UBC Theses and Dissertations
To come and go : transnational life between Mexico and Alaska Komarnisky, Sara Victoria
This dissertation examines the experiences of place and patterns of transnational mobility of three generations of people who have been living between Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Mexico and Anchorage, Alaska, USA for several decades. These people hold dual US-Mexican citizenship or US permanent residency and are able to move across the continent in a way that many Mexican migrants cannot. Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in both Acuitzio and Anchorage, and ten years of engagement with people in these locations, I analyze the experience of Acuitzences (people from Acuitzio) at several levels: as they encounter frictions in their movements between Michoacán and Alaska; the practices of multigenerational family units who gain traction over time to build lives in both Anchorage and Acuitzio; the uneven and situated habits that generate a transnational class formation, and the ways in which Mexicans in Alaska re-conceptualize their senses of place by developing transnational identities out of the symbols and mechanisms of both nation-states. In showing how distance is key to the experience of Mexican migrant-immigrants in Alaska, this research also contributes to theorizations of the relevance of distance in the creation of spatialized differences. My analysis reveals that over time, Acuitzences in Alaska orient their lives to both locations as they live, work, and imagine their futures across the continent. Acuitzences in Alaska have created a transnational social field and orient themselves more to the field as a whole than to any one location in it. For most of them, Acuitzio, Anchorage, and the experience of mobility between the two places are necessary to feel at home in the world. These findings contribute to the anthropological research on mobility, citizenship, transnational migration, and the production of space, and bring the spatially bounded fields of Circumpolar Studies and Latin American Studies together. Based on this, I advocate for a transnational approach to theory and policy that embraces the multiple trajectories that construct places. Despite policy restrictions to migration, the lives of transnational Acuitzences who come and go show how the United States and Mexico are profoundly coproduced geographies.
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