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The Lines They Draw

US and Mexico Border Externalization Regimes

Project Description

What is a national border? An imagined, shifting line a militarized zone, a site of national definition, an invitation to pass, or a demand to stay put? Across the Mexico-US border, asylum seekers wait in informal refugee camps that fall outside the jurisdiction of either states or the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The border between the Western Balkan states and the EU has been a place of confinement as well as enforced movement as asylum seekers are pushed across borders, from one country to the other. Mexico and Serbia, once considered the “transit countries” through which refugees and migrants pass, are now sites of confinement and enforced movement as the result of actions by the US and EU (i.e. “Remain in Mexico.”) Their border policies lead to humanitarian disasters and have a broader global impact as they have contributed to the rise of far-right extremism and bigoted nationalisms. There is much to learn from a comparative study that acknowledges both the exceptional character of the US and EU’s influence and the similarities in their border policies.   


Our project is an interdisciplinary, accessible, and comprehensive study of the EU-Serbia and US-Mexico Border. We will consider the spaces inhabited by migrants in Mexico and the Western Balkans, the manifestations of various forms of violence (structural and physical), and the models of care, particularly access to health care, implemented at these sites. We examine the landscape, economies, the protests, and the forms of creativity that emerge in the border regime. As a team of researchers from the Western Balkans, Mexico, and the US, we have unique perspectives on the human toll at the border. 

Our project is a collaborative endeavor and we invite researchers and scholars interested in this topic whose work and writing address some of the issues listed above to write us directly at As part of this project, we will be publishing an edited volume on border regimes, and organizing a series of public events and workshops.

Our Main Research Questions

​How does the externalization of borders promote and produce sites of confinement in Serbia and Mexico?

How have different border regimes influenced migrants, refugees and host populations in the US, Mexico, Serbia, Bosnia, and the EU states bordering these countries?

What are the consequences of the current migration patterns and border management policies for the states facing humanitarian crisis at the border?

How do current policies and humanitarian crises at the borders influence migrants and refugees?

What can we learn from the comparisons drawn between Mexico, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on one hand, and EU and the United States on the other? 

Our Research Team

PhD (ongoing) -

Northwestern University

Cordelia Rizzo


Cordelia is a feminist activist-scholar. She holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Leuven and a Master of Arts in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. Currently she is pursuing a PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern University.


Cordelia has taught college-level courses on Latin American thought and cultural studies, as well as more experimental embroidering workshops geared towards understanding how collectives of women protest.


Her current research addresses the impact of the recent wave of violence in several populations in Mexico and the performative strategies wielded to face its effects.


Her work as an activist tackles the subject of reparations and capacity building in collectives affected by this violence, namely relatives of the forcefully disappeared.


Victoria Ríos Infante

PhD (ongoing) -

Monterrery Inst. of Tech and Higher Education (ITESM)

Victoria's research project focuses on transgender migrant women and their experiences and resources in migration to manage two transitions: the spatial and the corporeal —and all the violence(s) associated to these transitions—. In 2014, she started volunteering in shelters that provide humanitarian aid to migrants in Monterrey. She has also collaborated with national advocate networks (such as the REDODEM) and local networks (such as REFHUMI) that document the experiences, complexities and actively request for comprehensive attention from the government to these realities happening in the country.


More recently, in 2018-2019, she collaborated with Programa Casa Refugiados, partner of the UNHCR office in Mexico; she coordinated a team of humanitarian response to the emergency of migrant caravans that —in collaboration with this UN agency— brought humanitarian aid to migrants that are subject of international protection in Tapachula, Ciudad Hidalgo (Chiapas); Mexico City and Tijuana (Baja California).

PhD (ongoing) -

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

Marina Lazetic


Marina is also a Human Security Fellow at the Henry J. Leir Institute. Her research focuses on the protection of populations on the move and understanding the use of migration as a mobilizing tool for far right movements and militias.


She currently works as the Research Fellow and Program Manager at the Initiative on Forced Displacement at Boston University. In this role, she conducts research, supports programs on pedagogy and research on forced displacement (in Columbia, Lebanon, and Uganda), and helps design and run virtual global exchange programs for undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and educators.


She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Refugees in Towns Project and an independent research consultant currently working on projects for the US Institute of Peace and International Rescue Committee. Throughout her academic and professional career, she has worked on projects related to forced displacement, nationalism, extremism, conflict prevention, and human security.

Marina previously worked for nonprofit organizations and institutions such as Open Society Foundations, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, and Doctors Without Borders.


She holds a B.A. in human rights and sociology from Bard College, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University.


Research Assistant -

Institute of Ethnography of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA)

Teodora Jovanović

Teodora is a research assistant at the SASA and a PhD candidate at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. Her area of academic interest is anthropology of forced migration. For her doctoral thesis, she conducted an ethnographic fieldwork in reception centers for asylum seekers in Serbia.

In 2016 she worked in “Refugee Aid Miksalište” humanitarian center in Belgrade, providing direct assistance to refugees and migrants in the city. In 2018, she published a report about migration in Serbia and state of integration in Belgrade as part of the Refugees in Towns project housed in the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University.


She currently works with the non-governmental organization “Re Generation” in Belgrade as research coordinator in the area of drug policy and harm reduction. She is also involved in two research projects: “The European Irregularized Migration Regime at the Periphery of the EU: from Ethnography to Keywords,” led by the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research (Croatia), and “The Western Balkans – A 'Double Transit' Room”, led by Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION (Germany). She published scientific papers in international peer-review journals, and her work was presented at one international scientific conference, summer schools, and student conferences. Her native language is Serbian, and she speaks English and Farsi.

IFD Team Involved

Dr. Muhammad Zaman

Project Co-PI

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor

Professor, Departments of Biomedical Engineering and International Health


Dr. Carrie Preston

Project Co-PI

Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Professor
Professor, English and Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

Mohammad Ahsan Fuzail

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Baiden Wright - headshot.jpg

Baiden Wright