Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: Hispanic Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation, I identify the cultural workings of four systems that embody the restriction of womens mobility on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. These systems are highways, prisons, factories, and the border wall. Understanding these systems as cultural matrices and physical spaces, I construct a new cartography of border cultural production that pairs well-known authors and mural artists with lesser known figures from San Diego to Ciudad Jurez. A fundamental component of my analysis is the use of religious imagery to show how Mexican and Chicana women enact counter-discourses around these four systems. I argue that through the appropriation of spiritual imagery in creative works, border women challenge the processes that criminalize and immobilize them, claiming institutional religions authority in order to forge new, fluid forms of movement and subjectivity. My first chapter examines responses to the displacement of Chicano communities by the construction of freeways in California in Helena Mara Viramontes novel Their Dogs Came with Them and in the public murals painted onto highway pylons in San Diegos Chicano Park. Chapter Two analyzes murals and poetry produced in womens prisons in Mexico and the United States, focusing particularly on how inmates use cultural production to restructure their experience of time. Chapter Three examines the role of border assembly factories in shaping the landscape and cultural production of Ciudad Jurez, focusing on local poetry, short stories, and graffiti murals to study the performance of gesture in supervisors bodily control of workers. My final chapter focuses on the surveillance and physical barrier of the border wall itself, examining the trope of walking women in murals applied directly to the wall, Luis Humberto Crosthwaites Marcela y el Rey al fin juntos, and Yuri Herreras Seales que precedern al fin del mundo. My analysis focuses on the use of recontextualized spiritual imagery in cultural production as politically engaged practice. Through this dissertation, I question the distinction between Mexican and Latino studies, framing Mexican studies as the inquiry into the cultural flows related to Greater Mexico. I highlight local residents work, which is often overshadowed by international responses to the region.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Tabea Linhard

Committee Members

Ignacio Sanchez Prado, Stephanie Kirk, William Acree, Barbara Baumgartner,


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