Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
The status of millions of undocumented workers from Mexico and Latin America in the United States poses a serious challenge to the country’s founding myth as an immigrant nation. They form an integral part of the US labour force, but exist on the margins of the nation’s political and social life. With a view to illuminating one aspect of subalternity and citizenship in the US, this essay examines significant shifts in twentieth century immigration law regarding Mexicans and others from south of the border and the shifting conceptions of American national identity on which these laws were based. Since the beginning of large-scale Mexican immigration to the US, they were positioned as cheap, temporary labour – accepted as hard workers, but not desired as permanent citizens. Mexican and other Latino immigrants have resisted their position as a disposable labour force by establishing families and communities and claiming membership in the places where they have settled. I examine the local struggles over immigrant membership in Atlanta, Georgia, a metropolitan area that has experienced a dramatic increase in Latino immigration in the last two decades and that has been at the centre of the political turmoil around illegal immigration.
Thanks to Kyle from Citizen Orange for the article.
Written by Mary Odem from Emory University, this article is one of the few that align the Gramscian word ‘subaltern’ to ‘illegal aliens’ or ‘undocumented immigrants.’ While ‘illegal alien’ is plain derogatory and ‘undocumented immigrant’ fails to capture the reality of many out-of-status immigrants who do possess documents and paperwork, ‘subaltern immigrant’ also fails to really capture the essence of ‘irregular immigrants.’
I do not have a discursive preference.
For those who are unfamiliar with what subaltern denotes, Wikipedia comes to the rescue:
There is much dispute whether the term should simply denote marginalized groups in society or whether it should be reserved for marginalized groups that do not speak the hegemonic discourse.
Gayatri Spivak, a Marxist deconstructionist, would state that establishing families, learning English and wanting to be a part of the mainstream is not subaltern. It is not a counter-hegemonic discourse. And DREAM Act students are certainly not subaltern since we abide by the same hegemonic discourses–border enforcement, nationalism, militarization, legal-illegal binaries–that oppress us.
Who would be a subaltern immigrant if we are to abide by Spivak’s reservations?
The No Borders networks come to mind.
That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC
Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.
Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.
(1) Race war discourse
While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons. Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!
Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:
To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.
On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.
To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.