i n t r o d u C t i o n
The Criminalizing Depths of states
and other shit
The photo (fig. 1) captures a necessary fissure in the US- Mexico bor-
der and a glaring gap of its enforcement. It is a sewer, a site of human
waste rendered an opening into and out of the “dark” world of Barrio
Libre, and it is where this ethnography begins. Long imagined as the
site for “dark,” Machiavellian operations of state power,1 these scato-
logical interconnections underneath Nogales, Sonora (in Mexico), and
Nogales, Arizona (in the United States), stage the criminalizing effects
of global asymmetrical neoliberal processes—processes that drive
bodies across increasingly militarized international boundaries such as
those between Mexico and the United States, and processes that push
me to plumb the depths of state power in an age of globalization, new
or actually renewed security warfare, and corporeal excess.
This sewer tunnel begins a couple of kilometers south of the inter-
national boundary at a ditch in a decaying, impoverished neighbor-
hood of Nogales, Sonora, not far from an abandoned bullfighting ring.
As the southbound traffic zooms past and border inspections clog the
northbound traffic, I follow my guides into the darkness of what they
imagine as Barrio Libre. Sergio, a fourteen- year- old, reaches under his
clothing, pulls out a flashlight, and urges me to stay close as we join the
northward flow of bodies rendered brown seeping under the interna-
tional boundary. Sergio blasts N.W.A.’s “Fuck da Police” on his Walk-
man, which he has recently purchased with money he earned through
violent means. He mugged an unfortunate migrant, who was attempt-
ing to undermine the border through this very passage.
We pass names of several of the youth of Barrio Libre scrawled in
iridescent spray paint on the cement walls of the sewer: Juanita, Jua-
natos, Monica, Salvador, El Trabeiso, Igor, Román, El Chamuco, San-
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