Repossessing Democracy: Nicaraguan Women Migrants Constructing a Culture of Participation
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This dissertation examines a movement of Nicaraguan women migrants in Costa Rica as a struggles over the social construction of gender, race, space and scale in the neoliberal era. My dissertation is an ethnography of the organizing work of Nicaraguan women migrants living in Costa Rica. This dissertation is based on ethnographic research in Costa Rica and Nicaragua over a period of 15 months. It reveals how gender and racial hierarchies operate at different scales, producing violent practices in places ranging from the household to state institutions. These experiences, each of which contributes to women’s suffering, nest together and entrench women’s exclusion. The data collected firmly supports the argument that emigration and migrant marginality are directly tied to the lack of institutional mechanisms for resolving situations of violence, and economic marginality, which limit the options of victims to leave situations of violence. It also points to ways that women overcome the challenge of communicating about experienced of violence that have been normalized. Women migrate to Costa Rica to escape violence, anticipating ready access to democratic rights. Instead, they find themselves subordinated within a new regime of belonging as their experiences and suffering are naturalized. The unexpected similarity in their everyday transborder experience galvanizes them and undergirds the cross-cultural, corporal feminism that emerges through their organizing activities. These frameworks allow them to question dominant understandings of democracy, participation and citizenship. Furthermore, they carry out this project in different spaces and at different scales: ushering new ways of seeing into the home, the neighborhood, public service offices, public protests and policy-making meetings. The dissertation speaks to the persistence of social suffering across uneven geography. It also signals the social construction of space and the ways that social hierarchies produce different scales of violence. Finally, it shows social movements that emerge as a result of the tensions generated by the nexus of gender inequality, political-economic shifts and migration.