In Tijuana, across the US-Mexico border from San Diego, California, transnational flows precipitate anxieties over autonomous agency. This essay explores how these anxieties afflict not just individual “I”s but the city’s “we”s as well. Due to pressures associated with different types of traffic—from ideals of citizenship in automotive traffic, to neoliberal demands to economize time in industrial supply-chain provisioning, to efforts to establish sovereignty violently, as drug traffickers seem to—autonomous agency emerges as an object of desire, but one that is difficult to secure. The instability of autonomy came to a head, the author argues, during the years when Mexico’s so-called war on drug trafficking was at its worst. Tracking tropes of the heteronomy of both “I” and “we,” the essay reveals how this period took shape, finally, as a public crisis of agency.
Three Types of Traffic in Tijuana: Heteronomy at the Mexico-US Border
Rihan Yeh teaches in the Centro de Estudios Antropológicos at the Colegio de Michoacán in Mexico. Her research explores the effects of the US-Mexico border on public life in Tijuana, Baja California; her book Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City was published this year.