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Marginalization, Facilitation, and the Production of Unequal Risk: The 2006 Paso del Norte Floods

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Drawing upon insights from the field of urban political ecology, this article extends the critical hazards concept of marginalization by incorporating a relational focus on facilitation. Facilitation connotes the institutionally mediated process that enables powerful geographical groups of people to minimize negative environmental externalities and appropriate positive environmental externalities in particular places, with unjust socioenvironmental consequences. The article demonstrates the utility of a marginalization/facilitation frame for understanding the production of unequal risk based on a case study of the 2006 El Paso (USA)-Ciudad Juárez (Mexico) flood disaster. The case study reveals how uneven developments have produced complex sociospatial patterns of exposure to flood hazards and how processes of facilitation and marginalization have created socially disparate flood-prone landscapes characterized by unequal risks. The paper concludes by outlining how the frame presented helps clarify understanding of the production of unequal risk.

Keywords: USA–Mexico border; hazard; marginalization; risk; urban political ecology; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Texas at El Paso, USA;, Email:

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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