The Maquila Complex: Reification, Disposability, and Resistance in Maquilapolis: City of Factories

Edward Avila (Minnesota State University, Mankato)

Abstract

This article considers the ways in which the documentary Maquilapolis: City of Factories (2006) critically represents social reification under post-NAFTA maquiladora-led industrialization in Tijuana, Mexico, particularly as it relates to the production and circulation of myths of female obsolescence, disposability, and waste under the neoliberal (b)order. Drawing from the Marxist concept of reification, I demonstrate the ways in which the film largely overcomes the limitations and dangers associated with reified narratives and images that, unwittingly in many cases, rehearse myths of female disempowerment, victimization, and patriarchal dependency in the context of neoliberal industrialization in Tijuana, Mexico. Through a skillfully rendered combination of documentary modes of representation, with particular emphasis on narratives of personhood and human sensuousness, Maquilapolis captures the intersecting politico-economic, social, and cultural forces underwriting the proliferation of anti-female terror. In analyzing the narrative strategies deployed in the film, this article discusses how the film engages with the limits and risks associated with reification, including the naturalizing of social inequalities and the so-called immutable and ineluctable laws of neoliberal development in the context of gendered violence occurring within that peculiar neoliberal spatiality referred to here as the “maquila complex.”

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