, Rosas demonstrates how capitalism and criminality shape perceptions and experiences of race, sovereignty, and resistance along the US-Mexico border.
Gilberto Rosas is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.