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Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre Arts


Alison McKee


Border, Coyote, Film, Immigration, Liminality, Trickster

Subject Areas

Film Studies; Latin American Studies; American Studies


This thesis examines how the role of the coyote, a person who smuggles undocumented immigrants from Mexico into the United States, exemplifies, through film, the characteristics inherent in the Trickster archetype of mythology. Viewing the coyote as a Trickster sheds light on the inherent complexity and ambiguity found in most immigration films as well as in the concepts of hybridity and liminality. Each chapter analyzes the coyote based on six distinct character traits: a guide into a liminal state, a guide to chaos and change, shaman, as invincible or above God, as a cultural hybrid, and as a force to break the Self/Other dichotomy.

Anthropologist Victor Turner's study of liminality, the middle stage between cultural transitions, has been applied to film studies and immigration extensively. The focus of such research is generally on the role of undocumented immigrants as liminal beings. This state of being “betwixt and between” in Turner's terms can be attained through the coyote's knowledge of English and Spanish and of American and Mexican culture and customs as well as the way the character straddles the lines of legality, morals, and ethics.