Bodies on the Border: Rematerializing and Decolonizing Ecologies of Mobility in the Mexico-US Borderlands


  • English Brooks Snow College



bioregion, border, decolonial, material ecocriticism, Mexico, migration


Current human migrations and nonhuman extinctions on massive scales compel us to more carefully apply interspecies concepts of mobility to understanding the roles played by geopolitical borders, as well as the various, ongoing forms of colonialism that have produced and continue to perpetuate these borders. This essay applies bioregional, material, decolonial, and borderlands ecocriticism to historicize prevention through deterrence enforcement measures in the Mexico-US border region, and discusses several significant entanglements of interspecies actors in migratory contexts, exploring a range of ways that nonhuman nature has been and continues to be deployed materially against migrants. In historicizing US enforcement tactics, the essay tracks the distribution of human agency from settler colonial, ethnonationalist, and neoliberal US policy makers, to armed paramilitary human bodies, then into structures of the built environment, and, finally, to the ways that agency is further diffused across complex webs of multiple kinds of human and nonhuman actors—plants, animals, landforms, watercourses, climate and weather conditions, and so on. While in some instances, nonhuman animals are deployed against migrant and other indigenous and mestizo people, in other multispecies entanglements, animals participate in the revelation and denunciation of state sponsored violence, leading to larger questions of the status of other nonhuman animals in the borderlands. The essay’s primary focus is on illustrating the practical untenability of, and the severe harm done in, continuing to regard the borderlands from settler colonialist or human exceptionalist positionalities.


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Author Biography

English Brooks, Snow College

English Brooks is associate professor of English at Snow College in central Utah. His scholarly and creative work has appeared in Aztlán, Dark Mountain, Dialogue, Green Letters, ISLE, MELUS, Pacific Coast Philology, Saltfront,, Western American Literature, and several edited collections from academic and popular presses. In the summers, English volunteers with Birch Creek Service Ranch’s youth program. He wishes to dedicate his essay in this issue to Erin James, who in a 2010 graduate seminar at University of Nevada-Reno, first introduced him and others to critical dialogues between environmental and postcolonial studies. And to Joel Hancock, who in a 2003 undergraduate course in Latin American fiction at the University of Utah acquainted him for the first time with the concept of la ecocrítica. 






Articles: The Postcolonial Nonhuman