Yolanda Valencia (she/her/ella)

Ph.D., University of Washington, 2019

Assistant Professor
211-K Sondheim Hall
phone: (410) 455-6242
Office hours: n/a (on research leave 2022-2023)


Research Interests
    • Geographies of Latinx migration (development and displacement, borderlands, citizenship, illegality, mobility)
    • Critical geographies of race (Latinx geographies, black geographies, racial states, racial capitalism, geographies of survival and well-being, epistemologies of the South)
    • Latinx feminist methods and theory (anti-colonial methodologies, border thinking, epistemic disobedience, feminist political economy, feminist geopolitics, Chicanx theory)

Google Scholar

Recent Research Activities

My work focuses on understanding how those made illegal by the law – undocumented Mexican immigrants, and Mexican immigrants in general – experience risk and produce safe spaces as they navigate displacement in Mexico, and segregation & multiple borders in the US. More specifically, my research program focuses on the political economy of migration and mobility, urban inequalities, and epistemologies of the South. I provide a detailed analysis of how processes of colonialism, modernity, bordering, and immigration law have impacted agrarian communities in Mexico and Mexican immigrants in US cities, and in turn how immigrants themselves resist by adopting and readopting epistemologies of the South (knowledge and wisdom that value conviviality, solidarity, and life and have existed in the Global South, but have been marginalized by Western domination) to produce communities of thriving in the context of their everyday lives in the US. Employing mixed qualitative methods and drawing from various literatures, including migration and urban studies, feminist political economy, critical development studies, Indigenous theory, Latinx geographies, and Black geographies, my research addresses questions on three related research themes: 1) Development and displacement, 2) Racialization of space and criminalization of race in the urban US, 3) Surviving (and thriving) under racialized conditions in cities of the US. My most recent work focuses on immigrants residing in the US-North West, most of whom work in the food industry, I look forward to applying a similar analysis in the context of Latinx immigrants on the East Coast – in Maryland.

While my current research emphasizes intimate community organizing in urban settings of the US, one of my future research projects will focus on the ways in which the elders (and the community) left behind currently organize in rural places in Mexico, in collaboration with immigrant communities in the US, to confront inequalities in health and well-being. Unfair trade policies and waves of violence produced by the war on drugs in the past twenty years have negatively affected agrarian communities and towns in Mexico. Most young people migrated to the US and have not returned, leaving their elders behind in the community. In its focus on elders, this research uncovers another layer of intimate violence that is produced by political and economic global processes of displacement, colonizing national borders, and immigration law. But I will also examine how people create and organize as a community both at local and transnational scales and uncover how epistemologies cross-national colonizing borders.

Recent Publications

2023 González Mendoza, Y. (2023) ‘Relationality as Resistance: Dismantling colonialism and racial capitalism’ in Lawson V., Elwood S., Daigle M.,Gonzalez Mendoza Y., et. al. In Abolishing Poverty: Towards Pluriverse Futures and Politics. University of Georgia press

2023 Lawson V., Elwood S., Daigle M., Gonzalez Mendoza Y., et. al. In Abolishing Poverty: Towards Pluriverse  Futures and Politics. University of Georgia press

2023 Elwood S., Lawson V., González Mendoza, Y., Reddy, Ch. (2023) ‘Introduction’ in Lawson V., Elwood S., Daigle M., Gonzalez Mendoza Y., et. al. In Abolishing Poverty: Towards Pluriverse Futures and Politics. University of Georgia press

2022 Vasudevan, Pavithra, Margaret Marietta Ramírez, Yolanda González Mendoza, and Michelle Daigle. Storytelling Earth and Body. Annals of the American Association of Geographers. DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2022.2139658

2022 Zaragozin, S.; Ramirez, M; Garcia, M.; González Mendoza, Y. ‘Intervention – LatinX and Latin American Geographies: A Dialogue’ Antipode

2020 Valencia, Y; Rodriguez-Sylva, I; Lucero J.A. ‘The Fight for Human Rights Begins at Home’ NACLA

2019 Valencia, Y. “An Immigrant in Academia.” In Grieving Witnesses: The Politics of Grief in the Field, edited by Gillespie Katie and Lopez Patricia, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019

2019 Valencia, Y. (Review) Alanís Enciso, F. 2017. They Should Stay There: The Story of Mexican Migration and Repatriation during the Great Depression.  Translated by Russ Davidson. The Journal of Latin American Studies, 2019

2017 Valencia, Y. “Risk and Security on the Mexico-to-US Migrant Journey: Women’s Testimonios of Violence.” Gender, Place & Culture, July, 1–19

2017  Valencia, Y. “Lo Que Duele Es Que La Gente Lo Cree: What Hurts Is That People Believe It.” Journal of Latin American Geography 16 (2):183–86

2016 Hashimoto, Y., Ramírez, M. M., Valencia, Y., and Wideman, T. (2016, March)    Collaborative Blog Post: The RPN at Urban Color-Lines: Thinking through inequality, democracy and a politics of hope


2023 Relational Life: Legal Death. Geography Speaker Series. Rutgers University. February 2023

2021 The Necropolitics of the War on Drugs and COVID19: How the Global Hurts the Intimate. GES Department Seminar.  University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). March 2021

Keynote Speaker

2021 Embracing Change by Holding on to Traditions that Keep us Grounded.  Torch Ceremony. McNair Scholars Program.  UMBC. Virtual. May 2021

Conference Presentations

2023 Comunalidad: Epistemologies from El Rancho. Weaving anti-colonial theory and praxis. American Association of Geographers. Denver, CO. March 2023.

2022 Relational Care: An Antidote to Legal Death. The Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas. Tepoztlán, Morelos Mexico. Summer 2022

2019  Inmigrante Indocumentado: Trans-border politics of thriving in the midst of racial structural inequalities. Knowledges from the South. Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Washington DC

2018  Micro-communities of resistance. Paper presentation in Mesa Redonda (round table) format at “First International Assembly for Community Development Across Borders.” Oaxaca, Mexico

2018  The Potential of Community Building Projects. Paper presentation at the “Saberes Sin Fronteras” (Knowledge Without Borders) Symposium. Seattle, WA

2018  Understanding How Undocumented Mexican Immigrants Thrive in a Place Where They Are Not Supposed To Survive. Latinx Geographies. Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. New Orleans, LA

2018  Displaced Migration and the Meaning of Land. Land and Liberation. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. New Orleans, LA

2017  Implications of the Trump Administration on Mexican Immigrants’ Life in the US.  Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Boston, MA

2017  Decolonizing the Home: Placing Mexican Immigrants’ Home. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Boston, MA

2017  Challenging White Privilege in Academia. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Boston, MA

2016   Boundaries, Exclusion, and Alliance Politics. 11th Annual Critical Geographies Mini-Conference. University of Washington, Seattle, WA

2016  Insecurity Across Borders and its Material Consequences on Immigrant Women’s Health. 13th Annual Western Regional International Health Conference.  University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Recent Honors and Awards

2022-2023  Antipode Foundation Right to the Discipline grant “A ‘Latinx Geographies Specialty Group’ In-Person Writing Retreat in Los Angeles.” (10,000) Granted: June 21, 2022. Co-applicant and participant for this grant

2022-2023  Career Enhancement Fellowship, by Mellon Foundation’s Institute for Citizens & Scholars ($35,000). UMBC. Announced May 18, 2022

2022  Excellence in Research and Creative Achievement Award, “In recognition for her outstanding research contribution in the study of immigrant communities.” Latinx and Hispanic Faculty Association (LHFA), UMBC. October 14, 2022

2019  Ullman Award for Outstanding Dissertation Work, Geography, University of Washington

2019  Graduate School Medal Finalist, University of Washington

2019  Sherman-Gerlach Doctoral Fellowship, Geography, University of Washington

2018  Howard Martin Medal for Achievement in Scholarship, Teaching and Service

2017  GO-MAP Dissertation Writing Grant, University of Washington

2016  APCG Women’s Network Travel Grant

2014  Ullman Award for Outstanding Master’s Work, Geography, University of Washington

2016 2013 Howard Martin Award for Fieldwork

Courses Taught

Qualitative Methods in Geography, Geographies of Migration, Latin American Geographies,  Geographies of Global Inequality

Study Abroad Courses in Oaxaca, Mexico

Community Development Across Borders, Food Sovereignty and Migration