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Trespassing the visible: the production of Ecuador as a global space of transit for irregularized migrants moving towards the Mexico-U.S. corridor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This dissertation analyses how and why Ecuador has turned into a global space of transit articulated to and determined by the Mexico-U.S. corridor. I argue that this spatial production is an aftermath of an unsolved tension between migration – specifically irregularized international migrants and Ecuadorean deportees–, and geopolitics of mobility and control within uneven neoliberal geographical development. This implies understanding, first, Ecuador’s migratory history and its intimate interrelationship with the U.S. externalized border policy southwards. Second, how amid Ecuador’s contemporary turn towards a “post-neoliberal” government (2007-2016), political inconsistencies arose between its progressive constitution in migration terms and latent politics of exclusion in legal, social and economic terms which affect migrants’ everyday lives. The confluence of these elements in tension with international migrants’ and Ecuadorean deportees’ persistent responsiveness has reinforced Ecuador’s historical condition as a global space of transit. This investigation dialogues with contributions from critical migration studies, critical geography, geography of mobility, and feminist political geography. It combines a historical analysis (1960s-2016) with three types of ethnography: an extended field ethnography with a trajectory ethnography, and, an ethnography of migrants’ digital space. The ethnographies were conducted between 2015 and 2016, and allowed the reconstruction of 20 trajectories of transit migrants from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Syria, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Nigeria, and of Ecuadorean deportees. My narrative proposal traces an analogy with an air flight focusing on three moments: 1- departure, 2- landing, 3- taxiing and take-off. I analyse therefore the causes of their departures to Ecuador; how they imagined their lives there; how social, digital and physical infrastructures were enmeshed in their mobilities; the ways Ecuadorean border control operates; and, how their everyday lives in Ecuador, or their taxiing, was determined by politics of exclusion which triggered further take-offs. I conclude by underscoring that international migrants’ and Ecuadorean deportees’ autonomous decisions to reactivate their corporeal and virtual mobilities from Ecuador to the Mexico-U.S. corridor is a response to their everyday precarisation. Thus, despite the progressive turn in migration matters, the subtle presence of the U.S. externalised border and national political inconsistencies have had a double repressive and a productive effect, turning Ecuador into a functional articulating node for the reproduction of a systemic global form to selectively control mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Jul 2019


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