This post is published in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association conference in Washington D.C.. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on December 3rd. #AmAnth17
This year’s theme of “Anthropology Matters!” is a call to action that our authors and the Press are proud to support.
Authors Deborah Boehm (Returned) and Sarah Horton (They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields) share their thoughts on Anthropology in Unseen Spaces, sharing thoughts on the fate of Latino immigrants due U.S. policies on policing, detention, and deportation.
Earlier this week, as part of their AAA session on Detained on Trumped-Up Charges: Migrants and the Ascendant U.S. Security-State, they focused on various aspects, including how “[m]assive raids in immigrant neighborhoods and workplaces, the apprehension of DACAmented students—often out of retaliation for their speaking out—and the deportations of long-term residents not previously deemed priorities for ‘removal’ have spread anxiety and panic throughout immigrant communities.”
In Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation, Deborah Boehm shares the social effects that migrant Latinos undergo when they return to their homeland, either by choice or by force:
In a conversation about my research on deportation, a friend from the city of Zacatecas—an urban Zacatecano—made an observation that has stayed with me as I have witnessed and tried to make sense of migrants’ experiences of return and being returned. My friend remarked, almost in passing, that the migrants I work with are “ciudadanos perdidos, ” or lost citizens, and then he repeated a refrain I have often heard in my research with migrants, typically from migrants themselves: “No son de aquí ni de allá [They are from neither here nor there].” When I asked why he chose this specific word—lost —to describe his fellow citizens, he replied that return migrants are not fully part of either country, excluded from the United States but not entirely Mexican. “Of course, they are my paisanos [fellow nationals],” he explained, “but their lives are very different from mine. It is difficult to know what will become of them.”
While this sentiment of being “from neither here nor there” has framed my ongoing research with migrant communities, “lost citizens” is a category of alienation that signals a new global order of injustice. We do not all have equal access to citizenship and membership in particular nations. We do not all have the same chances to move across borders. As the world becomes a more connected place for some, the disconnections, barriers, and spaces of exclusion grow for most. This label “lost citizens,” like the many categories explored throughout the book, is shifting and relational. My friend seemed to understand this, identifying with migrants as members of the nation but also recognizing the deep divide of experience that separates them.
So, are deportees, returnees, and their family members in fact “lost citizens”? In the sense that their membership is compromised in the nations in which they live, yes, this is certainly the case. So I wonder if these migrants are lost citizens or rather those who have suffered loss, including a kind of “lost citizenship” or absence of full membership.They have lost, or never had—sometimes even in those nations they consider home—the full right to citizenship. Those affected by return are lost citizens in this sense, or perhaps lost citizens might be more aptly understood as those who lose in an era of global movement. The age of deportation is marked by social injustice and striking inequality as subjects move and do not move—forcibly or not, despite and because of state power—across national boundaries throughout the world.
Read the previous part of Documenting the Human Costs of the U.S. Security-State. And learn about the physical and psychological stress that U.S. immigration policies inflict on Latino migrants from Sarah Horton’s They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields.