2022-23 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow



Project Title: Toxified Dreams: Environmental Contamination, the Body, and Visions of Survivable Futures in the Mexicali/Calexico Region of the US-Mexico Border 




When the New River flows across the US-Mexico border—north from the industrial Mexican city of Mexicali into Imperial Valley, a desert region in southeastern California—it carries with it a myriad of hazardous waste products. In my dissertation, I start from the premise that the New River watershed offers an exceptionally rich site for understanding the entanglements between environmental toxification, twentieth-century North American nation-building, transnational circuits of economic production, and the ways that these things shape future imaginaries on both sides of the US-Mexico border. I take the toxified body as a unit of analysis, asking: what insight might be gained into the North American capitalist system by using the everyday bodily fallout of the New River’s flow—from a rare cancer growing in the body of a Mexicali resident to the stomach ailments of an attempted New River border-crosser—as a starting point, and then tracing this up, from body to river to maquiladora/farm to parent company to transnational spending of profits? What sorts of futures do these toxic body burdens curtail for some, and open up for others? And what insight might an investigation into these transnational entanglements provide into the challenges of building a truly equitable future in the face of global warming? 



Reed McConnell is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology researching the relationship between environmental contamination and imaginaries of the future in the Imperial/Mexicali Valley region of the US-Mexico border. She holds an MA in Cultural Theory and History from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and her broader research interests include environmental contamination, green futures, post-apocalyptic imaginaries, militarism, narrativity, anarchism, and aesthetics. She is also a writer and translator whose essays have appeared in publications including Cabinet, The Baffler, Public Books, and The Point.  


Read more at their department profile: https://anthropology.uchicago.edu/directory/reed-mcconnell