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  • Binational Commons: Institutional Development and Governance on the U.S.-Mexico Border ed. by Tony Payan and Pamela L. Cruz
  • Ines M. Miyares
Tony Payan and Pamela L. Cruz (Eds.)
Binational Commons: Institutional Development and Governance on the U.S.-Mexico Border. The University of Arizona Press, 2020. xiv + 401 pp. Figures, maps, tables, notes, references, contributor biographies, index. $100.00 cloth (ISBN 978-0-8165-4142-3); $35.00 paperback (ISBN 978-0-8165-4105-8); $35.00 e-book (ISBN 978-0-8165-4201-7).

What is governance, and how should local, state, and national governments and institutions govern a border region? Binational Commons is an edited volume that results from a workshop in 2016 that brought together scholars from multiple disciplines to examine the complexities of governance of the U.S.-Mexico border region. It seeks to define what governance is, and to identify the formal and informal institutions at the national, regional, and local level that create and implement policies that govern this region. The book has twelve chapters divided into two parts, as well as an introduction and conclusion. The first part consists of three chapters that provide a framework for institutional development along the border, and the nine chapters that comprise the second part examine formal and informal governance in various contexts. The goal of the book is to demonstrate the need to govern the transborder region as a transborder region, and not as territories in two distinct countries.

In the opening chapter, Sergio Peña sets the spatial framework for examining governance, particularly of a transborder region through the paradigmatic lenses of positivism, structuralism, [End Page 213] and postmodernism. He provides a rich literature review of geographic theorists who have addressed the question of governance, and he links their work to the ideas that will follow. Payan and Cruz follow with a chapter that discuss the various ways in which the border has been defined, whether in legal terms or by institutions responsible for the region. They present the logistical challenges of governing a region that is viewed differently by national, state, and local governments on both sides of the boundaries between them. There is no unified definition of what constitutes the border region or how to delimit its area, making it difficult to create and implement policies essential to effectively govern. They argue that a unified definition will be essential to address the social, economic, health, and environmental needs represented along the border. James Gerber and Jorge Eduardo Mendoza Cota close out Part I with a review of available data sources for conducting transborder research. They list the strengths and limitations of current data sources, identifying data gaps, and propose five ways in which data collection agencies in both countries could or should collaborate to be able to effectively analyze transborder concerns.

Victor Daniel Jurado Flores and Cecilia Sarabia Rios open Part II with an actor-network analysis of the institutions actively involved in governing the transborder region. This is a unique chapter in the book in that it is the only one that presents an analysis of data. They examine collaborations among actors at the local, state, and national level, analyzing the centrality, closeness, and betweenness of the networks. Manuel a. Gutierrez and Kathleen Staudt follow this by putting a “face” on these actor networks. They examine the governance of the commons, and how the various levels of government attempt or avoid cooperation. Through a review of newspaper articles and voter participation, they argue that the most effective transborder governance occurs at the local level by communities on both sides of the border, regardless of state and national policies and rhetoric.

Natural environments in border regions are truly binational commons, especially since nature does not recognize national borders. Irasema Coronado and Stephen Mumme review the history of transborder management of environmental commons and critically analyze the agencies and programs that have sought to collaborate and strategize to steward the wildlife and ecosystems of the region. Eva M. Moya, Silvia M. Chavez-Baray, and Miriam S. Monroy follow this with an analysis of border region health-care provision. They examine both health-care access on each side of the...


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pp. 213-215
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