Year of Publication

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Anna Secor

Abstract

Interpersonal conflict poses a serious threat to social justice activism. In the context of multi-racial solidarity activism in southern Arizona, conflicts are often born of the challenges accompanying differentials in social privilege due to differences in race and ethnicity relative to white supremacist settler colonialism. We can see these tensions topologically through the very different relationships white, Latin@, Chican@, and indigenous activists have to on-going processes of white supremacy. This dissertation explores the factors contributing to successes and failures of multi-racial activist ventures in the context of the Arizona/Sonora borderlands, particularly the challenges of negotiating social difference among communities of activists.

Arizona occupies a contentious position with regard to securitization practices on the US/Mexico border. Social justice activists come to southern Arizona to involve themselves in humanitarian aid projects that address human rights issues emerging from border securitization processes. Over time, many of these activists connect with other social justice work in southern Arizona, leading to the existence of particularly rich and dedicated networks of activists in Tucson, southern Arizona’s largest city. Subsequently, we see the development of a diverse array of activist ventures deliberately orienting themselves around racial justice. This dissertation examines the paradox of becoming anti-racist for white activists, through which white activists work to address problematic aspects of their socialization as white subjects within the hierarchy of white supremacist society, a process that must co-exist with the knowledge that one cannot ‘unwhiten’ oneself.

Tucson has a rich history of social justice activism that contributes to a particularly diverse activist landscape. Since the early 2000s, the primary concern of grassroots political activism in the city has been migrant justice and opposition to the militarization of the US/Mexico border. In the aftermath of Arizona’s notorious 2010 racial profiling legislation, SB 1070, The Protection Network Action Fund (ProNet) was founded as a collaboration between undocumented migrant activists and white allies, with the express goal of fundraising to support migrant led activism in Tucson. Much of ProNet’s success is rooted in the long-term relationship building between migrant activists and white allies, and intentional commitments to bridging gaps between the humanitarian aid and migrant justice communities. Members of ProNet challenge the spatial dynamics of activist networks Tucson, connecting Latin@ and Chican@ activist communities in and surrounding Spanish speaking South Tucson with activists in parts of the city where the effects of the militarized border are less present, and where residents are predominantly white.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

http://dx.doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2016.202

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