Loyola University Chicago

Department of Anthropology


Dr. Gomberg-Muñoz Receives NSF Grant for Research in Mexico

Dr. Gomberg-Muñoz, left, with deportee rights organizers in Mexico City.

Dr. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz was awarded a National Science Foundation senior research grant in cultural anthropology for a multiyear project with deportee rights organizers in Mexico City.

Award abstract:

The research addresses one facet of the global migration crisis: return migration through deportation. Deportation is a widely significant contemporary social, political, and intellectual problem. Existing social science scholarship has theorized deportation as a straightforward politics of exclusion that culminates in the removal of people from one national territory and their return to another. However, for most people, deportation is not only an endpoint; it also marks the beginning of long-term efforts to build viable post-deportation lives. Yet despite the key role that nation states play in shaping their citizens' decisions to migrate in the first place as well as their post-deportation experiences, contexts of return have received little sustained research attention. This project takes a broader perspective to provide the more complete picture that is needed by both theorists and policy makers.

The research will be carried out by Loyola University of Chicago anthropologist, Dr. Ruth M. Gomberg-Munoz. Using a multi-year and multi-sited approach, this project involves the sustained ethnographic research necessary to better understand the sociopolitical afterlife of deportation and its effects in both Mexico and the United States. The research design comprises a three-year study of the contexts of deportees in Mexico City and Chicago. The researcher will use a mix of ethnographic research methods including participant observation, digital ethnography, in-depth and follow-up interviews, targeted semi-structured interviews, and research on state and municipal policies regarding migration and deportees. The study population will include Mexican government agents, a sample of deportees, and organizations that work with deportees. Findings from this research will advance a more robust and reliable theorization of life after deportation in three key ways. 1. The project's longitudinal design will provide the time depth needed to understand post-deportation life. 2. The analytical focus on deportees' interactions with Mexican state agencies will illuminate the role of emigrant states in shaping contexts of migrant return. 3. Attention to the quotidian activities of deportees will shed light on dynamic, cross-border cultural formations that arise in response to global securitization concerns. Using a collaborative approach to research design and dissemination, this project will make a timely and important intervention in social science scholarship on migration and removal, and it will contribute critical information for policy makers.