Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
This paper is a critique of International Relations and an approach to the question of India using an alternative nationalism model. Specifically, this is a Subaltern Studies approach to doing International Relations, which serves the purpose of discarding the notion of India as a homogeneous state unit and elaborating on the contestations involved for the existence of a post-colonial state such as India, as an ‘Other’ in a colonial order.
Quote from the paper:
We cannot speak about the need for nuclear non-proliferation without realizing the global coloniality behind it and why nation-states would go against the global norm to define a place for themselves in the global order. We cannot speak about development without realizing the colonial nature of global economic governance. A subaltern perspective, doing history and international relations from below, studying meanings and claims, allows us to explore these issues outside of the limited scope of existing IR theories.
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.
This book review should appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Peasant Studies. I cannot publish the whole bit here even though it is my work, since I signed over licensing rights but it should be available through your college databases.
I don’t know whether I will have time for more book reviews in the future or if it is an endeavor that I am any good at, but it was worth experimenting and I am not too displeased with the results. (The Publisher ain’t complaining; why should I)?
Review: Vinayak Chaturvedi, Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, University of California Press, 2007.
by Prerna Lal
The untold narrative of peasant classes marginalized from the promise of the postcolonial nation-state is a popular subject of research and criticism among subaltern scholars seeking to pose ruptures and discontinuities in the hegemonic history of Indian nationalism.
In Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, Chaturvedi embarks on this project after a chance discovery while pouring through archives on the agrarian economy of Gujarat: he discovers notes by the district magistrate about the historically-celebrated Patidars forcibly extracting labor from the Dhalara peasants in Kheda. Upon further investigation, Chaturvedi discovers that the Dharalas were considered a ‘criminal class’ by both the colonialists and Indian nationalists through the passage of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and given their treatment, it came as no surprise that the Dharalas opposed Patidar-led nationalist politics along with colonialism.
Enamored by the prospects of an untold history of peasant pasts, the central thesis of this scholarship revolves around the actions, practices and discourses of the Dharala peasants before the emergence of an Indian nation-state. Chaturvedi claims that the Dharalas were political in their own right and their opposition to Patidar nationalism allied with Gandhi did not denote that these peasants lacked an understanding of politics or an inability to imagine political community. On the contrary, through rigorous fieldwork and archival study, Chaturvedi lays out a fragmentary and episodic history of the Dharala peasants that establishes their broad political discourses, complex understandings of political community, and subsequent resistance to both colonialism and nationalism.
After these god-awful, life-stopping exams, I have to get down to several pending journal articles. One of them is for an Australian-based journal called Still. There are several AAG Call for Papers that seem to go with the topic and other half-completed works, so I may attend AAG in Las Vegas again next year.
Q: What kind of potential and current law school students will you find at the American Association of Geographers?
A: The ones doing Marine and Navigation Law
Ok, I admit, that was a bad one.
Call for Papers for the 2009 Association of American Geographers Annual
Meeting, March 22-27, Las Vegas
Craig Jeffrey, University of Washington
Geraldine Pratt, University of British Columbia
We all wait. As Henri Lefebvre argued, waiting is a prominent feature of modern everyday life. In the second half of the twentieth century, in particular, the increasing regimentation and bureaucratization of time in the West, combined with the growing reach of the state created multiple settings – such as bus stands, clinics and offices – in which people were compelled to wait (Moran 2008). Papers in this proposed session might examine these everyday spaces of waiting, including the politics that emerges in places such as the queue (Corbridge 2003). We are also interested in papers that consider the apparent proliferation of contexts in which
people wait for years or whole lifetimes. Of course, there is nothing new about prolonged waiting. But Bayart (2007) has persuasively argued that varied populations are increasingly being forced to live in limbo. Papers in this session might discuss elite, subaltern or middle class experiences of chronic waiting; the causes of prolonged waiting; pathways out of limbo; vernacular conceptualizations of waiting; and spatialized cultural, social and political projects that emerge within communities in wait.
These foci should not be seen as restrictive, and we welcome papers from scholars who approach waiting from other perspectives and contributions from people who had not previously thought of their research in terms of waiting but who are interested in shared discussion around this idea. For example, papers might also investigate how waiting might be theorized within geography and related disciplines (e.g. Bissell 2007), the limits of waiting
as a basis for reflecting on politics and subjectivity formation, historical geographies of waiting, waiting as a methodology, architectures of waiting, or waiting and academic professional practice (Bourdieu 2000).
Please send a title and if possible also a short abstract to Craig Jeffrey at email@example.com by October 4th if you are interested in this topic,
and please forward this message to others who might be interested.
Dr. Craig Jeffrey
Associate Professor in Geography and International Studies
University of Washington
Department of Geography Box 353550
Seattle, WA 98195
11.8 million and waiting, confined in a certain space and territory.
Read More …
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 . Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber
Bissell, K. Animating Suspension: Waiting for Mobilities. Mobilities 2, 2, 277-298.
Blanchot, Maurice 1996 . 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 . 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]
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.