“They’ve got power up the waz”: Border Enforcement as Collective Trauma Among Retirees in Southern Arizona

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Over 3,200 migrants have died in the borderlands of southern Arizona as a result of the last three decades of United Stated border enforcement policy. This project evaluates the impact of violent border enforcement activities, especially these fatal outcomes, on retirees living in the borderlands. Arizona is the second most popular place to move to for retirement, and many of these retirees, seeking low costs of living and quiet communities, end up settling in the borderlands. Unlike migrants themselves, retired residents are predominantly white United States citizens with little prior knowledge or exposure to border enforcement. An analysis of 15 in-depth interviews with retirees living in Arizona revealed that, although these residents are relatively privileged, they are still affected by the violence of border enforcement in their communities. For many of these retirees, the unavoidable and continuous exposure to enforcement activities is even traumatic, affecting their social relationships and in some cases drawing them into humanitarian volunteer work. Retirees that moved to Arizona more recently, in the midst of the escalating border enforcement of the last decade, are more likely to report such experiences.



Winner of the Ida Harper Simpson Award for Best Honors Thesis in Sociology


Updated with superseding copy at author's request 2020-05-04.



Simpson, Olivia (2020). “They’ve got power up the waz”: Border Enforcement as Collective Trauma Among Retirees in Southern Arizona. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20568.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.