Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Robert Courtney Smith

Committee Members

Nancy Foner

James Jasper

Jéssica Natalia Nájera Aguirre

Alexandra Délano Alonso

Subject Categories

Inequality and Stratification | Migration Studies | Politics and Social Change


migration, immobility, refugees, time, inequality, Mexico, Central America


Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico´s southern border with Guatemala, this dissertation provides insights into contemporary experiences of migration in Mexico by engaging with the notions of movement, control, and settlement from a critical perspective. I explore these experiences through the idea of migratory timescapes, defined as structural temporal-relational contexts in which migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are socially embedded. In the case of this dissertation, I unpack three migratory timescapes which are situated in a regional context of growing displacement and increasingly restrictive migratory and asylum policies, what I call the block-and-wait system.

First, I introduce the idea of the Pause as moments and spaces where migrants can rest and heal their bodies, but also temporarily engage with others within a hub of concentrated resources. Pauses offer a glimpse into what social capital looks like during migratory journeys. Secondly, I describe how the Mexican asylum system has turned into a waiting regime and question how waiting, as a technique of domination results in a systematic denial of rights. The waiting regime operates through bureaucratic violence, composed by the imposition of delay, uncertainty, prolonged waiting and which is reinforced by a rhetoric of deservingness. Finally, chapter four investigates how migrants and asylum seekers actively inhabit and become socially engaged in spaces and communities that they consider, and wish to abandon as soon as possible, a process that I call inhabiting the meanwhile.