Immigrant Entrepreneurship and the Politics of Urban Revitalization

Across the US, community-based organizations are leaning on the idea of entrepreneurship to empower low-income minority and immigrant communities. Beginning in the spring of 2018, this project is an ethnographic evaluation of a Spanish-language entrepreneurship training program that examines how organizations and individuals understand and enact entrepreneurship as they seek to strengthen and empower communities that are often peripheral to narratives of urban revitalization. Through participant observation during entrepreneurship trainings, interviews with participants and program leaders, and the development of a digital storytelling curriculum together with a former trainee, this project aims to evaluate the impact of entrepreneurship while amplifying the voices of participants. This project has been supported by a grant from the Rackham Program in Public Scholarship and the University of Michigan School of Social Work

In the Shadow of the Beast: Infrastructures of Undocumented Migration through Mexico

In July of 2014, as unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied minors reached the US-Mexico border, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced plans to intensify policing along the network of railway commonly known as 'La Bestia' in the name of protecting young people. That month, I began what would become 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in and around migrant shelters that provide humanitarian aid to Central Americans transiting without authorization through Mexico. My research traces the fallout of this murky politics of care and coercion. I examine what it means to  defend human rights of people who are navigating the intersection of humanitarian bureaucracies and the micropolitics of human smuggling. I follow the stories of men and women as they recuperate from gunshot wounds and the trauma of kidnappings, seek formal humanitarian recognition, and go about rebuilding their lives. Moving between participant observation in migrant shelters and workplace ethnography in working-class communities throughout Mexico, this project traces how the politics of violence and care in spaces of transit inform understandings of humanitarianism, illegality, and policing in an era of unparalleled human displacement across national borders. Support for this project comes from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the University of Michigan.

Related Publications: 

1. Doering-White, J. (2018). “Evidencing Violence and Care Along the Central American Migrant Trail Through Mexico” Social Service Review.  92(3), 432-469.

2. Doering-White, J. (2018). “The Shifting Boundaries of Best Interest: Sheltering Unaccompanied Minors in Transit Through Mexico.” Children and Youth Services Review,

Undocumented Migration Project

Since 2012, I have collaborated as a member of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological study of undocumented migration between Mexico and the United States that uses ethnography, archaeology, and forensic science to better understand this clandestine social process. Together with Jason De León and other colleagues, I have helped to coordinate an ethnographic field school in Chiapas, Mexico and participated in ethnographic fieldwork along the US-Mexico border. As part of this project, I have also collaborated with the documentary filmmaker Raul Paz Pastrana as a field producer on his film Border South, which traces the shifting politics of immigration enforcement throughout Mexico (www. 

Related Publications 

1. Doering-White, J., Frank-Vitale, A., De León, J. (2017). “Death and Disappearance along the Central American Migrant Trail” in Fatal Journeys, Volume 3. International Organization for Migration. ( [Policy Report]

2. De León, J. García, E., Undocumented Migration Project, (2016). “A View From the Tracks: U.S. Policy is Effectively Hiding the Suffering of Undocumented Migrants.” Sapiens. [Photo Essay]

3. Grabowska, S., Doering-White, J. (2016). “(Re)Collecting the Crossing: Material Memories of the Sonoran Borderlands” in Excavating Memory: Material Culture Approaches to Sites of Remembering and Forgetting. Starzmann, M. and Roby, J., Eds. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press. [Peer-Reviewed]

The Community Impact of Immigration Enforcement

Between 2012 and 2014 I collaborated with a team of researchers and activists connected with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Our analysis of interviews conducted with the spouses and children of individuals who had recently been detained and/or deported speak to how immigrant enforcement reverberates within families and throughout communities, as well as how families express resilience in the wake of separation. 

Related Publications

1. Lopez, W.D., Horner, P., Sanders, L., Martinez, R., Doering-White, J., Delva, J. (2018). “Raising children amid the threat of deportation: Perspectives from undocumented Latina mothers” Journal of Community Practice. 26(2).

2. Doering-White, J., Horner, P., Sanders, L., Martinez, R., Lopez, W.D., Delva, J. (2014). “Testimonial Engagement: Undocumented Latina mothers navigating a gendered deportation regime” Journal of International Migration and Integration. 17(2), 325-240. 

3. Horner, P., Sanders, L., Martinez, R., Doering-White, J., Lopez, W., Delva, J. (2014). ““I Put a Mask On” The Human Side of Deportation Effects on Children” Journal of Social Welfare and Human Rights. 2(2), 33-47. 

4. Delva, J., Horner, P., Sanders, L., Martinez, R., Lopez, W.D., & Doering-White, J. (2013). Mental health problems of children of undocumented parents in the United States: A hidden crisis. Journal of Community Positive Practices XIII(3), 25-35.