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9239 - Exploring agency in South-South mobility: border crossing practices of Nicaraguans in Costa Rica

Despite a growing interest in borders as social institutions constructed through multi-level power dynamics, often border studies still lack an actor-oriented approach that explicitly focuses on human agency. This is especially the case with migrants’ complex yet overlooked border crossing practices that constitute South-South mobility. Leaving aside human agency frequently leads to victimization or criminalization of these migrants and tends to obscure the ways they take part in the process of constructing, reproducing and negotiating borders. This paper aims to contribute to an actor-oriented approach towards South-South mobility by exploring the border crossing practices of Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica. It analyzes the way migrants choose to cross the border legally, the way they avoid to publicly display their Otherness during their stay in Costa Rica, and the way they overstay their 30-day visa without putting in danger future possibilities to leave or return to Costa Rica. These border crossing practices shed light on the enduring importance of borders as constructs of division, contradiction, and chance. They highlight the significance of migrants’ ability to make strategic use of mobility for shaping their translocal livelihoods. This emphasis on migrants as actors struggling with both the restrictions and the opportunities of borders allows for a more comprehensive approach towards South-South mobility.

Keywords: border practices, translocal livelihoods, South-South temporary migration, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

Author: Winters, Nanneke (Institute of Development Policy and Management, Belgium / Belgien)

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