The Politics of Narrative: Law and the Representation of Mexican Criminality

65 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2014

See all articles by Deborah M. Weissman

Deborah M. Weissman

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: November 4, 2014


Popular narratives often develop in tandem with and within the law and legal discourse. They are both cause and consequence of public mood. This Article addresses the emergence of widely held perceptions of the “Mexican-as-criminal” and Mexico as crime-ridden violence society. It analyzes the narrative as it bears on public policy, national interest, and the formulation of law.

The Article examines the discursive framework of the Mexican-as-criminal at the transnational, national, and local level. It considers how the political use of such constructs act to shape immigration policies through the construction of law that is, in turn, constitutive of the narrative. It then explores alternative uses of the discourse often by well-meaning advocates who avail themselves of the perception of Mexico as a nation of drug violence as the rational for asylum claims. Finally, the Article appraises shifting paradigms: from Mexican-as-criminal (bad neighbor) to Mexican-as-economic (good neighbor) and considers whether this divergence promotes legal policies that serve to foster social inclusion.

The Article concludes by suggesting the need to re-examine the narratives in order to determine who benefits and who is harmed, and ultimately whether the narrative produces a usable framework to understand and resolve the political economic structures that produce violence in Mexico and improve the status of Mexicans in the United States.

Suggested Citation

Weissman, Deborah M., The Politics of Narrative: Law and the Representation of Mexican Criminality (November 4, 2014). Fordham International Law Journal, Forthcoming; UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2519332. Available at SSRN:

Deborah M. Weissman (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-5108 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

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