Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2013

Major Department or Program

Politics - Environmental Studies


Charles Aaron Bobrow-Strain


This paper examines discourses about nature emerging from migrant aid volunteers working in the desert areas around Tucson, Arizona. Western thought has traditionally portrayed nature as a “pristine” place which is set apart from human society, a limited conception which is largely historically inaccurate. The pristine idea has been used since the beginning of the conservation movement to justify the exclusion of racial “others” from so-called wild or natural spaces, often by portraying them as inherently un-ecological, dirty and destructive. In this context, the U.S.-Mexico border presents a unique site for studying conceptions of nature, because of the way in which major environmental organizations and humanitarian aid groups have come together to challenge border enforcement and militarization policies. Based on interviews with volunteers working on the border, this paper argues that an emergent conception of “social nature,” capable of reading human influences as part of the desert, is being created through the work of migrant aid volunteers. Ultimately, this suggests that the beginnings of a justice-based, anti-racist vision of nature could emerge from the alliance between environmental and migrant aid organizations.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Migrant labor -- Migrant aid volunteers, Other (Philosophy) -- United States, Tuscon (Ariz.), Mexican-American Border Region, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2013 -- Politics-Environmental Studies

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Public Accessible Thesis

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