The face of the state on the U.S.-Mexico border

Jessica De La Ossa*, Jacob C. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, feminist geopolitics and the turns toward emotional and affective geography have resulted in new perspectives on theories of power, embodiment and subjectivity. Other recent trends have considered non-human objects as important for state theory, insofar as state practice often relies upon the force of objects in everyday life. This article works to bring together object-oriented and emotional geographies for a new perspective on the state. It does so by drawing on another theoretical tradition that has been less familiar for political geography: psychoanalytic theory. Findings from ethnographic research with residents living near the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona help illuminate the presence and spectral circulation of what we call the "face of the state" as a psycho-emotional entity in everyday life for these residents. Surveillance objects enter the psyche through the face of the state, insofar as they are imagined and felt as a visual and embodied experience. The force of the object, then, extends beyond its own materiality and into the psycho-social dimensions of life through which state power operates, thereby empowering the border to gaze at the subject population in powerful new ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-147
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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