Non/Regularization of Guatemalans in Soconusco: Strategic Action As a Privilege

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Larisa KOSYGINA, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico
Martha Luz ROJAS WIESNER, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico
Using stories generated via semi-structured interviews with Guatemalans (16 women and 10 men) residing in Tapachula (Mexico), we explore why some foreign citizens who, according to Mexican legislation, are eligible for regularization still remain fully or partially undocumented.

Our research project “La construcción de la otredad, género y acceso a recursos y a derechos”, which has been informed in design and implementation by the theory of structuration, has generated data that allow us to question one of the central concepts suggested by this theory:  ‘the dialectic of control’. This concept states that ‘the most seemingly “powerless” individuals are able to mobilise resources whereby they carve out “spaces of control”’(Giddens 1984, 197). Strategic action – an action based on the ability of people to distance themselves from social structures in order to theorise about these structures and/or formulate ways of using/changing them – is considered to be important for such mobilization (Mouzelis 1989). We argue that strategic action, however, is a privilege of those who have the resources to withdraw from meeting their everyday immediate needs. By arguing that strategic action is a privilege, we are not negating the agency of a migrant and his/her internal capability to undertake such actions (Nussbaum 1997). We simply want to call attention to the idea that the fulfilment of this internal capability can be severely handicapped by limitations stemming from social actors’ positions in society. In the case of our respondents, the lack of resources available for them and their lives’ precariousness – understood as ‘instability, lack of protection, insecurity, and social or economic vulnerability’ (Anderson 2010, 303) – prevented them from developing, as well as from implementing strategic actions for changing their current situation, for example, via existing schemes of regularization.