Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Michael Blim

Subject Categories

Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Influence and Political Communication


nationalism, nativism, borderlands, immigration law, violence, public perception


This thesis examines the refraction of immigration rhetoric in a local context through a collection of letters to the editor of southern Arizona’s largest and only daily newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, for the period 2006-2010. The purpose is to further insight into the process by which xenophobic nationalism is both contested and legitimated ‘on the ground,’ within a violent paradigm of nativist rhetoric and exclusion. Findings reveal essential disjunctures between and within letter-writers’ conceptions of moral proximity and the social contract—as delimiting those obligations and expectations that inhere between society, the self and the stranger—as well as competing notions of legitimacy based, on the one hand, on an overarching and at times homogenizing myth of nation and, on the other, in rootedness to the cultural and historic particularities of place. These disjunctures point to a profusion of contradictory ideations, the struggle over which exposes the efforts of community members to contest and redefine the boundaries of societal norms within the context of emergent nationalism.