Home / Program for Transborder Communities / Events / Past Events

PTC Past Events

Walls, Bridges, and the Future of Transborder Communities: II International Workshop on Transborder Governance and Cooperation

March 23-24, 2017



A chain of recent events, starting with Brexit and continued with the unforeseen triumph of Donald J. Trump in the United States presidential race, seems to mark the beginning of a new stage for society, the economy, the environment and politics on a global scale. While incipient, the emergent future is challenging established notions of not only free trade, but also multiculturalism, human mobility, knowledge society, international cooperation, and the rescaling of the nation-state as pillars of an increasingly globalized world. These historic events also brought new challenges for the idea of a US-Mexico transborder region predicated on principles of integration, cooperation, and shared governance.

Motivated by an interest in understanding the challenges and opportunities resulting from the current political context and aware of the necessity of examining paradigms and concepts that have been used for decades to shed light on the complexity of border realities in North America and Europe, a group of international scholars and practitioners met recently at ASU to discuss these issues.

On March 23-24, Alejandro Lugo, Director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University welcomed the participants to Walls, Bridges, and the Future of Transborder Communities: II International Workshop on Transborder Governance and Cooperation. This workshop was made possible through the collaboration of the ASU Program for Transborder Communities, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef), the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD) and the Mexico Center at Rice University Baker Institute in partnership with the International Network on Comparative Border Studies (RECFronteras).

The workshop gave participants the chance to deliberate theoretically and empirically whether integration and transnational forms of governance resulting from globalization are the manifestation of deep structural processes and not only events that can be undone by nationalistic tendencies in Western Europe and the United States. In the context of the United States-Mexico borderlands, the workshop participants discussed how the rise of nationalism in the United States is shifting the ground upon which transborder communities interact across the border and the prospect of cross-border cooperation. They also looked at the history of United States-Mexico relations in recent decades for lessons about the capacity of border communities to absorb and adapt to sudden and disruptive change. Of particular urgency for universities in North America and Europe was examining what kind of research agenda could contribute more effectively to narratives interpreting borders and transborder communities as a resource for development rather than a threat to national security and economic prosperity.

The interdisciplinary workshop was successful in providing some answers to these pressing questions. The workshop was structured in four sessions over two days with keynote lectures, presentations and discussion. During the first session, José Luis Valdés Ugalde (UNAM/CISAN), Josiah Heyman (University of Texas at El Paso), Enrique José Varela (Universidad de Vigo), Christophe Sohn (University of Luxembourg) and Emmanuel Brunnet-Jailly (University of Victoria) discussed whether extant cross-border flows, multiculturalism, and integration are the results of structural processes at global scale or just processes that can be unraveled by resurgent nationalisms in Europe and North America. In the second session James Gerber (San Diego State University), Yamilett Martínez (Comisión Sonora Arizona), Pablo Wong-González (CIAD), Francisco Lara (Arizona State University), Sergio Peña (El Colef/Ciudad Juarez Norte), Manuel Valenzuela (UNISON) and Miguel Ángel Vázquez (UNISON) explored the prospects for change and adaptation of the United States-Mexico borderlands, in light of Trump’s administration enunciated new policies and actions regarding migration, trade, and border control. Bringing together the perspective and expertise of regional community leaders and practitioners, the third session provided a realistic yet forward-looking assessment of the challenges and opportunities for transborder communities under an unexpected and fluid political context. Participants of the session included Denise Moreno Ducheny (University of California, San Diego), Patricia Escamilla-Hamm (RECFronteras), Rosío Barajas (El Colef/Tijuana), Tony Payán (Mexico Center), Doris Marie Provine (Arizona State University) and Casandra Hernández Faham (CALA Initiatives). The fourth session consisted of a round table that examined whether theoretical perspectives prevalent in the field of border studies remain relevant in the current context and whether there is need for new theoretical perspectives. The round table brought together the expertise of Lynn Stephen (University of Oregon), Marco Bellingeri (Universita di Torino), Kimberly Collins (California State University, San Bernardino) and Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez (Arizona State University).  The participants had ample opportunity during the two-day workshop to present and discuss their latest research. They also spent a substantial amount of time assessing the current state of knowledge, identifying opportunities for theoretical and methodological refinements to address current challenges to the field of transborder studies and discussing the coordination of future research and the communication of results to non-academic audiences.

The results of a two-day discussion were summarized in a joint session that identified future research needs and opportunities for cross-border projects and collaborations. Xavier Oliveras (El Colef /Matamoros) and Brendan O’Connor (ASU) facilitated the joint session. The general coordinators of the workshop were Rosío Barajas (El Colef), Francisco Lara (ASU), Tony Payán (Mexico Center) and Pablo Wong (CIAD).


International Workshop on Transborder Governance and Cooperation
February 18th & 19th, 2016 | Tempe, Arizona


Arizona State University’s (ASU) Program for Transborder Studies (PTC) within the School of Transborder Studies hosted a co-sponsored workshop to examine the status of research on border governance and cooperation and its connection with policy-making and other forms of regional collective action from February 18-19, 2016 on the ASU Tempe campus. 

The overall goal of the workshop was to examine the “knowns and unknowns” of border governance and cooperation, both in theory and practice, and identify approaches and tools to fill existing knowledge gaps. The workshop sought to expand the understanding of the obstacles and challenges to cross-border governance and cooperation, find innovative and effective ways to bridge and eliminate such barriers, and contribute to the discussion of the creation of new institutionalities that are needed to support the growth of transborder communities towards regional economic development, sustainability, and enhanced quality of life.

The workshop participants emphasized the ways in which collaboration among practitioners, policy-makers, and academia become more socially-embedded and consequential. Participants included invited speakers, panelists, and discussants to cover topics, such as: transborder innovation systems, cross-border megaregions, the power and rationality of borders, regional identity, Europe’s regionalisms, migration policy, border security, regional economic development, and partnership building and collaboration across borders.

This workshop was made possible through the collaboration of Arizona State University, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef Tijuana) and the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD  Hermosillo) in partnership with the International Network on Comparative Border Studies (RECFronteras).  

Growing with Equity in the Sonora-Arizona Region
Seminar of Transborder Human Development
April 20th, 2016 | Hermosillo, Mexico

Binational Seminar Emphasizes the Importance of Putting Human Development at the Center of Economic Integration in the Arizona-Sonora Border Region

The ASU School of Transborder Studies (STS) co-hosted the Seminar of Transborder Human Development on April 20 in the City of Hermosillo. The seminar in Hermosillo is the third of a series of four forums seeking to facilitate an open dialogue between scholars, policymakers and civic leaders engaged in understanding and finding strategies for a more interconnected, prosperous and equitable Arizona-Sonora border region.

Entitled, “Growing with Equity in the Sonora-Arizona Region” the seminar included panels, a round table and keynote presentation providing different viewpoints on how to take advantage of economic complementarities and interdependencies while addressing unresolved quality of life issues in the region. Panelists included researchers from El Colegio de Sonora, Universidad de Sonora, Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and representatives from the State Government of Sonora, Sonora State Legislature, City of Hermosillo, and the Sonora-Arizona Commission.

Pablo Wong, General Director of CIAD, underscored the difficultly of translating economic growth into human development, but challenged participants in the seminar to think creatively and leave behind “business as usual” approaches to regional development. “Nogales is the point of transit of 60% of Mexican exports of produces to the United States”, he said, so “why don’t we take advantage of this and create in Nogales an industry transforming fruits and vegetables into high-value food commodities that could bring better jobs while diversifying the regional economy”

The universities represented in the this seminar, he added, are “convinced that one of the most effective ways to translate economic growth into human development is innovation, either if you want to attract new investments to the region or you want to transform existing regional industries into highly productive enterprises”.

“I can feel in a very vivid way that the relationship between Sonora and Arizona is heading in a very positive direction” said Yamilett Martinez, Executive Director of the Comision Sonora-Arizona. However, she noted, “building a sustainable engagement with Arizona requires collaboration across sectors and the participation of universities with studies in issues that are relevant for the economies and people of both states”.

The Sonora-Arizona border region provides unique opportunities to engage in collaboration leading to economic growth and development. Armando Ceseña Salido, Sonora’s Undersecretary of Economy explained that “these opportunities arise from “geographical proximity and the complementarities that exist between Sonora and Arizona”. 

“In this time, the world is increasingly seen as regions rather than nation-states, and in the case of Sonora and Arizona there are some complementarities that we can use to promote manufacturing and trade” noting that Arizona’s innovative and dynamic industries complement the human capital and logistic potential of Sonora.

The city of Hermosillo is also taking steps to become an active player in all forms or collaboration with Arizona. As explained by Roberto Ruibal Astiazarán, Hermosillos’ Economic Development Director, “in the past we had few and very informal relations with Arizona and we are working to change that with more institutionalized and meaningful mechanisms”. A part of that transformation, he added, “is the creation of an Office of International Affairs and the engagement in collaborative efforts to promote Sonora’s Indigenous Cultures in Tucson and to facilitate a study of the regional economy conducted by faculty of Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC) and Sonora State University (UES). Roberto Ruibal Astiazarán encouraged all the universities participating in the seminar to develop indicators of economic performance and integration that can be used by businesses and policy-makers on both sides of the border.

Most of the participants in the seminar acknowledged that even when the relationship between Sonora and Arizona is much more friendly and open nowadays as it was a few years ago, there are still many challenges to create a balanced, resilient, and sustained development model for the transborder region. Part of the challenges result from the lack of understanding on how to transform complementarities but also regional differences in the engine of a development model lifting standards of living on both sides of the border while closing existing income, educational, and wellbeing gaps. 

On a more optimistic note, ASU Associate Professor Francisco Lara-Valencia said he sees a slight improvement in quality life indicators in Mexican border communities vis-à-vis US border communities, mainly because the expansion of basic infrastructure in Mexican border cities and the growth of poverty levels in the US in 2010. But that doesn’t negate the huge disparities in quality of life between the two countries that is derived mostly from “uneven development trajectories” Lara-Valencia said.