History ETDs

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In examining the area surrounding Columbus, New Mexico, and Palomas, Chihuahua, as a landscape of violence, this dissertation historicizes the process by which violent actions create a sense of place. Although neither town is considered large enough to be of much consequence, both were targeted by bellicose campaigns that sought to destabilize the Mexican state during the Porfiriato and the Mexican Revolution. Raids on the Palomas customs house were, at least in part, responses to the drive of the Mexican government under Porfirio Díaz to create modern progress and order in Mexico. For many inhabitants of rural northwestern Chihuahua, the imposition of capitalist modes of land and resource ownership, delineation, and exchange deprived them of access to a livelihood. The dissertation, therefore, considers as violence the reallocation of resources under the modern capitalist notion of law and order. By employing a broad definition of violence, seemingly disparate actions, such as land surveys and insurgencies, are juxtaposed in order to highlight the connections between them. The dissertation shows the various ways in which violence was at once a destructive as well as creative force along the New Mexico-Chihuahua border between 1888 and 1930. The violence of new legal and land regimes that left colonists and settlers of northwestern Chihuahua without access to land and resources was answered through the violence of armed movements that specifically targeted the towns of Palomas, La Ascensión, and Columbus—sites of intensified development efforts around the turn of the century. By drawing on geographers and sociologists' theories of legal and spatial violence, this dissertation places these actions in their proper context as localized movements for social and economic justice, rather than haphazard precursors to the subsequent Mexican Revolution. In this context, Pancho Villa's Raid on Columbus is not simply an isolated incident that spilled over from the larger struggle of the Mexican Revolution. It is part of a dialectic of violence specific to the New Mexico-Chihuahua border region.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Truett, Samuel

Second Committee Member

Lane, Maria

Third Committee Member

Bieber, Judy



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