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Air Mobilities on the U.S.-Caribbean Border: Open Skies and Closed Gates

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Abstract:

The convergence of intensive human mobilities, offshore financial flows, and new forms of border surveillance make the Caribbean a crucial region in which to study how emerging forms of electronic data, mobile communication, and information flow are respatializing borders. The growth of tourism, the opening of free trade zones, and the expansion of transmigration between the United States and the Caribbean are one side of the picture of mobility in the region. On the other side, we find a grimmer panorama: the ongoing Cuban trade embargo, the problems of drug and gun smuggling, illegal immigration, and the continuing deaths of Haitian refugees at sea. In this article the author presents a preliminary model for understanding the contested mobility regimes along the U.S.-Caribbean “Third Border,” envisioned as an uneven and multifaceted space of connectivity and barriers that is currently undergoing complex transformations, both material and rhetorical. It draws on empirical examples and photographs of recent travel to Haiti, in particular, to highlight some of the disparities in Caribbean travel. The analysis shows how the Caribbean region is currently undergoing reconfigurations of territory, sovereignty, and material infrastructure that are informed by rhetorics of “open skies” and open trade (liberalization) which claim to increase mobility, but are in fact associated with material practices of border securitization and increased immobility, including refugee interception, migrant detention, and the militarization of air space.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10714421.2010.525469

Affiliations: Department of Culture and Communication, and Mobilities Research and Policy Center, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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