Whilst kidnapping has reached epidemic proportions across Mexico, this pervasive insecurity has been especially pronounced in its Northern borderlands. Cities such as Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana emerged as kidnapping hotspots, whilst the wider frontier setting has witnessed kidnap risk both shape –and be reshaped by– uneven border mobilities. Drawing upon findings from the Newton Fund Project ‘Mobile Solutions to the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic’, this paper traces evolving patterns of kidnapping, as well as innovative citizen responses to confront it in this transborder context. Whilst it is a given that kidnapping disrupts normal life patterns and tears at the social fabric of affected communities, research in the US-Mexico borderlands uncovered other interruptions to the everyday intimacies of personal/business life that stemmed from kidnapping.
In arrangements that I have termed the ‘intimacy-distance paradox’, ever-present kidnap risk created the strange situation whereby to protect those with whom residents were closest, they would fashion (somewhat contradictory) arrangements that instilled distance as a core element of security strategies to preserve those same relationships. By reducing social circles; by living under self-imposed mobility regimes; by relocating family-members to safety across the border; by devising anti-kidnapping strategies that would not indulge emotion in the event of abduction; by managing businesses remotely, or indeed even relocating them (again across the border); by harnessing technologies to construct new mechanisms of connection: this paper spotlights how intimacy, its betrayal, its loss, its creation, its preservation, and (potentially) its restoration, are important considerations within the examination of kidnapping in Mexico’s Northern borderlands, and indeed further afield.
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