As Non-Citizen

Denationalized people occupy sites of contradiction in the current regime of global capitalism and international politics. Their fragile agency arises from the complex routes (both lawful and illicit) by which capital moves and demands labor, populations circulate or are held bound, states enact and dissolve their policies and wage war, and international courts exert their influence or are refused jurisdiction.

Alicia Schmidt Camacho, “Ciudadana X: Gender Violence and the Denationalization Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.” CR: The New Centennial Review 5.1 (2005): 258, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO. 5 Sept 2010 <>.

As evidenced by the constraints that NAFTA puts on Mexico, the rights of citizens frequently take a backseat to maintaining positive economic relations. Moreover, the suspension of “national sovereignty on the border space in favour of attracting foreign exchange” transfers to a space of non-citizenship, with personal and professional rights regulated by international agreements rather than national protections.[i]

Although stipulated in the NAALC is the Mexican-American-Canadian agreement to “effectively enforce their existing labour laws”, women are frequently denied work in maquiladoras if they are found to be pregnant.[ii] Also subjected to questions about their personal sexual lives or even urine testing, women’s personal privacy rights are invaded by management in these manufacturing plants.[iii] This brings up questions of sovereignty, citizenship and state versus foreign employer responsibility, and contributes to the conceptualization of the female worker as outside of state-protection.

Disposability is worked into this through the reality of the murders that have occurred in the regions. Pregnant women are not useful labourers as they require maternity pay while not producing consumer goods within the districts.  With the presence of a large number of workers in the area, the individual is rendered unimportant when an employer can just hire a new employee, rather than retaining the existing, promblematic one.

When women are murdered within the spheres of these production zones, the processes the make them disposable are clearer. The disposability of labour is tranfered to the disposability of the labouer’s very life. At the other side of the spectrum, the women are left by the wayside by the state, with its eye on production and amicable trade relations rather than protection of citizen rights. The creation of legal trade zones delimits a space of denationalization for the sake of trade, thus making the status of the people within these areas nebulous and allowing the “displacement of economic frustration onto the bodies of women who work in maquiladoras.[iv]

Citizenship is a powerful concept of belonging. The lack of state protection for problems like invasive questioning, trangressions to worker rights, and an emphasis on female sexuality in maquiladoras, places women into a in-between space of labour that denationalises them.  The lack of citizenship available to these women in the denationalised zones also raises questions about the disposability of their labour and of their lives, all based upon the myth of the disposable third world woman.[v]



[i] Alicia Schmidt Camacho, “Ciudadana X: Gender Violence and the Denationalization Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,” CR: The New Centennial Review 5.1 (2005): 250, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO. 5 Sept 2010 <>.

[ii] Reka S. Koerner, “Pregnancy Discrimination in Mexico: Has Mexico Complied With the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation?” Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights 4.2 (1999): 236, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO. 6 Sep. 2010 <>.

[iii] Koerner 238.

[iv] Jessica Livingston, “Murder in Juárez: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Global Assembly Line,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 25.1 (2004): 60, JSTOR, 1 Sep. 2010 <>.

[v] Melissa Wright, Disposable Women and other Myths of Global Capitalism, (New York: Routledge, 2006) 93.