Arming the Environment, and Colonizing Nature, Territory, and Mobility in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

  • Adriana Provenzano Independent Scholar
  • Joseph Nevins Vassar College
Keywords: coloniality, empire, mobility, nation, political ecology, socionature


In 2009, the U.S National Park Service instituted tours accompanied by armed guards to areas of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which abuts the U.S.-Mexico boundary in southern Arizona. These areas, like the majority of the park’s lands, had been closed to the public since August 2002, following the shooting death of National Park Ranger Kris Eggle—allegedly by drug smugglers from Mexico. The re-opening reflected the U.S. Border Patrol’s and National Park Service’s “retaking” of parts of the park that had been “lost” to unauthorized migrants and drug traffickers. This manuscript explicates the tours’ origins, illustrating how they connect present and past in relation to the making of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as a territory of “nature.” In doing so, the manuscript shows that the militarized tours (which ended in September 2014, with the entire park’s re-opening) are the understandable extension of the park’s doubly colonial logic—as imperialized/settler colonized space and as the embodiment of a stark division between humans and nature. Overcoming such violence and facilitating the thriving of humans and other-than-humans in the space of OPCNM requires a reworking of “nature” and territory—as well as of the associated human identities.

Author Biography

Joseph Nevins, Vassar College
Department of Earth Science and Geography, Professor


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How to Cite
Provenzano, A., & Nevins, J. (2019). Arming the Environment, and Colonizing Nature, Territory, and Mobility in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(2), 456-485. Retrieved from