How is violence targeted at people leaving Northern Central America to southern Mexico gendered? How do migrant women navigate and contest this violence? And what is the relationship between spectacularized representations of displaced peoples’ lives, bodies and actions and conventional geopolitics of displacement in the Americas? These are questions that SSHRC and GFAD doctoral candidate Linn Biorklund Belliveau asks in her dissertation titled: Geographies of violence and contestation across borders: Everyday politics of migrant women at the Mexico-Guatemala U.S. proxy border.
Linn’s research emerges from years of working with displaced communities and non-governmental organizations in Mexico, Central America, and other parts of the world.
"While a good deal of research focuses on the geopolitics of displacement and bordering practices of enforcement at the US-Mexican border, and related northbound ‘transit’ migration, less is known about the transnational manufacturing of a ‘migration crisis’ at the Southern Mexican border," Linn notes.
"Specifically, my research focuses on how women who carry the embodied accumulation of repeated forced displacements, dwell within and negotiate the Mexico-Guatemala borderlands," she expounds.
Drawing on scholarships from critical refugee studies, transnational feminist approaches and selected political ecology perspectives, Linn seeks to redefine what bordering practices are by examining migrant epistemology, everyday politics, and arts-based contestations linked to the geopolitics of displacement. By positioning migrant women as protagonists who are authors of their own journey under circumstances not of their making, she sees opportunities to re-imagine ‘the refugee’ and her actions, and to make more visible the violence as well as the solidarities obscured in lives of displacement.
To do so, Linn traces and documents socio-spatial relations in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz centering gendered outcomes of living and working in liminal spaces. She also focuses on humanitarian initiatives to support ‘people on the move’ and collaborates with community groups, including migrant shelters, feminist collectives and mural artists, that seek to co-construct intimate and ordinary spaces and protections together with displaced people residing in the region.
Engaging ethnographic and participatory methods, Linn is currently conducting in-depth life history interviews with women that have left Central America in the context of violence; and semi-structured interviews with representatives of initiatives that seek to support migrants residing in southern Mexico. Part of her research also implies the co-organizing of events and actions including conversational workshops and creative analytical practice.
Linn Biorklund Belliveau is a PhD candidate in Geography at York University’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. Her dissertation is under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Hyndman and funded by SSHRC and York’s Graduate Fellowship for Academic Distinction, and The Academic Excellence Fund. She received her BA (Honors) in Political Science from Stockholm University and holds a Master’s in Critical International Relations Studies from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. She has extensive experience working with NGOs and social justice movements centering human displacement, violence, and humanitarianism.