04 March 2008 ~ 0 Comments

The Politics of Waiting – Asylum

There’s a really good discussion on asylum circulating one of my academic listserves. Not many know that I study critical geography and subaltern studies, and there is some space in those fields to speak about immigration. The perspectives and philosophy is unlike what one would hear in the mainstream media or even blogosphere. I have decided to invest some time to researching a critical geography take on ‘illegal immigration’ and add it on for my Boston AAG paper.

The case of Sarjina Emy’s family awaiting asylum decision for 13 years has me completely flabbergasted. What is the point of asylum relief when it takes more than a decade?! Obviously, by that time things would probably have changed, and it would be harder to win the asylum case. Is it really just ineffective government policy and red tape that has created this backlog of cases, or is something else going on?

The critical geographers liken the “politics of waiting” with a “politics of control” over migrant bodies. Since we think and speak in terms of spatiality (while the historians are better with temporality), we have only recently come to address timelessness and temporal status when it comes to migrants.

Think about DREAM Act beneficiaries. We are constricted to both SPACE and TIME; in effect, a temporal status. This is the institution of massive control over our bodies, both in space and through time. Do these “waiting rooms of history” (Dipesh Chakraborty), contribute to the creation of a “community?” Guess what, I can point over to the DREAMers and say we have come together, from completely diverse backgrounds, and only created community because of our PLACEMENT in these waiting rooms. Now is this community counter-hegemonic? Does it purport an alternative nationalism? Yes and No. We are counter-hegemonic in the sense that we do challenge status quo immigration laws and hegemonic discourses on migrants. Our existence challenges the definition of “American” – After all, we are in effect, UNDOCUMENTED AMERICAN STUDENTS. At the same time, while we are in these waiting rooms, all we want to do is be “out” and be able to assimilate with the sheep-like masses (for the most part). And yet, we are an alternative voice in the history of nationalism, a subaltern voice.

Am I the only one here who finds this whole discussion quite interesting? I plan to finish a good academic paper by April 1 and try to get it published in several academic journals. Takes the DREAMers to a whole new level of discussion that no one has yet “placed” us on.

Anyway some resources going back and forth on the listserve that I plan to look up soon –

Ahiska, Meltem. 2003. Occidentalism: The Historical Fantasy of the Modern, The South Atlantic Quarterly 102/2-3, Spring/Summer. Duke University Press. 351-379.

Bayart, Jean-Francois, 2007. Global Subjects: A political critique of globalization. [especially final chapter on “Global Godot”]

Becket, Samuel 2002 [1953]. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber

Bissell, K. Animating Suspension: Waiting for Mobilities. Mobilities 2, 2, 277-298.

Blanchot, Maurice 1996 [1959]. Waiting Trans. Michael Holland  in The Blanchot Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bourdieu, P. Pascalian Meditations. Cambridge: Polity [especially chapter 6]

Chakrabarty, D. 2004. Provincializing Europe [Chapter 8] Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Corbridge, S. 2004 Waiting in line, or the moral and material geographies of queue-jumping in Lee R and Smith DM eds Geographies and Moralities. Oxford: Blackwell/RGS-IBG. [Chapter 12]

Deleuze and Guattari, 1986. Nomadology: The War Machine. London: Routledge.

DeVerteuil, Lee and Wolch (2002) New spaces for the local welfare state? The case of General Relief in Los Angeles County. Journal of Social and Cultural Geography 3(3): 229-246

D’Emilio, John 1983. John Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Falah G-W 2007, The politics of doing geography: 23 days in the hell of Israeli detention” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25, 4, 587–593.

Hill, Andrew 2008, Seeing, Waiting, Travelling: Reimagining the War on Terror Oxford: Palgrave.

Jamoul, Lina 2004. Palestine—In Search of Dignity. Antipode 36, 4, 581–595.

Kafka, Franz 2007. The Trial. New York: Schocken Books.

Kracauer (1955) The Mass Ornament. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kwan, Mei-Po, 1999.  Gender, the Home-Work Link, and Space-Time Patterns of Nonemployment Activities Economic Geography 75, 4, 370-394

Lacan, J. 1988 [1945]. Logical time and the assertion of anticipated certainty: A new sophism. Newsletter of the Freudian Field 2: 4–22, trans. Fink, B

Long, Joanna C 2006. Border Anxiety in Palestine-Israel Antipode 38, 1, 107–127.

Marris, P. 1984. The Politics of Uncertainty: Attachment in Private and Public Life. London: Routledge.

Purcell, Mark 2007. Skilled, cheap and desperate: non-tenure track faculty and the delusion of meritocracy. Antipode 39, 1, 121-143

Sartre, Jean Paul. 2004. Critique of Dialectical Reason. Oxford: Verso.

Verdery, Kate. 1996. Socialism and What Comes Next [especially chapter 2]

Web sources:

Armaly, Fareed and Rashid Masharawi on waiting:

Veronique Besnard’s work with asylum seekers and refugees in Brighton:

Montopoli, Brian: The Queue Crew: Waiting in line for a living.

Morrow, Lance: “Waiting as a Way of Life”

Paddy O’Gorman’s radio show Queuing For Living:

George Tooker painting “Government Bureau”:


Dave Dobbyn Waiting

Lou Reed, Waiting for the Man

Fugazi, Waiting Room

Matt Johnson, I’ve been waitin’ for tomorrow (all of my life)Credit for the sources goes to the academics on the Critical Geography listserve.

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