The Right to Light: Visibility and Government in the Rio Grande Valley Colonias

Michal Braier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Examining the Right to Light campaign carried out by colonia residents in south Texas, this article analyzes the relationship among three axes: the effects of the Valley’s urban geography on the grassroots struggle of marginalized citizens to install streetlights to attain material illumination and security; the ensuing visibility of these citizens to governing apparatus and their increased susceptibility to mechanisms of management and control; and, finally, the production of political visibility in the public sphere through collective action. I show how struggles over distribution of regional and national resources, social recognition, and political participation not only give shape to concrete spaces but also shape how colonia residents understand their own subjectivities as a concerned public. Considering the relationship between materiality, visibility, and power, I argue that the problem of darkness is deeply connected to racialized distinctions between citizens and immigrants, between legality and illegality, and between those who deserve to be part of the urban community and those who are obliged to stay outside its boundaries. Key Words: concerned publics, political visibility, streetlight infrastructure, Texas colonias, U.S.–Mexico border.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1208-1223
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 by American Association of Geographers.


Dive into the research topics of 'The Right to Light: Visibility and Government in the Rio Grande Valley Colonias'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this