The Border Experiences Project (a.k.a. SOAP) began in about 2006 as a research effort to begin learning about the unique features of sexual abuse and sexual offense in the US-Mexico border region, from the Department of Psychology & Anthropology at the University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg, Texas. The research at first focused on the area of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), one of the busiest and most culturally vibrant areas of the US-Mexico border. However, our overarching research direction was always defined by a focus on border experiences, defined more broadly.
People whose lives and experiences fall on borders or boundaries have always experienced unique challenges and presented unique opportunities for understanding human existence.
Due to my interests in these dynamics dozens of bright, committed students have gravitated toward the BEP, sometimes working with us for several years and sometimes for only a weekend. Since 2014 the BEP has relocated to a different border: the US-Canada border, near Lake Erie, not far from Buffalo, NY.
We are interested in studying the experiences of humans existing in various “border” states:
- Borders between nations
- Spaces between the “cracks” in the legal system
- Boundaries between our conceptions of abuse, consent, and individuality
- Intersections of cultural conceptions of blame, responsibility, harm, and punishment
- Overlap and distinction in cultural identities
Beginning in the summer and fall of 2016 the BEP began to explore borders of sexual preference, identity, and experience as they intersect with sexual coercion and victimization. This avenue of research was driven largely by a “generation” of SUNY Fredonia psychology students who saw uncertainty and opportunities around them and in the research literature.
The BEP has been involved in several separate but related data collection efforts. Our team is usually between five and fifteen people, mostly undergraduate volunteer research assistants, though we have sometimes had help from graduate students, as well. We spend our time in the cycles of research projects: conceptualizing, hypothesizing, designing studies, working out the ethics, collecting data, analyzing data, and disseminating our research.