Mobilizing Without Citizenship: How Undocumented Organizers Foster Political Authorization

Kathryn Abrams, LAPA Fellow; UC Berkeley School of Law

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 4:30pm
301 Marx Hall
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LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  "The movement of undocumented immigrants has emerged as one of the most dynamic and innovative social movements of the new century. This development invites not only attention but explanation:  how has a group of people who lack formal legal status and, in many cases, the legal right to be present in the United States, developed the sense of efficacy and authorization necessary to become engaged political and legal claims-makers? In this paper, which draws on my empirical research with undocumented activists in the anti-immigrant state of Arizona, I consider one source of the authorization of undocumented activists:  the pervasive practice of experiential storytelling. I argue that through a combination of organizational practices and meta-narratives – or stories about stories -- undocumented activists have constructed storytelling as a practice that enhances their personal, moral, and political agency."

Abrams photo
Kathryn Abrams
2016-2017 LAPA Fellow
UC Berkeley School of Law

Kathryn Abrams is Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where she teaches in the areas of feminist legal theory, constitutional law, law and social movements, and law and the emotions. Her work has appeared in Yale Law Journal,Columbia Law ReviewCalifornia Law ReviewLaw and PhilosophyLaw and Social Inquiry, and Nomos, among others. She is the editor of two special issues:  “Witness” forWomen’s Studies Quarterly (co-edited with Irene Kacandes, 2008), and “Legal Feminism Now,” for Issues in Legal Scholarship (2011). Her work on feminist theory and activism explores the use of experiential narrative as a form of political and theoretical argumentation, and analyzed expressions of women’s partial agency under circumstances of constraint. These early interests fueled a more recent focus on the role of emotion in legal claims-making and social movement mobilization. Abrams received her undergraduate degree from Harvard and her law degree from Yale. Her current, empirically-based project examines the mobilization of undocumented immigrants in the anti-immigrant state of Arizona.

Melynda Price
2016-2017 LAPA Fellow
University of Kentucky College of Law

Melynda Price is the Robert E. Harding, Jr. Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law and the Director of African American and Africana Studies program.  Her research focuses on race and citizenship, the politics of punishment and the role of law in the politics of race and ethnicity in the U.S. and at its borders. She is the author of At the Cross: Race, Religion and Citizenship in the Politics of the Death Penalty (2015).  She has published in the Iowa Law Review, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law and other legal journals as well as the New York TimesTidal Basin Review and Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture.  She also blogs  Professor Price has a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Michigan.  She also earned a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and studied Physics as an undergraduate at Prairie View A&M University.  At Princeton she will pursue a project that analyzes how we understand activism among black mothers of murdered children.