Last Church Standing: Resisting Demolition in Ho Chi Minh City

by Erik Harms, author of Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in New Saigon

This guest post is published in conjunction with the Association for Asian Studies conference in Toronto. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on March 19th.

Since January of this year, Ho Chi Minh City residents and intellectuals have been increasingly rallying around the fate of the Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and the neighboring convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross. These architecturally and religiously significant structures currently face the prospect of demolition. The church, which still fills its pews with worshippers at its regular Sunday masses, and the convent, which is still home to an active congregation of nuns who have diligently maintained their historic buildings and grounds, both stand in the middle of a major urban redevelopment scheme called the Thủ Thiêm New Urban Zone. Surrounded by the rubble of mass eviction, the story of these religious structures provides a useful counterpoint to the story of more than 14,500 individual households who have been displaced by the project over the course of more than a decade.

 

Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and Convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross, viewed from Ho Chi Minh City’s District One. Once surrounded by dense neighborhoods, all of which have been demolished, the church is itself threatened by demolition. Photo by Erik Harms. June 2016.

 

In 2010 the pace of eviction and demolition picked up rapidly in Thủ Thiêm as many residential areas were reduced to rubble. Photo by Erik Harms. September 2010.

 

The story of the Thủ Thiêm New Urban Zone is detailed in the recent UC Press book, Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon. This new urban development, which is being built directly across the Saigon River from Ho Chi Minh City’s central commercial and shopping District, has been saddled with controversy. Throughout the project’s development, the biggest dispute surrounding its construction has swirled around the amount of compensation being offered to individual households who were asked to give up their homes and land to make way for the project. Luxury and Rubble details the ways in which the compensation process itself gradually drew residents into a largely monetized mode of negotiation with project authorities. This process, in turn, transformed how people in the area conceived of land and rights. Their negotiations over land-use rights framed their understanding of rights by focusing on “money and meters,” that is, how many square meters residents would be compensated for and how much money each square meter was deemed to be worth. In the process, evicted residents learned to fight for their right to receive just compensation based on market values. But in doing so, they also started to think of land primarily in terms of its monetary value, which in turn conflates the act of fighting for one’s rights with gaining the market-based value of land.

By contrast, the fight to preserve the Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and the convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross employs a very different idiom. Instead of focusing on the monetary value of the land, this fight is has been framed in terms of preserving the cultural and religious value of the structures. For example, in a post to its facebook page on January 12th, the Consulate General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City posted the question: “Do you think it’s a good idea to demolish something that is even older than Canada?” In a follow-up post on January 25th, the consulate page noted: “Nearly 100% of comments made were in favour of integrating historic buildings such as the Thu Thiem Convent and Parish Church into new urban developments.”

The fact that the Thủ Thiêm church remains standing, while all the individual houses surrounding it have been demolished, makes it worth considering what strategies might be most successful in helping to resist eviction. In this case, resistance is most successful when it rejects the marketized idioms of land compensation and instead focuses on alternative idioms of justice that cannot be calculated in terms of money and meters.


Erik Harms is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University and the author of Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City.

Luxury and Rubble is currently available as a free, open access eBook as part of our Luminos program. Read it online now.


State of Exception/Estado de Excepción Opens at Parsons School of Design NY

The multimedia exhibition State of Exception/Estado de Excepción, on display at New York’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design through April 17th (check out the stellar review from Holland Cotter that appeared in March 3rd’s New York Times), presents traces of the human experience—objects left behind in the desert by undocumented migrants on their journey into the U.S. and other forms of data, all collected as part of the research of University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration Project, as well as the basis for his 2015 book, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.

De León sees the materials as fragments of a history, revealing death, trauma, and suffering on both sides of the border while bringing to light complexities of the migrant experience.

Above: Richard Barnes, The Things they Carried-Migrant Death Artifacts #5 / Colibri Foundation (used with permission)

This exhibition, created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with anthropologist De León, includes an installation of hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Arizona desert as well as numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera, and video images created by Richard Barnes on location along the Mexico-United States border. The installation also includes excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants, all part of De León’s work.

Above: Richard Barnes, Backpacks collected by Jason De Léon’s Undocumented Migration Project at the University of Michigan

In the many years now since Jason De León and his team commenced this research, State of Exception/Estado de Excepción has continued to evolve, constantly updated to reflect De León’s findings, the ongoing public debate around immigration, as well as the continuous efforts towards immigration reform, and inevitable backlash.  Now, more than ever, in the aftermath of a presidential campaign that fed off anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, it is absolutely critical to look deeper into the migrant experience and raise questions as to what the future may hold for the thousands of people fleeing dire poverty, drug cartel violence, and political instability to the south.

Above: Richard Barnes, The Things they Carried-Migrant Death Artifacts #6 / Colibri Foundation (used with permission)

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Jason De León is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological study of clandestine border crossings between Mexico and the United States. His academic work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including National Public Radio, the New York Times Magazine, Al Jazeera magazine, The Huffington Post, and Vice magazine. In 2013, De León was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. His book The Land of Open Graves is the recipient of the 2016 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

 


A Human Rights-Based Approach to Women’s Health

Today, on International Women’s Day, people and organizations around the world pay tribute to women’s contributions to our social, economic, cultural and political lives. But we also recognize that progress on gender parity continues to face obstacles. Health care is one area where women’s and girls’ ability to make decisions about their own bodies affect their ability to improve their health and future.

Women’s Rights as Human Rights

In Women’s Empowerment and Global Health: A Twenty-First-Century Agenda, editors Shari L. Dworkin, Monica Gandhi, and Paige Passano—with the support of the University of California’s Global Health Institute’s (UCGHI) Center for Expertise (COE) on Women’s Health and Empowerment (WHE)—bring together work on women’s empowerment in health. The book shows how the idea of women’s rights as human rights is not new, coming into view during:

… the flurry of international activity in the 1990s, spurred largely by women’s rights organizations from around the globe, that international instruments recognized the links between women’s health and gender equality. For example, these instruments began to recognize sexual and reproductive health and rights and the right to be free from gender-based violence as key components to full realization of women’s human rights. The approach of the 1990s represented a more inclusive approach, emphasizing the right to health services as well as the right to access key material and social determinants such as clean water and adequate housing, sanitation, and nutrition. This human rights–based approach to health used sexuality and reproduction as central themes in shaping gender inequality, while also addressing violations of women’s human rights by directing attention to the issue of bodily integrity. It emphasized laws, policies, and programs that would both advance gender equality and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. …

Part of the challenge of linking health, human rights, and gender equality is the sometimes stark difference in perspectives, approaches, methodologies, and language used by those in the health sciences and the social sciences and those working in the realms of law, policy, and human rights advocacy.

The volume includes several short videos, produced by local filmmakers, that highlight the immediate need from a human rights perspective.

Now and For the Future

The editors and contributors discuss key findings, which include:

  1. realizing that it is not adequate to view global health programs through the lens of a one-size-fits-all strategy
  2. the necessity to meaningfully involve local community members to ensure that problem definitions and solutions emerge from those who are most affected by a lack of resources, agency, and achievements
  3. understanding the mechanisms and pathways through which empowerment shapes health and vice versa
  4. the need for multi-sectoral work, whereby sectors that may or may not have previously worked together join forces to make change.

The next generation of work will also need to press beyond global health approaches with women and men that focus exclusively on gender; it will need to consider the racialized, classed, and sexualized nature of empowerment and health. Intersectionality reveals how it is not just gender relations but also its simultaneity with race, class, sexuality, age, and other key axes of inequality and marginalization that matter for empowerment and health outcomes. For example, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women have issues that impact them as women and also as sexual minorities; a gender analysis is necessary but not sufficient, to understand the health implications of these intersecting forces. Global health scholars have been slow to embrace intersectional think-ing, which in contrast emerged over twenty-five years ago in law, in the humanities, and in the social sciences. It took until 2005–2006 to focus on intersectionality as key to understanding health outcomes and it remains critical to continue to understand this.

Learn More

Learn more about UCGHI’s Center for Expertise (COE) on Women’s Health and Empowerment (WHE) and how it was established to help push scholars and practitioners to expand their perspectives, and work collaboratively to produce knowledge and educational programs that benefit from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Stay up-to-date with World Health Organization’s for Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

And read our other posts on Women Authors and Their Pledge for Parity and A Clear Path for Women’s Rights as Human Rights.


Race and the Brazilian Body: Exploring ‘Comfortable Racial Contradictions’ in Brazil

This post was originally published on March 6th, 2017 on the University of Arizona’s UANews, by Lori Harwood (UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences).

Jennifer Roth-Gordon will speak about her book “Race and the Brazilian Body: Blackness, Whiteness and Everyday Language in Rio de Janeiro” during the Tucson Festival of Books, to be held March 11 and 12. Roth-Gordon will be part of the panel “A Conversation on Segregated Spaces” at 10 a.m. March 11 at the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences pavilion. With scholars Reginald Dwayne Betts, Jeff Chang and Tyina Steptoe, Roth-Gordon will explore the ways in which racially segregated spaces are constructed through language, law and culture in the U.S. and beyond.


University of Arizona anthropologist Jennifer Roth-Gordon spent 10 days in Brazil leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games with her children, two of whom are African-American and adopted.

During the visit, one shop owner yelled at her son, assuming he was a pivete (street kid). In another instance, a restaurant owner told the waiter not to let Roth-Gordon order any more food for the children, assuming they were begging. In Brazil, racism is considered immoral and un-Brazilian and, in both instances, the business owners were excessively apologetic when they realized their mistake.

In Rio de Janeiro, few geographic boundaries separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.” This housing project occupies some of Latin America’s most expensive real estate. (Photo: Marcelo Santos Braga)

In her new book, “Race and the Brazilian Body: Blackness, Whiteness and Everyday Language in Rio de Janeiro,” Roth-Gordon explores what she calls the “comfortable racial contradiction” that exists in Brazil, a country that prides itself on its history of racial mixture and lack of overt racial conflict. The book, published by the University of California Press, looks at how racial ideas about the superiority of whiteness and the inferiority of blackness continue to play out in the daily lives of Rio de Janeiro’s residents.

The book was 20 years in the making. Roth-Gordon, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology, went to Rio de Janeiro in graduate school and has gone back every year since.

Using linguistic and ethnographic analysis, she conducted interviews, recorded conversations and observed the day-to-day lives of people living in the housing projects and in the whiter middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. She hired a youth who lived in the housing projects as a research assistant.

Roth-Gordon, an associate professor in the School of Anthropology, has been studying race relations in Rio de Janeiro for more than 20 years.

Roth-Gordon said that one of the most interesting things about race relations in Brazil is that “there is profound racial inequality in Brazil and yet people do not think of themselves as racist.” Brazilians have a history of promoting themselves as a racially mixed and racially democratic society. Many view their racial tolerance as one of the ways they are superior to other countries, especially the United States.

Roth-Gordon said that Brazilians certainly recognize the inequality that exists in their country, as the rich and poor live in close proximity. All of those famous beaches connect by hills that have favelas, or informal settlements. However, many Brazilians believe that the inequality and prejudice is due to socioeconomic class rather than race.

For her research, Roth-Gordon wanted to dig deeper into day-to-day interactions to explore the discrepancy. “Racial inequality has be reconstructed every single day,” she said. “It has to be reproduced.”

In her book, Roth-Gordon emphasizes how Rio residents “read” others for racial signs. The amount of whiteness or blackness a body displays is determined not only through observations of phenotypical features — including skin color, hair texture and facial features — but also through attention to cultural and linguistic practices, including the use of nonstandard Portuguese and slang, which is associated with “poor, black shantytown living.”

Roth-Gordon made recordings of largely dark-skinned youth and played them for middle-class families. She cites an example of when a youth in the projects was talking about his fear of being robbed.

“I played the recording for a family, and they reacted as if he were the criminal,” Roth-Gordon said. “They ignored what he said. All they could hear, because to them slang is such a clear marker of criminality and poverty, was this is the language of a criminal.

“I have a whole chapter on how the white middle class raise their kids to make sure they are avoiding slang and speaking standard Portuguese. When you ask them why, they won’t tell you ‘I don’t want my kid to sound black.'”

The conversations Roth-Gordon collected include youth in the housing projects talking about their strategies for talking to the police, which include speaking standard Portuguese.

“We don’t just size people up by what they look like, especially in a place like Brazil where people are racially mixed,” Roth-Gordon said. “How should this cop treat this kid? Like a poor black criminal or like a middle-class citizen?”

Roth-Gordon believes that acknowledging or studying only overt acts of racism is like studying the “tip of the iceberg.”

“It’s clearly so much deeper than that,” she said. “What is under the water is creating a base for what we can see.”

For example, with regard to police killing black men, she says many are prepared to punish those instances. “But they are unwilling to go beyond that and say these cops are reacting to these ideas that we have about blackness, linking it to criminality. And these ideas are not just ideas. We have a system in both the U.S. and Brazil that disproportionately locks up people of color, a system of justice that has never treated black men fairly. Those ideas are the rest of the iceberg.”


After ‘Cronkite Moment,’ Johnson doubled down on Viet policy

by W. Joseph Campbell, author of Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism

9780520291294One of the most cherished stories in American journalism is also a tenacious media-driven myth — a tall tale claiming great achievement for the media.

This cherished story/media myth is commonly known as the “Cronkite Moment” of 1968, when CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite supposedly exposed the bankruptcy of the Vietnam War. Forty-nine years ago next week, Cronkite declared in an editorial comment at the end of a special TV report that the U.S. military was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam and that negotiations might offer a way out.

As I discuss in Getting It Wrong, an expanded second edition of which was published not long ago, the “Cronkite Moment” had few of the effects that are often, and extravagantly, attached to it.

Notable among those effects was that President Lyndon B. Johnson watched the program and, upon hearing Cronkite’s dire assessment, understood his war policy was a shambles. It was like an epiphany for the president.

But we know that’s not true: Johnson did not see the Cronkite program when it aired on February 27, 1968. He was in Austin, Texas, at that time, at a birthday party for a long-time political ally, Governor John Connally. It is not clear whether, or when, Johnson saw the program on videotape at some later date.

In any case, Cronkite said nothing about the war that hadn’t been said by leading journalists many times before. By February 1968, “stalemate” was a decidedly unoriginal way to characterize the Vietnam War.

The second edition of Getting It Wrong, which includes three new chapters and new material elsewhere, presents further evidence underscoring that the “Cronkite Moment” is a media myth.

This material elaborates on Johnson’s conduct in the immediate aftermath of Cronkite’s special report — the days and weeks when Cronkite’s assessment should have exerted greatest impact.

But instead of recognizing that Cronkite had shown him the light, Johnson doubled down. He mounted an aggressive defense of his war policy, demonstrating by his forcefulness that he had not taken the anchorman’s message to heart.

Three days after Cronkite’s program aired, Johnson vowed that America would “not cut and run” from Vietnam. “We’re not going to be Quislings,” the president said. “And we’re not going to be appeasers.”

Johnson spoke with similar energy in mid-March 1968, telling a meeting of business leaders in Washington, D.C.:

“We must meet our commitments in the world and in Vietnam. We shall and we are going to win. … I don’t want a man in here to go back home thinking otherwise — we are going to win.”

Two days after that, the president traveled to Minneapolis to speak at the National Farmers Union convention. He took the occasion to urge “a total national effort to win the war” in Vietnam, and slapped the lectern for emphasis. “We love nothing more than peace,” Johnson declared, “but we hate nothing worse than surrender and cowardice.”

He disparaged war critics as ready and inclined to “tuck our tail and violate our commitments.”

A day later, Johnson insisted in a talk at the State Department: “We have set our course” in Vietnam. “And we will prevail.”

Thus at a time when Cronkite’s views should been most keenly felt, the president remained tenaciously hawkish.

The shift in the president’s approach came not in the immediate aftermath of the “Cronkite Moment” (which was not referred to as such until many years later). It took place in meetings with an informal group of senior counselors who collectively were known as the “Wise Men.”

They included foreign policy notables such as Dean Acheson, a former secretary of state; McGeorge Bundy, a former national security adviser, and George Ball, a former under secretary of state.

The “Wise Men” had met in November 1967 and expressed near-unanimous support for Johnson’s Vietnam policy. They met again in late March 1968, and most of them expressed opposition to America’s escalating the war in Vietnam, as Johnson was then contemplating. “The theme that ran around the table was, ‘You’ve got to lower your sights,’” George Ball later recalled.

The president “was shaken by this kind of advice from people in whose judgment he necessarily had some confidence, because they’d had a lot of experience,” Ball noted.

The counsel of the Wise Men probably was the tipping point for Johnson on Vietnam. On March 31, 1968, he announced the United States would stop almost all bombing missions over North Vietnam — and that he would not seek reelection to the presidency.


wjc_pnp_large_crop2W. Joseph Campbell is a professor at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C. He is the author of six books, including Getting It Wrong and 1995: The Year The Future Began.


World Anthropology Day: The Field Under the Current Administration

Happy World Anthropology Day! Today is a day to celebrate the field and join a global recognition of all things anthropological. It is also a day to look forward and think about the future of the field, especially under our current political administration. Below, several UC Press authors share their thoughts on what the state of the field may be over the next four years.

T.M. Luhurmann and Jocelyn Marrow, authors of Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia across Cultures

“I think this new president is highly unpredictable, and it is not at all clear what will happen within the world, not to mention our field. On the upside, the chaos has made some of us feel that scholarship, careful methods, and good evidence matter now acutely.”

Jon Bialecki, author of A Diagram for Fire: Miracles and Variation in an American Charismatic Movement

“Other than the obvious and unfortunate changes to disciplinary funding resources that Trump’s expected budget cuts will bring, I think that this will bring back some of the classic Foucaultian concerns with power and the political that have been partially eclipsed by discussions of topics such as ontology, ethics, and post humanism. The challenge will be for anthropologists to bring the array of possibilities pend up by these more recent discussions to those earlier concerns with power and politics, and to do so in a way that will allow us to connect with a wider audience.”

Naomi Leite, author of Unorthodox Kin: Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging

“For decades cultural anthropologists have emphasized the situated, partial nature of all knowledge, including our own, and avoided making claims to truth. The more we hear of “alternative facts” and open dismissal of academic expertise, however, the more I think we will see anthropology move in the opposite direction, toward reclaiming an authoritative voice in the public sphere—or so one can hope.”

Sarah Besky, author of The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India

“As anthropologists, we aren’t in the business of predicting the future, so I can’t say what the impact of this administration will be.  What we can do is help our students and each other gain a better sense of where we are now, and how we got here, by critically examining the intersection of racism, inequality, and corporate power.”

Juan Thomas Ordonez, author of Jornalero: Being a Day Laborer in the USA

“The new administration poses challenges to our discipline in a world where truth, lies and perceptions are conflated and used in the name of a non-existent but well “imagined” homogenous nation; a thing so absurd we had put it more or less aside in our fields of inquiry. We must meet such challenges on different fronts, from the critical stances that have made us what we are, to a more engaged anthropology that is accessible to everyone. Now is the time to speak up in unison, and to do so “bigly.””

Deborah Boehm, author of Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation

“In these turbulent times, anthropologists are reminded of the immediate—even urgent—need for public scholarship. On World Anthropology Day, I am grateful to be part of a field that includes the tools to carry out this kind of engaged research. Ethnographers are especially well positioned to witness, analyze, and respond to injustice, and to call on policymakers and the public to bring about change.”


Upholding Lincoln’s Legacy: How Can Governments and Citizens Build a World Without Slavery?

In recognition of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, we observe his greatest, most lasting accomplishment: the abolition of slavery. Through this lens, we look at the historic and modern day slave trade to ask the question: how can governments and citizens build a world without slavery?

The U.S. State Department, in their 2016 Trafficking in Persons report, estimated that there are currently more than twenty million people worldwide trapped in human trafficking, a $150 billion industry. How does this happen? And what role does trafficking play in capitalism? We’ve compiled a selection of recommended titles that explore the ways in which slavery and human trafficking, historically and currently, are tightly interwoven into global economies.

Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea by Johan Mathew

What is the relationship between trafficking and free trade? Is trafficking the perfection or the perversion of free trade? Trafficking occurs thousands of times each day at borders throughout the world, yet we have come to perceive it as something quite extraordinary.  In Margins of the Market, Johan Mathew traces the hidden networks that operated across the Arabian Sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following the entangled history of trafficking and capitalism, he explores how the Arabian Sea reveals the gaps that haunt political borders and undermine economic models. Ultimately, he shows how capitalism was forged at the margins of the free market, where governments intervened, and traffickers turned a profit.

 

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Updated with a New Preface by Kevin Bales

Kevin Bales’s disturbing story of slavery today reaches from brick kilns in Pakistan and brothels in Thailand to the offices of multinational corporations. His investigation of conditions in Mauritania, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and India reveals the tragic emergence of a “new slavery,” one intricately linked to the global economy. The new slaves are not a long-term investment as was true with older forms of slavery, explains Bales. Instead, they are cheap, require little care, and are disposable. Through vivid case studies, Bales observes the complex economic relationships of modern slavery and offers suggestions for combating the practice, including “naming and shaming” corporations linked to slavery.

 

Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World by Kevin P. McDonald 

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, more than a thousand pirates poured from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean. There, according to Kevin P. McDonald, they helped launch an informal trade network that spanned the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, connecting the North American colonies with the rich markets of the East Indies. Rather than conducting their commerce through chartered companies based in London or Lisbon, colonial merchants in New York entered into an alliance with Euro-American pirates based in Madagascar. Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves explores the resulting global trade network located on the peripheries of world empires and shows the illicit ways American colonists met the consumer demand for slaves and East India goods.

 

Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World edited by Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, and Marcus Rediker 

This groundbreaking book presents a global perspective on the history of forced migration over three centuries and illuminates the centrality of these vast movements of people in the making of the modern world. Highly original essays from renowned international scholars trace the history of slaves, indentured servants, transported convicts, bonded soldiers, trafficked women, and coolie and Kanaka labor across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. Together, the essays provide a truly global context for understanding the experience of men, women, and children forced into the violent and alienating experience of bonded labor in a strange new world.

 


What Happens to Undocumented Children & Families in the Trump Era

By Susan J. Terrio, author of Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody

U.S. Border Patrol apprehension of migrants, Rio Grande Valley Sector near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.
U.S. Border Patrol apprehend migrants near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.

Academics, advocates and legal scholars here and abroad expressed alarm at the campaign rhetoric of then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised to build a wall on our southern border to keep out “illegals,” to ban Muslims and to create a federal registry to track them, to end humanitarian protections for undocumented youths brought to this country as children, and to round-up and deport 1.9 million unauthorized immigrants. Now in office, Trump is delivering on those promises with a rash of executive orders fueled by his own vision of the nation and a false sense of urgency regarding the threats posed by foreign workers, criminal aliens, and Muslim terrorists.

I wrote Whose Child Am I? to emphasize the dangers of creating two parallel but separate federal systems to manage the increasing numbers of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American and Mexican children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities after fleeing violence at home: preemptive detention in closed facilities and monitored programs and placement in deportation proceedings in immigration courts. I also noted the conflict of interest created when one branch of the government assigns itself as a child’s legal guardian while another branch prosecutes that same child for violating immigration law. Undocumented children currently have no right to funded legal representation in court and are subject to arbitrary placement and release decisions while in custody. The limited rights and humanitarian safeguards they enjoy in federal detention are offset by due process violations, detention with no set endpoint, limited access to pro bono attorneys, and the fear of deportation after release.

Terrio Whose Child Am IAs my book was going to press in 2014, migratory flows of unaccompanied children and undocumented families from Central America exploded. We witnessed desperate migrants running to, not away from, Border Patrol agents. The U.S. has treated this violence-driven refugee crisis as if it were an economic migration problem. The Obama administration responded to the arrival of unprecedented numbers of undocumented children and families with enhanced enforcement and heightened deterrence policies designed to prevent their entry and to remove them rapidly. These included expedited processing that stripped them of basic constitutional protections and exposed them to abuse, the outsourcing of the violent interdiction, detention and deportation of Central Americans to Mexico and Guatemala, and the rapid expansion of detention facilities in the U.S. for both unaccompanied minors and families with children. Despite these policies, in 2016, a record number of unaccompanied minors crossed the border and were detained-77,674.

The large-scale detention and deportation regime can only be expected to continue as Trump’s recent executive orders call for a border wall, robust collaboration between local and federal authorities to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, sanctions against sanctuary cities, and tougher procedures for admitting refugees. We would do well to remember the terrible costs of vicious nativism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in our history. We need to use verifiable facts to expose the Trump administration’s exaggerated threats that justify increasingly restrictive policies and muscular border control.

 


Susan TerrioSusan J. Terrio is is Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. In addition to Whose Child Am I?, she is also the author of Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice. 


How Workers Became Criminals Overnight

By Sarah Bronwen Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers

A phrase tucked into President Trump’s January 25 immigration executive order makes millions of undocumented workers into wanted criminals. The order states that anyone who has engaged in “willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency” is a priority for removal. Chillingly, this phrase can apply to any undocumented immigrant who presents fake work authorization papers and signs a government form—the I-9—, which is required to apply for a job. With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has transformed 8 million undocumented workers—5% of our workforce—into deportable “criminal aliens.”

In industries like agriculture, federal immigration enforcement and the prospect of workplace raids already depress working conditions and enable workplace abuses. By transforming undocumented workers into criminals, Trump’s executive order further jeopardizes their working conditions. It tips the scale even further in employers’ favor by allowing them to reap the benefits of a workforce fearful of being implicated in fraud.

The irony is that a close examination of undocumented immigrants’ workplace conditions shatters the myth that they are “identity thieves.” It is no secret that in industries dependent upon undocumented labor, many supervisors collude with their workers to ensure they are hired. Yet in farm work—an industry that employs the most vulnerable workers—some supervisors go so far as to make workers’ employment conditional upon their working the valid documents of supervisors’ own friends and family.” In They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields, I describe the way that labor supervisors themselves have learned to profit from this arrangement, even as they make their friends and family money.

Employers have a great deal to gain from engaging in document fraud. There is evidence that supervisors gave workers work authorization documents in several of the massive workplace raids at the end of the Bush era—at Pilgrim’s Pride and Agriprocessors, Inc. in 2008. By masking the identities of their undocumented workers, supervisors are able to disguise the presence of “illegal” workers and hide the crime of their hire.

President Trump’s executive order is but the latest in a series of policies since the 1990s that conflate hard-working immigrants with “criminal” scourges. Yet in reality, employers—along with the private prison companies who helped finance Trump’s campaign—reap tremendous profit from undocumented workers’ vulnerability. I wrote my book in large part to show how such criminalization has undermined working conditions for immigrants and those who work alongside them. If President Trump uses his executive order to target undocumented workers for the mere “crime” of working, this would be a gross miscarriage of justice indeed.


Sarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. Her work was recently featured in an interview on Colorado Public Radio. Learn more at http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.


Beyond “Africa Rising”?

by Dillon Mahoney, author of The Art of Connection: Risk, Mobility, and the Crafting of Transparency in Coastal Kenya

9780520292895What do African masks and cell phones have in common? They sit on the opposite ends of an evolutionary spectrum: one end representing the past and the other symbolizing the modern present. Since colonial times, African arts and crafts have often functioned to root Africa in the past. The absence or presence of ‘true art’ informed 19th century debates about whether Africa was rising or falling in the same way that digital technology does today. In 2011 and 2012, both The Economist and Time ran cover stories titled “Africa Rising,” focusing on the role new investments and digital technologies have played in boosting African economies. I would suggest that for the Western World, the image of an African holding a cell phone has become an iconic indicator of the extent of 21st century African achievement.

The central questions of my work examine the agenda and assumptions behind the ways by which technology use in Africa is depicted, and the disconnects between those assumptions and lived realities. The image of a cell phone in the hand of an African, which often accompanies such stories, has been a dominant trope of the Western media since the turn of the twenty-first century. Increased access to mobile communications is significant, but we must think carefully about who is producing the Africa Rising narrative and the images that accompany it.

When I began my research in urban Kenya in the early 2000s, few visitors could help but experience the popularity and usefulness of cell phones and Internet cafés. These new technologies were at the center of new patterns of cultural negotiation. Those who had long been denied full and equal participation in world affairs and economic development now were challenged to establish an identity in an environment decorated with the advertisements and billboards of service providers dangling the chance of economic success and social mobility before everyone. But how were the obvious benefits of new digital technologies being distributed? And what of the arts and crafts industry that had been capitalizing on ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’ images of Africa for decades? How can Kenyans working in the country’s decades-old crafts and tourism industries negotiate the apparent symbolic contradiction of being modern African businesspeople?

The Art of Connection is an invitation to think critically about the politics of digital technologies in Africa today. The book provides a deeper look at the lives of East African tourism operators, crafts vendors, and ‘Fair Trade’ businesspeople who, while ‘grassroots,’ are also worldly and opportunistic. While connecting to the global economy has proved an insufficient pathway out of poverty for many, others have learned to appreciate the continual importance of mobilizing ethnic and family networks, carefully navigating legality and illegality, and balancing the intimacy and distance afforded by new mobile communication technologies for success. The Art of Connection shows us the importance of critiquing simplistic assumptions about technology and social change while embracing the complexity of diverse experiences of globalization in an East African city.


Dillon Mahoney is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida.