Geographies of Violence and Extraction in the Cultural Production of the Mexican Late Neoliberal Period

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis refers to a body of contemporary cultural works that variously consider the socio-ecological transformations in the current phase of neoliberalization, whereby intensified forms of extraction appear interoperative with the Mexican drug interdiction military-security campaigns officially initiated in 2006. The cultural works here assembled focus upon geographies of heavy narcotraffic and military activity. Yet, the ecological matters of concern these text foreground such as the exploitation of nature (human and nonhuman), land-grabbing, rural-out migration, and the murderous energies of capitalist development, suggest a shared critique of the imperceptible neoliberal extractive and exploitative thrusts that structure the disparate geographies depicted. This thesis therefore proposes that the rubric of extraction – a term that has gained significant valence in the energy and environment-oriented fields in the humanities – as a productive lens from which to engage the cultural production related to the deadly socio-political crisis affecting Mexico. While not previously grouped together by critics and despite their many differences, the cultural texts this thesis explores share a concern with peripheralized geographies – i.e. the Southwestern highlands or the Mexican Gulf coast – that have been swept into the maelstrom of militarization, extra-legal violence and ecological extraction, but that, far from the dominant narco-spectacle, have been often overshadowed, underemphasized, or ignored entirely. To excavate the occluded yet material socio-ecological transformative effects of drug-war polices in contemporary literary and cultural works, this study draws from an interdisciplinary theoretical grounding, bringing together insights from fields such as political ecology, cultural geography, and anthropology and building upon existing materialist cultural critiques that have already engaged with neoliberalism and its socio-ecological degradations. Reading for the linkages between the brutal socio-political and ecological conditions in Mexico and the accumulation dictates of global capital in the work of nonfiction filmmakers such as Betzabé García and Tatiana Huezo and writers such as Fernanda Melchor and Hubert Matiúwàa, this thesis aims to explore the ways in which contemporary cultural practitioners engage formal experimentation to bring to the fore the interlocking structural and historically-shaped causes of violence, displacement, and turmoil experienced across a regional and global scale. Narrowing in on a particular form of appropriation and capitalization of environments and their inhabitants – ‘drug war capitalism’ – to trace how these fault lines are registered in contemporary cultural outputs, this thesis suggests that such focus can shed light on the dominant discourses through which neoliberal securitization helps move capitalism’s logic of extraction forward.
Date of Award1 Sept 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnna Bernard (Supervisor) & Luis Rebaza-Soraluz (Supervisor)

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