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Summary of Contraband Corridor: Making a Living at the Mexico–Guatemala Border – 1st Edition
From publisher Stanford University Press:
The Mexico-Guatemala border has emerged as a geopolitical hotspot of illicit flows of both goods and people. Contraband Corridor seeks to understand the border from the perspective of its long-term inhabitants. Challenging simplistic assumptions regarding security, trade, and illegality, Rebecca Galemba details how residents along the Mexico-Guatemala border engage in, and justify, extra-legal practices in the context of heightened border security, restricted economic opportunities, and official regional trade integration policies that exclude regional inhabitants. Rather than assuming that extra-legal activities necessarily threaten the state and formal economy, Galemba’s ethnography illustrates the complex ways that the formal, informal, legal, and illegal economies intertwine. Smuggling basic commodities across the border provides a means for borderland peasants to make a living in the context of neoliberal economic policies that decimated agricultural livelihoods and dismantled previous farmer supports and price guarantees. Yet smuggling also exacerbates prevailing inequalities, obstructs the possibility of more substantive political and economic change, and provides low-risk economic benefits to formal businesses, select state agents, and other illicit actors, often at the expense of border residents. Galemba argues that securitized neoliberalism works to value certain economic activities and actors and exclude and criminalize others, even when the informal and illicit economy is increasingly one of the poor’s only remaining options and informality even permeates the formal sector. Contraband Corridor contends that security, neoliberalism, and illegality are interdependent in complex ways. Yet how they unfold depends on negotiations between diverse border actors.
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