Shifting border politics and stresses on NAFTA relations destabilize realities of economic integration. In this context, my research investigates how processes of economic restructuring articulate with business practices, policy regimes, and migration patterns, to shape economic development and labor market participation on the US-Mexico border.

Faculty of Arts
Jamie Peck
United States of America
UBC Public Scholars Award
Research Description

Processes of globalization intersect with place-based institutional arrangements and economic development patterns to shape local economic landscapes and to drive economic change. My proposed research will examine these intersections as they unfold in the metropolitan zones of the US-Mexico border. This project will focus on how economic restructuring articulates with local business practices, policy regimes, and changing migratory flows. I want to understand the impact of these processes on cross-border regional economic development and labor market participation. Why do certain places and people benefit from development processes and economic change, while others are left out? This work is vital for the public good in two registers: first, shifting border politics and changing trade policies destabilize taken-for-granted realities of cross-border economic integration; and second, more research is needed on the ways North Americans continue to benefit from restrictive immigration policies, the devaluing of labor, and processes of economic restructuring.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

Being a public scholar means thinking deeply about the the nature and purpose of research: why is this scholarship useful and who is it relevant for? It means being deeply accountable to the communities that are the focus of academic research. This can translate in multiple ways: engaging in research that is relevant to people and communities outside of the academy; asking questions that aren't only about the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge production, but doing research which is also policy relevant and is of value to advocacy organizations; working collaboratively with community-based partners to disseminate research findings outside of the academy in a way that is engaging and accessible.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I think that the PhD experience can be very isolating and alienating, potentially even more so in the current context, where the neoliberalization of higher education places paramount importance on publishing outputs, where funding opportunities for grad students are increasingly competitive, and where the opportunities for a career after the PhD seem largely limited to adjunct teaching and sessional instructor positions. I think the Public Scholars Initiative could play an important role in helping to re-define and expand what kinds of research, both in terms of content, and praxis, could be valued as a part of the PhD experience. The PSI is an important funding source, which places increased value on projects which reach beyond the academy in many ways. It also helps to encourage collaboration, both between grad students, and between the academy and other communities.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

I hope that my PhD work will continue to allow me to work meaningfully with community members and community based organizations. In particular, I envision that research opportunities, both academic and applied, will help me to connect with an array of labor and migration advocacy organizations in the US and Mexico, that I can continue to work with after my PhD is over.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

In the research that the Public Scholars Initiative is supporting, I am engaging the larger community through documenting the stories and experiences of workers and migrants at the US-Mexico border, and weaving these narratives into a broader analytical framework for understanding uneven development in the border region. In order to do so, I will partner with a worker center on each side of the border. The PSI is making it possible for me to foster the capacity of individuals write and record testimonies about their migration and work experiences. Testimonies are important aspects of data collection and research dissemination. They will not only provide invaluable insight into the ways in which individuals experience processes of economic restructuring and migration, but will also ensure that my research is made more publicly accessible, creating material that is relatable to non-academic audiences. I hope to document and disseminate the stories of workers and migrants on both sides of the border, in order to raise public awareness of the lived experiences of processes of disinvestment.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

More research is needed on the evolving ways North Americans continue to benefit from restrictive immigration policies, the devaluing of labor and ongoing processes of economic restructuring. I hope that my work can contribute to the public good in the sense that it will extend our understanding of the lived experiences of economic disinvestment, and in doing so, will contribute an analysis that is relevant to labor organizers and advocates working along the US-Mexico border. I also hope that though a collaborative research praxis, the project will help to grow and enhance much needed cross-border connections and conversations between organizations advocating with migrants and workers.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

My decision to pursue a graduate degree connects to my experiences as a labor organizer. As an advocate, I became aware of the importance of social justice oriented, critically engaged research to community building efforts. In particular, I witnessed the impact such research can have in winning real, material gains for communities. I returned to grad school to learn how to be a more effective researcher, and therefore a more effective advocate and collaborator.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

When I was deciding to do my PhD, I felt that the Geography department at UBC was a good fit for both my research interests and politics. Student and faculty work coming out of the department was also very exciting. Additionally, my potential supervisor, other faculty mentors, and grad student cohort members made me feel supported and engaged.


I hope to document and disseminate the stories of workers and migrants on both sides of the border, in order to raise public awareness of the lived experiences of processes of disinvestment.