Rather than acknowledging the systemic roots of migration, discourses and media representations often portray migrants as a threat to the nation--as job stealers, lazy, queue jumpers, terrorists, rapists, disease carriers, and so on. These narratives have an overall detrimental effect on people who seek asylum: the citizenry views them as dangerous. In this paper, we focus on scale, or the representations of migrants in large numbers. When media images and discourses depict migration as a large scale phenomena, they equate migrants with insects. This paralleling makes people who cross borders be understood as invaders. Through ethnographic fieldwork conducted in two separate places of the US Southern border, we analyze the effect that scale has on two distinct populations: a border militia, and detained women who seek asylum. We argue that representations and discourses that use scale, combined with the current neoliberal ideology, have particular effects on those two groups. On the one hand, the militia feels it is their duty to protect the border from such an invasion; on the other hand, those who seek asylum are viewed as insects who want to invade the United States. The harrowing narratives of migrant women’s experiences signals to the militia a failure in the states role to protect the nation, and its failure to protect those on its soil. The militia views itself as filling a gap in the protection of the country, in charge of reaching the places that the state cannot reach. 

About the Presenters

John Parsons completed his PhD at The University of Queensland in 2020. His interests include the interplay of morality, narrative, and violence and his work explores how people enjoy morally contentious activities. 
Sara Riva is a feminist and a border abolitionist. She currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research fellowship with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of Queensland, and is interested in the intersection of neoliberalism, humanitarianism, neocolonialism, borders, and migration. 


About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.