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Documenting the Undocumented: Queer Migrant Activism and the Politics of In/Visibility

Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, 2-3:30 p.m.

Dr. Melissa Autumn White, candidate for tenure-track appointment in the Department of Gender Studies will present. This talk is inspired by the growing visibility of convergent queer and migrant justice organizing in Canada and the United States that has only recently begun to receive significant attention in the gay and national press. Indeed, queer and migrant politics have often been pitted as at odds with each other, in large part because of the ascendency of whiteness in mainstream gay and lesbian organizing and the presumed heteronormativity of “immigrant others.”  Through a comparative focus on two recent examples of queer asylum organizing – the “Let Alvaro Stay” campaign of 2011 (Toronto), and the nation-wide Undocuqueer/Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (USA) – this talk explores the transformative potential of struggles that simultaneously take up issues around sexuality, gender, immigration, border security, detention and deportation. While such multivalent organizing takes aim at the vulnerabilities produced both through immigration law and the ongoing criminalization of queer- and trans*-ness as a direct legacy of colonial rule, I argue that it is crucial to reflect on the “methodological nationalisms” that are often – consciously or unwittingly – reproduced in such activism. To what extent can acts of “documenting the undocumented” destabilize the order of racialized, gendered and sexual intelligibilities that have been central to the establishment of territorialized systems of governance?