Formal vs. Informal

Registered and unregistered sellers in La Carolina compete for social and retail space in the park amidst growing inter-group tensions.

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Learning to Live in Limbo

By Maria Teresa Nagel, under the supervision of Kim Wilson.
Starting in 2018, Central American migrants attempting to enter the United States have encountered a series of obstacles which have forced them to consider a longer stay in Tijuana, a circumstance which presents new and unanticipated challenges. This essay explores the new realities faced by Central American migrants, whose journeys were expected to end in the United States, but who have instead had their own odyssey truncated and paused indefinitely in Tijuana, Mexico.

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Integration in Different Family Structures

By Maria Teresa Nagel, under the supervision of Kim Wilson.
When it comes to migration, broad classifications are abundant. Refugees and migrants are often seen as a monolithic mass, which encourages policy makers to essentialize migration as they search for the single solution to this complex phenomenon. Nowhere is this truer than in Tijuana, Mexico, the location of our study. There and elsewhere, immigrants are thought to be driven by the same motivations, threatened by the same risks, and in need of the same remedies. In this essay, I aim to highlight some key differences in the experiences of Central American migrants in Tijuana, focusing on the impact family structure has on migrants’ experiences living in that city.

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Reflections on Conducting a Lean Research Field Study

By Sarah Carson, under the supervision of Kim Wilson.
Field research is a common and often powerful piece of post-graduate training in international affairs and development. But sending students to the field also comes with risks to both students and study participants. What happens when you send five students abroad to execute Lean Research on their own? What challenges might they encounter, and what innovative solutions could they develop? And what do they learn that could be applied to similar experiences in the future?

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How to Achieve the American Dream on an Immigrant’s Income

By Jeffrey Ashe, Kim Wilson.
The American Dream—being able to earn a good living, buy a home, send children to school, and build a life in the United States regardless of social stature or place of birth—is an aspiration for most who immigrate to the United States. While new immigrants may be fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution—so called “push factors”—they are also pulled by the prospects of a better life for themselves and their children. Some immigrants arrive in the United States wealthy, educated, and fluent in English. These case studies focus on immigrants who may arrive with a few dollars in their pocket, struggle with English, and sometimes are without legal documents. Our research examines how immigrant households save up in groups to transform income that is irregular, uncertain, and low into regular, predictable, and meaningful sums of cash.

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No Sweat – If You Are a Woman

By Madison Chapman, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. What does it mean to have dignity and personal agency as a migrant? Men and women told their stories to me in very distinct ways, through body language and in their retelling of traumatic events. What does this tell us about understanding gender in ethnographic research and the stories we do and do not hear while interviewing?

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You and I Are Not Friends: The Challenges of Ethnographic Study in the Migration Field

By Padmini Baruah, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Transnational migration has been one of the most talked-about phenomena of the past decade. With prolonged armed conflict, economic crises, and climate change affecting different parts of the world adversely, it is not a surprise that an estimated 258 million people live in a country that is not the country of their birth.1 Much news has been generated on this subject, and multiple studies have focused on the macro aspects of this issue. However, equally vital is not losing sight of the fact that while broad patterns and theories can explain the macrophenomenon of transnational migration, each migrant’s story is ultimately a subjective and entirely personal lived experience. The powerful contribution of the individual narrative as well as of ethnographic observations to academic studies in this field cannot be overlooked.

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