Skip to main content

Rihan Yeh

Straddling linguistic and sociocultural anthropology, Rihan Yeh’s research focuses on the effects of the US-Mexico border on public life in Tijuana, Baja California. Her first book, Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City, uses the close analysis of texts and interactions to show how Mexican senses of self and collectivity take shape in relation to both the promise of passage across the border and the threat of prohibition it incarnates. Currently, she is at work on a second book about visual exchanges at, around, and across the border, while simultaneously exploring new interests in urban and transborder mobilities.


PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Chicago (2009)


2018 Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Research Articles/Chapters: 

2018 Three Types of Traffic in Tijuana: Heteronomy at the Mexico-U.S. Border. Public Culture 30(3):441-464.

2017 On the Possibility of Imagining an Open Border. Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 40(2):295-310.

2017 La Racha: Speed and Violence in a Mexican Border City. Signs and Society 5(S1):53-76.

2017 Visas, Jokes and Contraband: Citizenship and Sovereignty at the Mexico-U.S. Border. Comparative Studies in Society and History 59(1):154-182.

2016 Hankins, Joseph and Rihan Yeh. To Bind and To Bound: Commensuration Across Boundaries. Anthropological Quarterly 89(1):5-30.

2016 Commensuration in a Mexican Border City: Currencies, Consumer Goods, and Languages. Anthropological Quarterly 89(1):63-92.

2015 “La calle es un río”: El público de los (narco)corridos como “el pueblo.” Revista Colombiana de Antropología 51(1):79-107.

2015 “Deslices del ‘mestizo’ en la frontera norte,” in Nación y alteridad: mestizos, indígenas y extranjeros en el proceso de formación nacional, ed. Daniela Gleizer and Paula López Caballero. Mexico: UAM-Cuajimalpa: Educación y Cultura.

2012 Two Publics in a Mexican Border City. Cultural Anthropology 27(4):713-734.

2009 “We’re Mexican Too”: Publicity and Status at the International Line. Public Culture 21(3):465-493.


PDFS available at:


Honorable Mention, Gregory Bateson Prize, Society for Cultural Anthropology

From the jacket of Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City (The University of Chicago Press, 2018):

Tijuana is the largest of Mexico’s northern border cities, and although it has struggled during the United States’ dramatic escalation of border enforcement, it nonetheless remains deeply connected with California by one of the largest, busiest international ports of entry in the world. In Passing, Rihan Yeh probes the border’s role in shaping Mexican senses of self and collectivity. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, Yeh examines a range of ethnographic evidence: public demonstrations, Internet forums, popular music, dinner table discussions, police encounters, workplace banter, intensely personal interviews, and more. Through these everyday exchanges, she shows how the promise of passage and the threat of prohibition shape Tijuana’s communal sense of “we” and throw into relief long-standing divisions of class and citizenship in Mexico.

Out of the nitty-gritty of quotidian talk and interaction in Tijuana, Yeh captures the dynamics of desire and denial that permeate public spheres in our age of transnational crossings and fortified borders. Original and accessible, Passing is a timely work in light of current fierce debates over immigration, Latin American citizenship, and the US-Mexico border.

For an interview on the book, see: