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The Migration Crisis as Construct: Climate Change, Neoliberalism, and Militarized Adaptation Along the United States’ Southern Border

Authors: Owen Watson*, University of Michigan
Topics: Migration, United States
Keywords: climate change, migration, adaptation, militarism, border policy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past year, major news outlets around the world have increasingly connected human migration between Central American countries and the United States (U.S.) to environmental variability caused by climate change. By focusing on climate change, the media has framed the subject in terms at odds with the dominant U.S. government narrative, though they have nonetheless reinforced the idea that there is a migration crisis at the southern U.S. border – and that there are direct causal links between migration and increased environmental variability. This presentation will examine the creation of the concepts of “climate refugees” and “migrants” and who those creations benefit, how the general narrative of crisis at the southern U.S. border is a construction to fulfill larger cultural and political aims of American power and hegemony, how historical forces of American-led imperialism and macroeconomics have influenced the current social and economic situation in Central American countries, and how the American response to border enforcement is a militarized form of climate adaptation. Finally, framed in a larger comparison of environmental security and political ecology discourses, the presentation will assess the role of current global policy in furthering risks associated with human migration, along with the materiality of detention camps, access points, and border fences.

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