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The Dispossessed of Necropolitics on the San Diego-Tijuana Border

Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí 78385, Mexico
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(6), 91;
Received: 31 March 2020 / Revised: 17 May 2020 / Accepted: 22 May 2020 / Published: 29 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reshaping the World: Rethinking Borders)


This article presents results of a first-hand investigation that took a year of ethnographic work (methods of observation and interviews) during 2016–2017, with the post-structural theoretical framework of Gilles Deleuze, on the United States–Mexico border, in the San Diego-Tijuana corridor. The Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies of the University of California San Diego, PREVENCASA A. C., and Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosi supported this research. In this research, statistical data, observations, and synthesis of in-depth interviews were utilized about those defined as the ‘dispossessed’: users of hard drugs, and/or in homelessness conditions of discrimination in a highly contrasting border such as that of the United States and Mexico. Among the main results are the relations between mental and embodiment limits, necropolitics and territory, as well as the approach of post-structural political discourses about the body and mind that allow us to understand the subjectivities in question, proposing two types of homelessness.

1. Introduction

Critical studies recognize that the most significant challenge for humanity nowadays relates to the environment on a global scale and social equity. Both problems are part of the same process, and colonialist discrimination is its link (Foucault 1996). It is also in highly contrasting borders such as United States–Mexico, where not only does this become visible, but highly specialized and normalized. Necropolitics1, brutal as it is shameful, produce nomadic subjectivities and morbid bodies. Here, the main objective is to make visible hard drug users (HDU) in homeless situations, as these nomad and morbid subjectivities which Deleuze and Guattari (2002) identify as ‘body without organs’ (BWO) and the way they are making part of the border territory.
Applying this category means following a deductive methodology, but also an inductive one, because as an anthropologist, the collection of information is by first-hand about these people and their nomadic use of the border territory. This anthropological work consisted of doing ethnography with indigents or in homeless situations, HDU on the American and Mexican sides. With the help of PREVENCASA A.C. and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), over a year was observed and questionnaires were applied to multiple HDU, including in-depth interviews with eight of them on the Mexican side (seven Mexicans and one American) and two by the American side, in addition to one American activist and two Mexican medical specialists.
To make this deductive association between homeless hard drug users and their daily territorial way of life, this investigation demonstrates results carried out from June 2016 to June 2018 with a post-structural theoretical framework (G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, and M. Foucault; among others). Additionally, statistical data are presented around those who are defined as the ‘dispossessed’: HDU and/or indigents in conditions of hard discrimination, on a highly contrasting border. The condition of this boarder is apparently controlled by two large ‘Molar Structures’2, one being Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and the other being what G. Deleuze defines as ‘sex’.3
Among the main results are links between necrocapitalism, the local subjectivities in question and territory. In addition to this is the post-structural approach of political discourses about the body and mind that allow us to understand these highly discriminated local subjectivities.
The territory to be investigated was La Línea, the international border boundary in the San Diego-Tijuana corridor, around Cruce Pedestre Oeste El Chaparral in the northern part of Tijuana, from 2nd Street to 11th Street. While on the United States side, research focused along the Blue Line of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, which runs from San Ysidro to the San Diego downtown heart: American Plaza.
Between First Street and Third Street of Tijuana, there is a ‘Tolerance Zone’ (TZ). This zone implies that there are about three to five blocks occupied by sex workers, motels, bars, strip clubs, canteens, the sale of controlled drugs without prescriptions in pharmacies, and restaurants. There are also diners with slot machines in which some sell drugs undercover, taco stands, housing type junkyard spaces, changarros,4 mechanical workshops, small food cars, meth street dealers and hidden narcotienditas.5
Instead of discriminating against these people, hard drug users, and/or indigents, we must respect their painful sentimental search despite their dispossessed status. Indeed, they revealed possible ‘Lines of Flight’ (LF) in an ontological search for the construction of a ‘Body Without Organs’ (BWO).6 Exposing divergent capabilities and possibilities of the human being. Beyond the moral question of whether their lifestyle is good or bad, healthy or sick, the truth is that their situation corresponds to what G. Deleuze called BWO. Those are alternative subjectivities to the dominant models revealing divergent mental possibilities, bodily and socially, from which we can learn, overall, considering the immediate future of Western civilization.
At the San Diego-Tijuana border, it was found that for multiple seemingly random reasons, many people live on the streets, as part of a growing problem that is getting out of the hands of the state and local community. In reality, these people reveal the existence of a humanly impacted necrotic border, a highly lucrative ‘necromarket’ as a productive machine of disease, violence, death, and pain.
Far from the idea that the situation of each dispossessed is random, there are structural, social, political, and cultural constants, i.e., the abuse of banned substances, including the two hardest drugs on sale for mass use, heroin and methamphetamine. Another constant is depression and anxiety disorders, constants that have allowed to raise a possible typology of homelessness and/or hard drug users: Dependent Depressives and Obsessive Depressives.
As an introductory way regarding this highly depressive condition, one afternoon in May 2017, an informant who self-identifies as Pinocchio, for his taste of pills and lies, stated:
When I look in the mirror, defeated, don’t I? Like a failure, empty, what’s the right word? …Somebody that has no struggle evicted, somebody that has no battle, no illusions, desolate. Where do I put my eyes, what future do I have, where have I lost the dream? (I’m) little…what I’m going to do. Others maybe do it better; in a particular field that we could be competing, I do not give the fight. Academically I do not have the levels; physically, I am not physical appearance has a lot to desire. I see many reject…I see that many reject me. I am uneased. I find no motivation. I do not recharge my batteries...
The fundamental goal of this article is to contribute, by social science data, to non-discrimination. Following M. Foucault, discrimination is a social, molar and, micropower dispositive7, which has isolated and rejected mental, gender or racial differences, under the idea of health, science, and progress. As it can be read here, hard drug users in homeless conditions are the most isolated and abusive of all.
Briefly, it will also be shown how following the vanguard of neurosciences and sciences, it is possible to corroborate both the concept of BWO and LF, not only leaving possible discrimination behind but also through fieldwork and informants, pointing to limits of neurodiversity and no limitations of the nervous system plasticity.
It seems that the HDU and/or indigents of the Tijuana-San Diego border are examples of an extreme cerebral, desiderative, sentimental, economic, and social plasticity of humankind. This condition under the San Diego-Tijuana border is radicalized. This border can even provoke their challenging situation by particular territorial dynamics of transnational organized crime (TOC) and by what Gilles Deleuze calls: sex.
Not to forget that this border is composed by at least two main national structural conditions that are overlapping two drastically different visions of the world. On one side is rural Mexico, on the other is the hegemonic programmatic8 of North American globalization, another border condition that works as a pot of cultivation for violence, morbidity, and social decomposition—conditions produced necropolitics.

2. About Materials and Methods

The results of the ethnographic research, obtained first-hand through observative participation and the reflexological method (Hammersley and Atkinson 1994), are presented here in a synthetic way. Questions and answers are not presented in detail since, according to the objectives raised here, the important thing is to integrate, in an explanatory manner, the information obtained within the post-structural theoretical framework of Deleuze and Guattari (1997, 2002).
The ethnographic work consisted of coexisting with HDU in homeless situations on both the American and Mexican side. With the help of PREVENCASA A.C. and the University of California San Diego (UCSD), for over a year, multiple dispossessed in different spaces and activities were observed, photographed, and followed in their nomadic routes and surviving activities such as scavenging or sex work. In-depth interviews were also done with eight of the HDUs on the Mexican side, two men on the American side, one American activist and two Mexican medical specialists.

3. In the Purgatory

For the dispossessed Mexicans, to pass to the United States often becomes dystopic not in the conquest of Heaven or Paradise (for Latin American Christians and American hippies, respectively) but of Purgatory. The liberating subliminal possibility of the American Dream meets a boundary. In Baja California, most of the deportees due to heavy drugs, depression and other mental issues are already psychologically dead; they only await the death of their bodies.
The existential project of BWO of the HDU indigent, driven by the programmatic hegemonic, begins as a utopian dream, but having to face multiple adversities results in frustration, depression or some constant anguish that implodes humans who were initially very excited.
Thus, the illusion of being a successful personbody9 transits towards the BWO to finally become a raw material of necropower. They are no longer producing an alternative utopia but death in life. They are purulent bodies dispossessed of subjectivity. Even some of them have been totally dispossessed of their citizen identity, since the police has stripped them of their identifications.
This whole process of losing the idea of coquetting Heaven is coherent with the relentless demand of necromarkets, which permanently constrains illegal migrants to move from Bios to Zoé10 and vice versa in a few cases (Comar 2011).11 Therefore, through dispossessed, the political system can extract financially up to the last drop of highly profitable purulent capital.
For at least 30 years, the river of Tijuana, or as it is known El Bordo, has been a canal of black and gray waters. Still, it is also the place of extremely precarious settlements where HDU and criminals, in search of redemption, are living. That place on the edge of the border is right between the American heaven and Mexican hell. A specialist of PREVENCASA A.C. states it was inhabited between 3000 and 5000 possible BWO until 2015. In 2016, a few of these inhabitants were returned to their states or countries, but many of them dispersed throughout the streets of the TZ of Tijuana and its surroundings. In 2017, at least 2000 indigents living in bad conditions are in the area to this day.
During the last months of 2015, serval intense raids were maid and many of the underground neighborhoods were destroyed. However, inside the black waters bed, the dispossessed still today were digging caves called ñongos, while in the few trees, they weaved with ropes and rubbished their so-called nests. From a study conducted during 2013, it was apparent that 72.6% of inhabitants of this “Purgatory” did not have identity documents and 52.4% had some knowledge of English. Their population was mainly born in Mexico, in Baja California (the local ones), Sinaloa, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, and Guerrero (Albicker and Velasco 2016).
While the intensity of dispossession on the Mexican side is more profound, the truth is that the amount of homeless in the city of San Diego is more significant than in Tijuana. In San Diego County alone, homelessness is a severe social problem, at least since 2017, about 5000 people were calculated in this unfortunate condition, 2000 of whom were temporarily living in some kind of shelter provided by the state or in a borrowed place. The remaining 3000 were permanently on the streets (personal interview with Michael McConnell of Homelessness San Diego Task Force and Homeless Real Humans).
Nevertheless, the problem is growing, for example, in the 2017 census, 392 homeless people were just in the Oceanside zone alone, more than double than in 2015–2016, when their key needs were “34% employment assistance, 31% rental assistance, 28% drug or alcohol counseling and 19% mental health services” (Oceanside homeless count, San Diego Union Tribune 2017).
In fact, between 2007 and 2017, California was the highest-growing U.S. state of indigents, with 16,136 more homeless people. New York reported the second-largest increase with just 3151 more people. Similarly, California reported the largest increase in homelessness, 13,252 people, as well as chronic homelessness, 5996 people (State of Homelessness, End of Homelessness 2018). The numbers along the corridor of this investigation, on the American side, where there are more than 200 assistance homes for people who are forced to live without a home.
The dispossessed on both sides of La Línea share certain characteristics. However, their condition is more insane in Tijuana, as many of them roam the streets with severe purulent wounds exposed. Additionally, some are carriers of a sexually transmitted disease like HIV, as well as other severe physical and mental illnesses. In 2015, there were activist alerts about an HIV epidemic in Tijuana. Today, thanks to the help of organizations as PREVENCASA A.C., the risk of contagion of HIV among the hard drug users and the homeless population has been reduced by up to 40% (interview with the deputy director, Dr. Lilian Pacheco).
Even though living among the streets of Tijuana or San Diego is very difficult, the inhabitants of the purgatory practice diverse techniques to survive. For example, they cover their bodies with a layer of dirt and grease that helps them protect themselves from the harshness of street life, like insects and the weather. Therefore, for many of them, to be addicted to hard drugs is the only way to avoid pain and misery.
Along the San Diego-Tijuana corridor, on the Mexican side, used as Picaderos,12 are some alleys, dark banqueted sidewalks, wasteland, and abandoned houses in different points, located mostly between the long 1st, 2nd and 3rd streets. Some dispossessed also inject themselves along the 16.7 km. of the border board. The hard drug users come to these places 24/7, exchanging syringes and sex.
On the San Diego side, to consume hard drugs and sex, there are hundreds of tents overall around imperial avenue, informal shelters on the sidewalks or under bridges, as well as on the side of the rivers, where there are also extensive amounts of camps. For example, right on the catacombs of the San Diego River on the edge of Fashion Mall, the city’s largest and most luxurious mall, there are constantly camps where recurring homeless consume the trash of the mall and upscale neighborhoods like Mission Valley and Fashion Mall Condos.
Concerning the territory of this purgatory, it is also true that between the psychic life of the dispossessed and their daily activities, there are profound paradoxes, such as that of a free mind in its glimpse of enjoyment, but highly dependent on drugs and their community, in which their lifestyle is possible.
On the Mexican side, the dispossessed places him or herself as an anchor rooted in TZ of Tijuana. They think that only there they can be as they should and want to be. Even after losing their significant other, friends or family, many do not find the courage to leave drugs, alcohol, sex work and return to their homeland, either to Mexico or to the United States. For example, Holly, an American HDU and sex worker interviewed who, even after losing her Mexican boyfriend by methadone treatment, deeply depressed refused to return to her parents, daughter and son in Wisconsin. With a very particular slang, she stated that her boyfriend was killed on purpose at a Mexican government clinic just “because he was a Junkie.”

4. On the Red Edge of a Narcoline

The facts observed in the ethnography might as well be determined by the dynamics of two molar structures: TOC and sex. Both under severe border conditions (an American richness vs. Mexican poverty, a vertical dynamic use of state powers vs. a lack of state) are binding and divergent forces. Both are unconscious attractors of clean money, but also of morbid and necrotic types.
These molar structures (re)produce social grammars and power practices of all taxonomy through discursive metastories13, including racist and elitist narratives, reproducing generic and identity social structures, but at the same time, they are also deterritorializing symbolic codes14. The middle-class is spreading metastories of several Christian Churches and the underground community of crime and drugs, around the cult of the Santa Muerte15, narcocorridos16, and even around sex without protection. The “evil or sick others”, as the middle-class calls them, are always in search of an unlimited enjoyment where the desire is to find pleasure beyond all limits.
By a dialectic between TOC and sex, the necrotic social forces of deterritorialization are precisely tensed. Only certain homeostasis between these structural forces that locally (un)organize the symbolic codes of every inhabitant can produce extreme daily violence, either due to fights between TOC gangs or those given inter and intra subjectively (for example, auto injuries, drug addiction, and assaults with violence, respectively).
According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), TOC includes the following offenses (from minor to most serious): counterfeit goods, illegal gambling, cybercrimes, wildlife and cultural property trafficking, extortion and cobro de piso17, laundering money, drugs, guns and people trafficking, kidnapping, and murder by hired assassins.
Two are the hard drugs that the TOC illegally trade and are severely affecting the border population, particularly the dispossessed. These are the two most potent of all drugs that “jalan pa’rriba o jalan pa’bajo”:18 methamphetamine and heroin, respectively, or as they are known in the streets, crico and chiva, their most lethal use being the injected combination called Spriball to differentiate it from Speedball (cocaine with heroin).
The estimated levels of criminality calculated by the FBI through the Crime Data Explorer indicate that the State of California, from 2007 to 2017, has a rate of criminal violence higher than of all the United States. In the last year, it presents 449.3 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants, while the country is 394.0. To better dimension this high crime and violence, it is essential to know that California is only about 10% of the national population.
According to the United States Sentencing Commission (2017), heroin trafficking occupied a total of 13.8% of all drug-related crimes, displaced in importance to crack that now holds 8.2%, while marijuana has decreased by 14.1%. However, the most-demanded drug that increases during this time, from 19.4% to 36.9% is methamphetamine—demonstrating the particular importance of the trafficking of this drug in the San Diego-Tijuana narcoline. From 2012 to 2017, the Southern California district has always surpassed the list with 659 cases in 2012 and 682 in 2017, demonstrating constant demand and, most likely, continuous production. Unlike that of the other districts that have had increments as impressive increases like the Western District of Texas breaking up from 197 cases to 518 meth-related crimes.
According to the FBI (USSC 2017), it is clear that between 2007 and 2017, trafficking has decreased in the case of powdered and base cocaine, as well as oxycodone. Even marijuana has reduced from 8000 defendants to 2000. However, chiva and crico have been increasing over the same period, the former going from less than 2000 to more than 3000, and the latter from 5000 to 7000 offenders.
Concerning sex molar structure, the number of health cards issued for sex work in TZ of Tijuana was investigated, their number has increased by 70% in the last five years. The numbers in the clandestine context are higher since the 1980s of the twentieth century, when this TZ shrunk.
By the dynamics of TOC and political interests, historically, all sexuality in TZ of Tijuana were suppressed becoming sex (Deleuze 1995). Reading the history of the city of Tijuana, as a Red Zone by the very first time, it seems that far from being a space of liberation from the repressed, it has controlled rules and conditions for high repression.
Along the streets, in plain sight, the women and transsexual bodies offer their services, but it seems to be impossible with them to release tension, exchange affection, or have lasting and positive stimulants. All sex workers live under high time pressure to get more money for them and somebody else. This pressure is higher for a HDU due to their addiction. Furthermore, here the necrocapital micropower revolves around the female body, which TOC is renting for sex. A female sex worker can generate between 1000 and 30,000 dollars per month.
Besides, in general scale, in the era of neoconservatism of President Donald Trump, sex work has diminished every desire of transcendence of the subject. Far away from the sacred sex practice of the past or the Far East, nowadays, sexuality has been reduced to a marketing machine. Prostitution and pornography have entered the privacy of “good homes”. Thus, the TZ far from being an area of tolerance for pleasure, the truth is that it has become emotionally toxic—a part of the necrotic capitalist machine and emotionally toxic.
There is then, in the TZ, negative feedback between the fantasy of achieving sexual enjoyment and emotional depression because it is highly hostile territory for pleasure. Here, the development of the sex industry is tied to TOC. As Han (2014, p. 18) points out in The Agony of Eros: “Love today... is being domesticated into a consumer formula devoid of risk and daring, without excess or madness…all negative feeling is avoided.... today’s love lacks all transcendence and transgression.”
Thus, the sex discourse in Tijuana must navigate between two points. On the one hand, there is the ideology of the small bourgeois of municipal government that promotes Tijuana as a safe city, ideal for so-called sex tourism. On the other hand, Tijuana has broken all of the most brutal records of national violence. It is around this TZ of Tijuana where there have been more deaths and where the largest market of drugs for local and international consumption is located. Thus, in this TZ, such repression is an ideal breeding ground for social breakdowns and violence, where time is money, generating a morbid context from which TOC feed “the authorities” as part of the local necropolitics.

5. The Dispossessed: HDU and Indigence

For the dispossessed, the causes of their misfortune are conducive to death, illness, and violence. According to the multiple interviews done for this research, they highlight the following reasons to be in homeless conditions: economic (rent increase, work layoffs, incapacity to work), medical expenses (disability, severe chronic illnesses), abuse of prohibited or controlled substances, family problems (divorce, runaway from parent’s house), immigration complications (deportation, criminalization), deterioration and loss of personal, family or communal mental health. All of these are causes aggravated by the neglect of the Mexican State. However, on the other American side, it seems by an absence of community making, lack of political coordination between the different agents and agencies of the city of San Diego.
Likewise, in San Diego, the problem did not grow due to lack of money but of land on which to build apartments for indigents, mainly due to the high value of the buildings and the refusal of the neighbors. Although to this, thousands of homeless are already living in apartments in downtown, into wealthy neighborhoods, where payment rents are between 5 and 12 thousand dollars per month for a condo. However, their neighbors never coexist with the dispossessed, nor do they smell their waste deposited on the streets, much less listen to their wails or watch their daily struggle. Rather, these wealthy residents of downtown do not get out of their fancy cars, rushing in and out of their underground parking lots.
While the causes of living on the streets are multiple, becoming a HDU is understandable under these conditions. On the American side, it is clear that the economic pressure is very high, leading people of all ages, whole families, to work double days and still not being able to pay the rent, pushing them to enter the purgatory of the outlawed, the morbid or the criminal, that is, the necromarket. Besides, Alison E. Lee (2018) shows us how the tightening of border security policies has gone hand in hand with further dispossession of the rights and dignity of migrants without official documents.
Family cross-border support is essential for Mexican dispossessed, also a failed state full of corruption, helping them to have a slightly more stable life. However, without cross-border family support, they are in serious trouble. Contrary to the United States, where the state protects property better and also supports homelessness, in Tijuana, there is no perceived state support for them to have a home and work of their own. On the Mexican side, there is much less access to programs of physical and mental rehabilitation and integration into the community. The only help they receive is from less than five NGOs, highlighting Casa Hogar del Migrante of the Chatolic Order of Salesianos and PREVENCASA A.C.
Another big difference between the dispossessed of Tijuana and San Diego is that while the largest internal migration in the U.S. is the one going from the East Coast to the West Coast, they are all people with legal immigration quality. Meanwhile, on the Mexican side, the vast majority of the dispossessed have no identification documents, because stripping them of these is part of Mexican necrocapital device, producing more rapture and outrage than on “the other side.”
According to Mexico’s Secretary of Interior in 2017, there were 166,986 deportees from the United States to Mexico, of which about 80% came by land. They often go from being sublimated humans by the idyllic progress of the American dream to being dispossessed, emptied economically and libidinally, by their circumstances but also by local authorities. Many of the deported dispossessed are forced to give up their profits and businesses in the United States, as well as having to leave their relatives, falling into a severe depression or anxiety to then join the necrotic tissue of poverty and addictions.
Dispossessed are people who, as children, were considered entirely normal. It is in adolescence or early youth, between the ages of 11 and 15, that their personal history invites them, or forces them, to migrate from their place of origin to the USA, initiating through these LF, their body and mind to nomadism. During this migrating time, certain traumatic episodes or genetic conditionings such as dysthymia or deep mental illness are also evident or emerge.
According to interviews, it was found that all of the informants were functional, up to a certain point of breakdown, a mental frontier, from which all presents mental symptoms, mainly depressive ones, either of self-critical or dependent type. It has even been reported “…to the dimension of self-criticism as the most relevant, and even, as the only predictor of depression (...) and other clinical tables, such as eating disorders and anxious pictures” (Dagnino et al. 2017, p. 84).
Thus, from their place of origin, the dispossessed are already a BWO. Throughout their early life, they were not a trace19 (Deleuze and Guattari 2002) of the personbody model since their childhood. They refuse to produce economic gains for the market. Exploring their LF, they refuse to be mere repetitions of building exploited life forms, announcing as immature migrants new limits of body pain, but also of willpower.
For the dispossessed, it is highly enjoyable but pernicious the search for enjoyment, given its effects of insensitivity to pain and isolation against making community. While in the vast majority of subjectivities, the most intense pleasure without limits, Lacan’s Jouissance is a mere desire or awareness of its inaccessibility. With the dispossessed, it is possible, and it is believed to be an experiment by fleeing in pursuit of its morbid and deadly fantasy. However, it is true that the immanent condition of the Being is to overflow itself (Simondon 1980). Humans will never be able to recognize the last frontier, between pleasure and Jouissance.
Thus, it is not that the dispossessed cannot build subjectivity, but that they do not seem to achieve a certain balance between their inner world and external conditions. More precisely, the BWO of the dispossessed produces so much friction and emotional shocks that it creates a callus between feeling and thinking, doing and knowing, losing all possible ratios between the chaos of their daily life and their hyper-ordered self-critical thinking.
Paradoxically, the necrocapitalist process has the body of the dispossessed living utterly free in the streets, but their minds and libidinal energy alienated. They lose any possession, official identity, and self-steam, but their body walks freely. Thus, the dispossessed on both sides of the border have different losses of very diverse degrees and types have been gradually or suddenly stripped of all property.
The crumbling bodies of the hard drug users are the clearest example of an impacted territory. What they once had as their own is being taken away or merely stopping their agency, to invest desire in it. While the necropolitic state drains them one by one of their properties, their citizenship, and human possibilities, they are criminalized, and thus, not only they are isolated, but they are robbed of their human and citizen quality.
However, how is it possible that the dispossessed endure so much pain and discriminating signs of multiple people every day? The only rational and reliable response found is the BWO, this existential process of being suppressed from the Oedipus, of the Social Order, this force of denial of the personbody dominate and hegemonic model. The BWO is not a simple bodily modification, as suddenly as the postmodern conservative multiculturalism presents. It is an alternative civilizing project, the ontological antithesis of the personbody, that is, the sum of the internal contradictions of the latter body model and dominant subjective.
What can we say of the shame at exposing their fragility of their nuda vida (Agamben 2003) to which the state throws them out by declaring them non-citizens, not beneficiaries of services, solely for their mental, financial or racial health problems? How is it that the community has also invisibilized them to the point of normalizing their misfortune? It is the very same logic of madness, in which the apparent reason discriminates all non-functional mental capacity to the capitalist production mode20. Necropolitics first declaring mental illness as radically adverse to health and good manners, then isolating it, holding them in psychiatric clinics, in prisons, in special schools, and so-called rehabs.
When madness is economically necrotized, obtaining gains from their pain and suffering, the social agent is frozen. The society demeans him, or her, of any functional proposal, dispossessing them from being a worthy form of human life. Nevertheless, precisely, the concept of BWO and the whole philosophy of Gilles Deleuze goes in a different direction, in understanding that there are long-term LF, through which most of the illegal migrants move with their dignity away from the dominant subjective model, away from the Oedipal ideology.
Thus, giving a scientific response to the pain of HDU in homeless situation involves rethinking the whole social order in its relationship with mental states and community-making. Both of these are aspects that contain discrete social preconceptions, far from reality, but very useful for the development of necropolitics.
For the dispossessed instead of death as an end—for the Liberal State and themselves, they are already dead in life—it remains a significant misfortune: painful and gradual exploitation. From the common sense of Trump’s neoconservatism and even from the progressive government of San Diego, the process of dispossession is the product of bad personal decisions. Nevertheless, contrary, it is the expression of a specific way of making a border territory, perhaps the most radical and liberal of its chances: the wild west of the American Mexican frontier.
The dissolution of personbody and their body organization in the neoliberal production mode begins at least from the 1960s. When made evident in Europe and high-class segments of the United States of what Suelly Rolnik, following Brian Holmes, calls flexible personality, which is the product of subjection policies characterized by intense cultural hybridization, provoking “the dissolution of every hierarchy on the world map of cultures and the impossibility of any stability that, in principle, would mean the end of any illusion of identity” (Rolnik 2018, p. 2).
The limits of the subject start blurring at least since those student struggles of the sixties. Among those generations, they begin to find LF on a massive scale and what in the nineteenth century was the only privilege of the delusive romanticism of the nobles and artists, spread to other planes of intelligence and sensitivity, to other population groups with modest economic level.
Thus, for the dispossessed, the utopia of the American dream becomes a necrotic dystopia. As a genealogy of European and American Capitalism, homelessness in California is more integrated into society, even though this implies a dissolution of personality and identity. It is rationalized as part of this flexible subjectivity’s historical development, typical of its liberal governments and population, with a very different attitude than that of conservative ideology of Mexico.
Unlike San Diego, there is no government institution in Tijuana required to give specialized care to hard drug users or indigent people with other mental disorders. It does not even matter if, in addition to living on the streets, they are HIV positive or have some other severe transmissible disease.
According to interviews in Tijuana with staff from the Hospital de Salud Mental Angel García Vazquez, neither the Health Sector nor the Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), are forced to take the homeless from the streets and provide them some support. The police only take them when they are “acting seriously against morals,” them being naked or delusive by physically attacking other people, taking them only if they are not too dirty, but just to release them once again immediately. Alternatively, they pick them up when they are buying or using drugs, taking away their valuables, their identifications; beat them up and drop them back on the streets.
This stripping of official identity and self-esteem, commonly done by municipal and federal police, is a vital part of the dispossessed apparatus. Likewise, it is also done with sex workers around the red zone. They are the prey of discrimination for economic exploitation. Both bodies are stigmatized to legitimize their removal, their dispossession, and once again put back on the streets to sell sex and buy drugs.
In Tijuana, there are many hard drug users, especially vulnerable women, who are one step away from a meth and/or heroin abstinence crisis. They roam the touristy Avenida Revolución, not only to ask for money but to also shout insults or delusive speeches ordered by specific mental commands. Besides, unlike the Americans, Mexican indigents roam around showing more pain and misfortune; it can be seen among their ripped clothes large wounds on their legs and arms, caused by injections and abscesses that produce sores, rashes, and purulent blood.
Currently, it is the police and the judicial bureaucracy that best alienate this necrotized condition of not to be considered a personbody by the state. They are the ones who profit the most from this justified discrimination. Indeed, worried specialists denounce21 that necropolitics are the result of the fall of the liberal capitalist project, but this is erroneous. It is not only concerning the overexploitation of goods but also of bodies and the workforce. Such as the declaration of War Against Drugs (pushed by Mexican president Felipe Calderon or American president Richard Nixon), which to this day has only corroborated that prohibiting sexuality and drugs, benefits no one but a few bureaucrats and, for the most part, those of the judicial and police systems. The current taboo on the sex market and drugs only prepare the territory for the emergence of a neoconservative anatomopharmacopolitics22 (Preciado 2002), by neurochemical control which is more discriminatory than morals and religion.
The dispossessed from all over the world and history are far from showing the end of every human possibility or the effectiveness of moral punishment, demonstrating what G. Simondon (1980) identifies as the overflowing condition of Being, that is, the human being always advances beyond it limits, transforming bodies and mentalities—although necropolitics disguises dispossession as a logical consequence for being subversive, ignorant, tacky, ‘fucked up’ or mad.
This need to transcend, to overflow outside of oneself, to overcome their precarious and violent conditions, the dispossessed on the Mexican side call it “dream” or “hope” and identify it with migration to the United States. This migration can even be understood as a rite of passage between confraternities of men. Always this same impulse of the Being, to be in better conditions, is fed by limitless unconscious love, in this case to hard drugs and sex, but consciously restrictive by indigence and dispossession.
There is then a cluster of neurophysiological symptoms that are structuring a syndrome; these are due to depression, anxiety, sadism, and masochism. There is a morbid unconscious pleasure in the subject due to depression and pain caused by the constant and intense reflection of their losses.
Hard drug users and/or indigents of the San Diego-Tijuana border transform their bodies and minds, both in genetic (inheriting weak, stressed, or strengthened organs) and epigenetic terms, drastically altering the organicity of their organs. An act that falls into the category of a BWO but that in the case of dispossessed, is a failed BWO apparently, far from the strength required by their alternative existential project. The dispossessed body is an already deterritorialized territory, that is, a body without roots, not only to the floor but to itself. It is a body full of memories that haunts them, but that is already without history. They are making memories but without events. Therefore, they are a personbody with no energy and without organicity.
For example, at Fashion Mall, San Diego’s most expensive mall, was spotted an immense man. Despite a large amount of mud on his skin and clothes, it could be seen that he was Caucasian with certain mental disorders. In addition to his uneven appearance, nothing else would be strange except that in both legs lived flashy ferns, already fully integrated to his body, curious purple rhizomes about 5 cm long, shaking to the slight breeze that enveloped us. It is probably then that, in some cases, the existential challenge of the BWO of some homeless people, at least on the American side, is their total integration into the natural world, by the way one of the most common hippie drug users’ utopias.
In many cases, the body of the dispossessed has lost a sense of location. It is insensitive for moments and parts, emptied of life becoming depressed and hypersensitive, without vital organicity, no dreams to fulfill, no goodwill to sublimate, no hope to live. In fact, in both depression and anxiety, self-criticism is fierce, as is the loss of social ties and self-inflicted violence—from ripping out hair, cutting the skin leading to suicide—mental conditions, which lead the subject to self-destruction through the way of un-structuring their mental abilities (Rojas Hernández and Aviña Cerecer 2009). The dispossessed, with a neurochemistry addiction to methamphetamine and/or heroin, are living in an intense and decadent career of self-inflicted violence, only understandable from the redeeming sense of a masochistic delirium.
From the anatomopharmacopolitical of necrotic power, the dispossessed are highly profitable bodies; far from gradually dying, their humanity is erased, but their bodies are producing profits for drug dealers and corrupted policies. Slowly, the callus starts to get purulent, internal organs, family memories, and mental logics are corroded. Their bodies and minds start falling apart, but obviously at the cost of pain that does not give in. Likewise, demonic and divine voices do not cease to demand and insult them and others. Their memories hurt, so it is better to be erased. For example, Gloria, a mature HDU sex worker around fifty years old, was deeply depressed by her memories of the way her daughter rejects her and to see herself so lonely. With no social guarantees, no family, no friends—no one, even to speak in confidence.
Indeed, many dispossessed are victims of abandoned families, where abuse and cold violence flourished with boundless passions, including abuse from one or both parents, who, on several occasions, were also a generation with strong addictions to alcohol or crack cocaine. For example, Regina from Tijuana is the third generation of an addicted family, all around her, father, grandfather, aunts, cousins, boyfriends, all were under crico and/or alcohol effects, of a childhood full of all kinds of limitations: educational, emotional, economic, and political.
Thus, as a consequence of two or three failed personbody model generations, the sibyl’s overflow, more precisely implodes, towards the non-containment of any subjective border. Out of any sentimental attachment, consistently dead and reborn, the youngest dispossessed only see their own and family life go by.
Finally, in this chapter, two more contradictory games of the same HDU cluster and/or indigent are presented. First is that while self-criticism is the most constant in them, they hardly reconsider doing things differently. Secondly, while they lose the limits of all logic, they are usually strictly handled by a limited map. In their daily life, although they have a mind without limits, they strictly know the places, times and, reasons for their survival: where to go, at what time, with what sense, with what purpose, with what person. They are people of strong habits. Thus, study subjects were identified as chronic indigents due to a large number of times they were located in the same place, about the same time, doing the same thing. Therefore, they have a daily nomad life but living inside a limit circle or repetitions.
They travel their route with excellent precision every day. They are ubiquitous minds very well located in a repeated, constant territory, that of self-criticism to infinity, and beyond, but always aware of the territorial resources that they can and cannot access.
It is also true that they all have their place on the floors of the streets, under the bridges, under some streetlight, at the foot of some gate, their squat, plus a hole in the wall or on the floor in which they keep (un)significant memories.
Thus, the failure of the homeless and/or HDU is not a lack of territoriality sense but the very sense of a limit, so they are trapped in a traveling circuit, they are nomad migrants of the mind and nations, but always around their small urban circuit.

6. Conclusions

In this article, the reader could corroborate the central hypothesis by the offered methodology: most of the HDU indigents or in homeless conditions, by both sides American and Mexican, are indeed a part of necropolitics of neoliberal capitalism. The market already absorbed all these people under its logic of profits and interests. The dispositive of power that dominates them, the main dispositive of necropolitics is an anatomopharmacopolitical one.
Transnational crime organizations and sex, in Deleuzian and Han terms, are the two molar structures that, as a one-way tunnel, are leaking inside constantly more bodies to a necrotic situation. At the same time, under the micropower of subjectivity, the desires and conditions of being put these bodies in what G. Deleuze, after A. Artaud, identifies as Body without Organs or BWO.
So, here, it was deconstructed the political and economic mechanism of production of BWO on the San Diego-Tijuana corridor, detecting their peculiar and rare textures at a social and personal scale. These necrotic social nets and human bodies are produced, at least, by three essential objective conditions. By one side, we have a frontier situation produced by at least the economy of two drastically different nations, the United States and Mexico. Another condition is the search for a kind of black plusvalia, one that is produced by deaths, drugs, assassins, lack of governance by the Mexican side (corruption, lack of justice) and vertical American use of justice.
Furthermore, the other structural condition is those subjective forces that G. Deleuze identifies as masochism: a symbolic, psychological and physiological condition where the subjectivity renounces to exercise their volition, their desires of his or her own. Differing their passions, their identity to what J. Lacan defines as Other a23, in this case, are heavy drugs and the search of Jouissance: pleasure beyond all limits.
After this research, it is clear that this is not a moral or juridical question. Hard drug users and/or in homeless conditions are not the effect of their lazy character and sick mind. They are people that, since they were young, were in search of better human conditions, following the American dream and on the American side, the Californication way of being. Both kind of HDU are producing an anorganic (lack of organic organization) body condition. Their organs are not under the logic of a classical force work body; in search of their Jouissance, their organs have different functions. Pain and pleasure are thresholds for them that are beyond normality.
Another cause for this subjective and territorial border condition is the utopia of making dreams come true, the condition of violence and hunger in their origin places, but also the hunger for money and the flexible personality subjectivity model.
Therefore, as most social scientists could define, the person could not stand above economic and political constrictions even more to this kind of deep emotionally unconsented force. To discriminate against these people only by their lifestyle and vulnerability, it is the real sickness of our times. By necropolitics, neoliberal capitalism is producing subjectivity either for having a healthy and wealthy life or for a poor and twisted one. The United States–Mexico extreme frontier conditions oversight these differences. Leaving by one side, not just economic richness and the other poorness and misery, but discriminated politics and citizens by one and dispossessed not-citizens by the other.
On a personal scale of mind and personality, how is this all possible? The truth is that only in the deep piety of masochism, of a Sacher Masoch (Deleuze 2001), can all this make sense. Every masochism is a libidinal movement because it implies experience—more often failed than achieved—of one unit composed of two, like a hinge, it is a blind and unconfessable unconscious desire for absolute surrender to oneself but only through another. It is an unreserved delivery to One other24, more precisely, without any sense of limits between one and another; this is the power that generates and pushes the dispossessed beyond their limits.
It seems that the outlawed world of the indigent hard drug users is, directly and indirectly, proportional to that of their enjoyment, resulting in two types of dispossessed BWO according to their depression, the self-critics, who manifest greater self-inflicted violence. Hence, their pleasure is indirectly proportional to their jouissance, and those of the dependent type, who to increase their jouissance, extend their dependence with the Other. For the HDU dependent type, this is more than obvious, because their “I” is sublimed entirely by the Lacanian Object a, while in the self-critical type the masochist enjoyment has been densely elaborated from reason and fantasy. In both cases, there is no longer a project of life; we are not dealing with an alternative counterculture, but in the vertices of an emerging (de)culture of gradual self-destruction, in a border context of drastic political and economic contrasts.
The dispossessed are empty beings by saturation of themselves, religiously with no more faith, alienated, living the catastrophic tunnel effect25 of suicide, obsessively directed towards object a, which turns out to be something or someone as particular and unreachable—for example, the return to the US for deportees or the desire of being treated as a formal bride by a transgender sex worker—ideals easily replaced by hard drugs. Their surrender to the Other is such that only in their self-denial, in their self-sacrifice, they find their jouissance, hence their self-inflicting violence.
In this BWO, it is not the breaking of taboo that gives it pleasure, as in the case of the Functional Perverse, but the search for Jouissance that produces taboo, reintegrating that lack of pleasure and justice to the market as necrotic tissue. This is what hooks them with the idea of absolute love, then to prohibit, differentiate, and distance them—rejecting even their humblest offerings and their cross-border gestures of unconditional love.


This research received no external funding.


This research was accomplished as Visiting Scholar at the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies of the University of California San Diego with the support of Professor Daphne Taylor García and also with the collaboration of PREVENCASA A.C. in Tijuana (especially of the Technic Alfonso Chavez and Subdirector Lilian Pacheco). I must recognize the trust of all the HDU informants on both sides of the border, as the collaboration of Researcher Margarita Valencia Triana of Colegio de la Frontera Norte and Michael McConnell of Homelessness San Diego Task Force and Homeless Real Humans. And last, but not least, I want to recognize Ariana Serna for her translation aid. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their support.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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The connection with the study of necropolitics has been of course Marxism and Critical Theory via A. Mbembe (2008) but also Valencia (2010) and Estévez (2018). Once the necrotic devices and control gore have been identified, discrimination here is presented as the best soft political weapon that ensures the continuity and permanence of colonialism as well as the hyper-exploitation of the neediest.
Molar structures are those that structure and are structured by a set of social structures. G. Deleuze places them as true forces in motion of transhistorical order of the being. The molar is supported by multiple political devices and material conditions that are interweaving tensely, from all scales (not to be confused with the macro), in a large amount of organic and inorganic matters (Deleuze 2010, p. 75).
Meaning something that “... can only exist as ghosts that ... change and completely distort (sexuality), like shameful thing...” (Deleuze 1995, pp. 6–7). In other words, far away from any moral judgment, the sex market on the Corridor San Diego-Tijuana under structural conditions, as TOC and violence, is unpleasant, compulsive and stressful.
Markets where you can find the basic commodities for standard people.
These are little bunkers where you can find all kind of narcotics, specially marihuana, crack, crystal and heroin.
About these two concepts BWO and LF, Gilles Deleuze clarifies about LF “Men ceaselessly make an umbrella for them, on the underside of which they trace a firmament and write their conventions, their opinions; but the poet, the artist, makes a cut in the umbrella, tears the firmament itself, to give way to a little of the free and windy chaos and to frame in a sudden light a vision that arises through the ripping ... Those lines of light are the lines of flight through which to escape the landscape and its supporting meta-discourses” (Deleuze and Guattari 1997, p. 204). About BWO, it is the kind of body that results from the application of certain LF, especially, those that change the logic and organization of relations between mind and body or the function of certain organs. Driving those LF can produce or be produced by what psychology identifies as mental illness, drug addiction, anxiety or depression, between other flamboyant ideas and daily conducts.
M. Foucault (1996) commonly uses this term to show the various institutional, physical and administrative mechanisms and knowledge structures, which enhance and maintain the exercise of power within the social body.
Hegemonic Programmatic is a political category coined by Antonio Gramsci that refers to the class ideology that dominant groups try to impose on other classes as the only valid and possible one. Currently, this programmatic is Postmodern Multiculturalism.
The BWO (Deleuze and Guattari 2002) is the ontological antithesis of the personbody model, it is the sum of the internal contradictions of it, which is a dual and Manichean model, composed of a good and metaphysical soul at the same time as a physical flesh body, decadent and sinful. Personbody that has an ideal body shape to be desired. A model that denies obesity, and equally, with a certain idea of being a unique person that denies any extreme movement of pleasure or anorganic dislocation.
Agamben (2003) states that Classical Greeks distinguished a domesticable life by social politics, the Bios, from one outside of all human order: Zoé.
One of this few cases who pass from Zoé to Bios is Scott Comar, a survivor from a heroin addiction and indigent conditions. After a spiral of progression downward in the Ciudad Juárez and El Paso border corridor, from 1998 to 2003, Comar was able to emerge as a “new” clean person and make an auto-ethnographic PhD. Sharing his difficult history of redemption “in the hope that someone would be able to develop a deeper understanding of what addictive patterns are all about” (Comar 2011, p. 200). Indeed, this is the goal.
A place where people go to “get high”, usually to shoot up heroin or Spriball.
A Metastory is a concept proposed by J.F. Lyotard (1987) with which he gives account of social and political stories that structure a large number of stories. For example, the story of the French revolution, or here in Mesoamerica, the myth of Quetzalcoátl. Both discourses were the norm and are still norming ideologies, behaviors and fantasies of a very diverse nature since a long time.
To deterritorialize, another Deleuze category (Deleuze 2010), basically refers to a social process of lost symbolic meanings. This comes from the idea that the process of reproduction of sense is correlative to process of appropriation of space.
The Santa Muerte is an idol in Mexican and Mexican-American folk Catholicism. An embodiment of death.
Those are songs dedicated to a certain Drug Dealer or to different gangs.
This is a colloquial word for extortion, criminals demand the payment of quotas to the merchants in order not to kill or torture them, burn their business or to kill their customers.
Jalan pa´rriba y pa´bajo is Mexican slang referring to a drug trip, in the sense of whether it makes you feel excited and euphoric (pa rriba) or sleepy and drowsy (pa bajo).
A concept that can be translated to a human repetition as a tracing on carbon paper.
Mode of production as a category of Dialectical Materialism, that means, the way goods and human population are produced.
For example, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Stiglitz and Alan Greenspan, are known for a critical view of free market fundamentalism and globalization. “Or as President Obama and the World Economic Forum of January 2012 addressed among others the widening gap between the rich and the poor” (Goede 2012). Yet, it is not an error in the system but a logical consequence of it, necropolitics, as reproduction of poverty and violence, it is part of a free market. Even more today with an intensification of extractivism of commodities at a global scale.
The original term was coined by B. Preciado (2002) in Spanish, anatomofarmacopolítica, which refers to a political control by a biosociopsychological power.
Refers to the object of desire as a person or thing. The a it´s from un autre in French.
It seems that the dependent HDU homeless has their sense of limits blocked, no border contains them, but paradoxically, they are very limited in their territory.
Tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision with retaining of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like to depression or anxiety.

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Aviña Cerecer, G. The Dispossessed of Necropolitics on the San Diego-Tijuana Border. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 91.

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