Gauthier, Melissa

Assistant teaching professor


Phone number: (250) 721-6254
Department: Anthropology

Research description:

-Informal cross-border trade
-Analysis of state-society dynamics in a milieu marked by smuggling and corruption
-Urban livelihoods and informal economies
-Role of cross-border traders in the construction and redefinition of international boundaries
-Clandestine side of Globalization
-Border studies
Expertise Database
Cultural anthropologist Melissa Gauthier examines illicit cross-border flows-the smuggling of commercial goods, drugs or people-at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Dr. Gauthier observed and talked with cross-border traders selling American, second-hand clothing in Mexico. She's interested in what motivates people to work in the informal market. "People often have two choices," she says. "They can work for transnational corporations that settle in Mexico to take advantage of low wages or they can work in the informal market. And often, people have to supplement their factory wages by taking part in the informal market."

Dr. Gauthier's work challenges a common belief that, because of globalization, we live in an increasingly borderless world. "In reality," she says, "borders are more important than ever before, and heightened security makes it harder for people to cross them."

Increased security affects people living close to borders, as well. After 9/11, new border gates were erected between Derby Line (Vermont) and Stanstead (Quebec) forcing residents to cross checkpoints to visit their neighbours and eat at popular restaurants. "There are unexpected consequences to border policies," she says "and they don't take into consideration how they can disrupt everyday life."

It's important for students to recognize the complexity of cross-border economies and cultures, says Dr. Gauthier. She has students research the flow of illegal goods from the smugglers' perspective as well as from that of the law enforcers. "Students need to think critically about the differences between the legal and illegal, and the formal and the informal."

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