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Keywords:

  • political economy;
  • gender;
  • Mexico;
  • ethnography.

This paper combines ethnographic research with discourse analysis to discuss how the protests of women sex workers in downtown Ciudad Juárez also represent protests against a larger urban economy that valorizes the disappearance of women from urban space. In Ciudad Juárez today, these disappearances are taking place as women and girls vanish from the publicity regarding progress in the maquiladora industry. The disappearances occur as more women and girls are kidnapped and murdered, and the disappearances occur as the police remove sex workers from the downtowns of border cities long famous for prostitution. While these different types of disappearances are not equivalent—to be denied access to public space is not the same as to be kidnapped and murdered—they are knit together through a discourse deployed by the city's political and corporate elites that equates the removal of women from public space with urban development and industrial progress. By combining ethnographic research with discourse analysis, and Marxist with feminist critique, I am following the lead of several geographers who regard discourses as “sociospatial circuits” that are productive of urban, economic, and cultural landscapes. This approach allows for an analysis of how the women sex workers' efforts to reappear in public space represents a protest, with potential for creating political alliances with other activists, against those invested in generating value from the disappearance of women across the Ciudad Juarez industrial and urban landscape.