History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 7-10-2019


Statewise: Jurisdictional Fictions, Transnational Politics And Remaking The Nation State On The Chiapas-Guatemala Border, 1821-1899, focuses on the undrawn border between Mexico and Guatemala during the nineteenth century. I argue that this lack of national definition allowed social actors and state authorities in both Mexico and Guatemala to successfully negotiate alliances and competing territorial claims. In this space of "jurisdictional fiction," where the Mexican and Guatemalan governments' claims to authority were undermined by their lack of political, economic and military control, exiles could become political leaders, contrabandists could hold the keys and records to the customs house, displaced indigenous communities were granted land and widowed concubines received indemnities from both states. I call these shape-shifting actors "statewise": they understood the state as a source of authority and of resources which could nonetheless be manipulated for entirely local or regional, rather than centralized or national purposes. My work thus highlights the interdependence between regimes of discourse and law and places where these regimes collide, or are temporarily absent or ignored. I join post-colonialist scholars in arguing against unmitigated state hegemony. Like historians of crime and criminology I understand state institutions and criminal organizations as overlapping and often symbiotic. Finally, like many cultural geographers and borderlands scholars, I argue for the social creation of space beyond that governed by the laws, authorities, institutions and discourse sustaining the state. Because of their positioning at both the margins of state power and at the crux of its expansion and redefinition, it was often the most marginalized of society that brought about legal and territorial transformations. In so doing, they became not only critical actors in the state-making process but also creators of an alternative space outside state auspices.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Judy Bieber

Second Committee Member

Sam Truett

Third Committee Member

Linda Hall

Fourth Committee Member

Kevin Gosner

Fifth Committee Member

Luis Herran-Avila




Chiapas, Mexico, Guatemala, transnational, border, immigration

Document Type