Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Monica Varsanyi

Subject Categories

Liberal Studies


borderlands, nepantla, resistance, higher education, undocumented migration, space


By its very nature, undocumented migration challenges the notion of set, static borders, at once rendering them transcend-able while also throwing into stark relief the power and control exercised by the state over undocumented migrants along the arc of their journeys. Two main questions guide my analysis: 1) How are migrants forced to enter and navigate geographic space and zones of exclusion? and 2) How do migrants subvert enforced spaces – often categorized by limbo and uncertainty – both by marking them with their presence and by creating alternative spaces? I consider two compelling examples: In Chapter One, using the concept of nepantla as a framework I explore the migratory arc of the heroine of Yuri Herrera’s novella, Signs Preceding the End of the World, whose journey reveals how forced space is marked, embodied and transcended by undocumented migrants in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In Chapter Two, I look at the case of Freedom University as an example of how undocumented youth negotiate the uneven landscape of access to higher education in the U.S., creating and claiming alternative space in the process. My intention is to contribute to the existing scholarship on undocumented agency and resistance, particularly as it relates to physical space; I hope to spotlight the “desires and projects of migrants” that can encourage transformation on societal, collective and individual levels (Nyers, 2015, p. 27).