The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU PhD candidate successfully defends thesis on spatial violence in Juárez, Mexico

9 March 2020

Congratulations to Ricardo Marten who has successfully defended his PhD thesis titled 'Destituent Places, Exceptional Measures: The Codification of Spatial Violence. A study of post-2004 spatial violence in the Juárez Region, Mexico'


Ricardo Marten's thesis is that spatial violence in Juárez emerges through a systemic malfunction of governance that has facilitated its development into an ongoing space of social, political and territorial fracture.

The region of Juárez, right at the border between the United States and Mexico, is a dynamic, global industrial hub and one of the most dangerous areas in the planet. If violence is understood as a fundamental part of the great economy of world history, it helps explains the incongruity that characterises the region: a booming productive area operating in a highly coveted criminal territory. The recent history of violence that has plagued Juárez is not the result of a specific set of events, but is instead an outstanding period in an otherwise continuous trajectory of social turbulence that has intensified at different points in over a century. Although illustrative of Mexico’s endemic socio-political dysfunction, the case of Juárez’s region is also the culmination of a convoluted continental assemblage that, precisely at this point ­– at this territory– reaches a formidable physical end, the border with the United States.

His thesis describes, contextualises and analyses the story of spatial violence in Juárez in its recent past. It relies on a theoretical construction of spatial violence —taking elements from Foucault, Agamben and Latin American scholars concerned with contemporary urban violence, to show how Juárez became a paradigm of the complex and burdensome consequences of politically motivated, unchecked violence. Pressured by its own border dynamic, the Juárez region has remained compromised by an entrenched spatial contestation, imprinted with the grotesque effects of extreme violence and the convoluted codes that have allowed it to happen –through politics, planning and, in the last decade, a gruesome low-intensity war.

This is a case of a territory in flux that has taken form through juridical shape-shifting (in international treaties and agreements that have affected the border itself), and the spatial no-mans-land of contested sovereignties –those which emerge when the administrative jurisdictions that define countries, states and local regions, clash with the temporal regimes of power that distort and appropriate these ‘lines’ outside of the rule of law.