Subject Area



This dissertation is a study of how people experienced and gave meaning to the violent conflicts that transformed the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands from a multipolar region into one dominated by two modern nation-states. As multiple imperial and national projects converged here between 1821-1890, borderland violence became a central way in which local people interacted with and participated in nation- and state-making. Using archival evidence from both sides of the modern border, I examine how borderlands people used gendered, racialized, and familial ideologies to organize, understand, and politicize these conflicts as well as to reckon their shifting positions within emerging nation-states. With the right ideological help, borderland violence made the abstractions of nationalism and state power intimately real for local people. These discourses were also key tools in mobilizing the local manpower and resources required for making war and creating and maintaining social hierarchies. Alongside varying forms of coercion, they created and legitimized political power at the grassroots level. Thus, I show how the ideologies and institutions of the nation-state emerged within pre-existing networks of kinship, community, and exchange.

Degree Date

Spring 5-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name





Neil Foley

Second Advisor

Edward Countryman

Third Advisor

Crista DeLuzio

Fourth Advisor

Erika Pani

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Wednesday, May 06, 2026