The Human Costs of Outsourcing Deportation

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have sought asylum in the United States. Most of them are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the three countries that compose the Northern Triangle, one of the most violent regions in the world. Rather than providing Central Americans humanitarian assistance or a place of refuge, the United States—first under Barack Obama and now under Donald J. Trump—increased its detention capacity and expedited deportations. In fiscal year 2014 alone, U.S. Border Patrol officers apprehended more than Continue reading → Continue reading →

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement Home Raid before Church

Saturday, we went out to a picnic. Sunday, we were going to go to church. On Sunday morning around 8:30, they knocked on the door really hard. They called from outside: “Maria Lopez, this is immigration. We need to talk to you.” Maria didn’t have nothing to fear, so she went down. They asked, “Does your husband live here?” —Vern, Guatemalan deportee1 Vern went downstairs and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at his door handcuffed him and put him in their Continue reading → Continue reading →

Refusing Refuge at the United States–Mexico Border

Contemporary social relations at the United States–Mexico border kill the legal fiction that distinguishes between politically motivated refugees and economically motivated immigrants, a distinction fundamental to liberal governmentalities. The border is where refugee, immigrant, green-card holder, and other legal categories become occupied, become transformed, and are destroyed. Its subjects may become sites for a refusal of liberal governmentalities—rooted in long-standing practices of border life, escaping the law, and normative accounts of resistance in academic circles. They may birth a sense of autonomy or defiance rather Continue reading → Continue reading →

Necessary Decisions

In 2008, the Nigerian police twice arrested twenty-six-year-old Ugochukwu Chinoso Nwanebu. A peaceful activist, Nwanebu was, like other Igbo secessionists, profiled and persecuted by Nigerian police via systematic torture and assassination. The first time that Nwanebu was arrested, he was tortured. The second time, he was tortured and released; however, he was released only so that police could hunt and kill him for sport. Nwanebu managed to escape and find his way to a relative’s home. Knowing that the police would find him if he Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Logic of Analogy: Slavery and the Contemporary Refugee

In literary studies, questions of race, power, and terror raised by the mention of the Zong atrocity have long been familiar. While the facts of the case are well known—in 1781, a captain of a British slave ship chose to throw 133 slaves overboard so that he could claim them as insurance losses—the afterlife of Zong far exceeds its eighteenth-century abolitionist frame of moral outrage, legal maneuver, and humanitarian activism. Following in and amplifying J. M. W. Turner’s footsteps (whose 1840 painting Slave Ship galvanized Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Innocents: Reading Refugees in National Culture and Diasporic Literatures

Early in Lê Thi Diem Thúy’s novel The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Lê’s first-person six-year-old narrator finds herself in communion with the glass animals locked in a display case in the office of the Russell family, which sponsors her, her father, and four other men—”the uncles”—who accompanied them as they fled from Vietnam to the United States. She tells the animals about her journey on the boat and rescue at sea by the U.S. Navy, memories of her mother from whom she and Continue reading → Continue reading →

Anglophone Novels from the Tibetan Diaspora: Negotiations of Empire, Nation, and Culture

The preface of the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile (1991) states the goals of the government as follows: Efforts shall be made to transform a future Tibet into a Federal Democratic Self-Governing Republic and a zone of peace throughout her three regions. Whereas in particular, efforts shall be made in promoting the achievement of Tibet’s common goal as well as to strengthen the solidarity of Tibetans, both within and outside of Tibet, and to firmly establish a democratic system suitable to the temporary ideals of the Continue reading → Continue reading →

Haitian Refugees and the Guantánamo Public Memory Project: Remembering Haitian Refugees

The United States military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, came under scrutiny in the early 1990s when it served as the site of detention for Haitian and Cuban refugees brought there following their interdiction at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard. Typically, after a few months at Guantánamo, Cuban refugees were taken to the U.S. mainland, where they received political asylum because they were seen as refugees fleeing a communist nation. Haitian refugees often languished much longer at Guantánamo, and few were granted asylum in Continue reading → Continue reading →

War and the Historical Sociology of Human Rights: Violent Entanglements

  The Contentious History of the International Bill of Human Rights Christopher N. J. Roberts Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014 René Cassin and Human Rights: From the Great War to the Universal Declaration Jay Winter and Antoine Prost Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013 Rights and violence are so intertwined that their relationship can appear both self-evident and utterly obscure. Consider the work that rights do in the first historical sociology of the United States: they push democratic citizens to Continue reading → Continue reading →

Letter from Lviv: On place and the history of international law

My trip to Lviv/Lwów/Lemberg did not begin smoothly. I flew overnight from New York to Frankfurt, and from there to Vienna; boarding the third and last flight from Vienna to Lviv on Thursday afternoon, the computer beeped at my boarding pass. “Australians need a visa.” “I know; we buy it at the airport.” Not at Lviv airport, it turns out. Kiev? Sure. Or Odessa – no problem. But not Lviv. The security official remained unmoved by the fact that I had to give a conference Continue reading →