Jill Williams

About Jill Williams

Dr. Jill Williams (PhD Clark University 2013) is a feminist political geographer whose research explores how state actors and agencies negotiate shifting national and transnational responsibilities and the implications these negotiations have for differently situated populations.  Since 2007, her research has addressed these issues through the lens of contemporary border and immigration enforcement policies, primarily in the US southwest. 

Research Interests

Dr. Williams's dissertation research drew on nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork to understand state responses to unauthorized migrant deaths along the US-Mexico border and the implications these discursive and policy shifts have had for unauthorized migrants. In doing so, this research traces the humanitarianization of contemporary border enforcement and highlights how seemingly transnational frameworks of humanitarian intervention serve to uphold the territorialized logics of state sovereignty and political subjectivity upon which border enforcement efforts are founded.  This research illustrates how the incorporation of humanitarian discourse and policy into contemporary border enforcement efforts serve as a mechanism of border enforcement and render unauthorized migrants increasingly insecure.  Her current research focuses on contemporary struggles over immigrant family detention in the US, unpacking the political and affective economies shaping when, if, and how families are detained and the implications these processes have for those both within and outside detention centers.   

In addition to her scholarly research, Dr. Williams is also the Director of the UA Women in Science and Engineering Program.  In this capacity, she develops and implements outreach and student engagement opportunities that aim to increase interest and diversity in the fields of the social and natural sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.  More information about WISE can be found at wise.arizona.edu

Selected Publications

Forthcoming, July 2015. Jill M. Williams. “From Humanitarian Exceptionalism to Contingent Care: Care and Enforcement at the Humanitarian Border.” Political Geography. Currently available online.

Forthcoming. Jill M. Williams. “The safety/security nexus and the humanitarianization of border enforcement.”  The Geographical Journal. Published online 24 November 2014.

2014. Jill M. Williams. 13 January. “Intervention—The Spatial Paradoxes of ‘Radical’ Activism.”  http://antipodefoundation.org/2014/01/13/the-spatial-paradoxes-of-radica...

2013. Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro. “Feminist Geopolitics: Unpacking (In)Security, Animating Social Change.” Geopolitics.  18(4): 751-758.

2013. Jill Williams and Geoffrey Alan Boyce. “Fear, Loathing and the Everyday Geopolitics of Encounter in the Arizona   Borderlands.” Geopolitics. 18(4): 895-916.

2013. Vanessa Massaro and Jill Williams. “Feminist Geopolitics: Redefining the Geopolitical, Complicating (In)Security.” Geography Compass, 7(8): 567-577. 

2012. Geoffrey Boyce and Jill Williams. “Intervention—Homeland Security and the Precarity of Life in the Borderlands.” Antipodefoundation.org http://antipodefoundation.org/2012/12/10/intervention-homeland-security-...

2011. Jill M. Williams. “Protection as Subjection: Discourses of Vulnerability and Protection in Post-9/11 Border Enforcement Efforts.” CITY: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, 15(3-4): 414-428.

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Contact Information

Jill Williams
Assistant Research Social Scientist & Director of the Women in Science and Engineering Program, Southwest Institute for Research on Women
Telephone: (520) 626-9152
Office: 202a GWS Building, 925 N. Tyndall Ave.


2013 PhD, Geography, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA

2008 MA, Women's Studies, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

2003 BA, Political Science and Women's Studies, Bates College, Lewiston, ME