The Crossroads of Power: Michel Foucault and the US/Mexico Border Wall

  • Thomas Nail University of Denver


This paper draws on the work of Michel Foucault in order to analyze the constellation of political strategies and power at the US/Mexico border wall. These strategies, however, are incredibly diverse and often directly antagonistic of one another. Thus, this paper argues that in order to make sense of the seemingly multiple and contradictory political strategies deployed in the operation of the US/Mexico border wall, we have to understand the coexistence and intertwinement of at least three distinct types of power at work there: the sovereign exclusion of illegal life, the disciplinary detention of surveilled life, and the biopolitical circulation of migratory life. By doing so this paper offers an original contribution to two major areas of study: in Foucault studies this paper expands the existing literature on Foucault by analyzing the crossroads of power particular to the US/Mexico border wall, which has not yet been done, and in border studies this Foucauldian approach offers a unique political analysis that goes beyond the critique of sovereignty and toward an analysis of coexisting strategies of power.

Author Biography

Thomas Nail, University of Denver
Thomas Nail is a Postdoctoral Lecturer in European Philosophy at the University of Denver. His is author of Returning to Revolution: Deleuze, Guattari, and Zapatismo (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and The Figure of the Migrant (under contract with Stanford University Press). He is also editing a book of essays with Daniel Smith and Nicolae Morar on the relationship between Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault entitled, "Between Deleuze and Foucault" and an edited issue of Foucault Studies entitled, “Foucault and Deleuze: Ethics, Politics, Psychoanalysis.”