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Benjamin Merrill

Benjamin Merrill
  • Social Sciences Building, Room 210
    9500 Gilman Drive #0532
    La Jolla , California 92093-0532

Ben Merrill is a second-year graduate student in Psychological & Medical Anthropology studying asylum seekers’ experiences of transit migration, detention, and deportation-resettlement amidst constantly-shifting landscapes of immigration law in the United States and Mexico. His work complicates understandings of transnational migration by asking how transit as a structurally-determined mode of experience continues far beyond geographic poles of ‘destination’ and ‘arrival’. This framework facilitates consideration of how notions of risk, precarity, and inequality are juxtaposed to those of belonging, solidarity, and humanity. In what ways is citizenship used as a means of managing difference? When the possibility of securing asylum is threatened in unprecedented ways, how are ideas of citizenship and belonging renegotiated?

This research operates on both structural and experiential registers. First, it attends to how emergent formations of violence and care are embedded within projects of citizenship-formation. Second, it asks how both aid workers understand their moral obligations to help and how asylum-seekers’ legal trajectories are intertwined with those of health and well-being. How is justice and the right to health enacted in an era where ethics and politics stand so clearly in opposition?

Ben completed a double major in Medical Anthropology/Psychology with a Public Health at Creighton University (B.A. 2018) prior to joining UCSD’s Anthropology Graduate Program. While living in Omaha, he conducted clinical and ethnographic research with faculty in both of his home departments. He additionally has served in health-advocacy leadership roles for both PIH Engage and Active Minds. He has a passion for praxis-based global health education, and welcomes all inquiries pertaining to the above-mentioned topics.

His research interests include embodiment and subjective experience; refugee and migrant health; global mental health; emotion and affect; anthropology of morality and ethics; state-making, citizenship, and governance; phenomenology of transit and mobility.