Drawing on interviews with one-and-a-half and second generation Salvadoran immigrant youth, this talk details the temporal, spatial, and biographical disjunctures that the Salvadoran civil war and emigration to the United States caused in these young people’s lives, as well as the strategies through which youth have sought to overcome such ruptures. Denied full membership in the United States for at least some portion of their lives, many youth also encountered silences or an “un-knowing” of conditions in El Salvador, the nature of the civil war, and their own histories As they negotiated gaps between belonging and exclusion, pasts and futures, normality and abnormality, and El Salvador and the United States, these youthbecame part of U.S. neighborhoods, encountered racism and discrimination, developed and rejected particular social identities in school, qualified for or lost legal status in the U.S., learned particular versions of Spanish and English, and repositioned themselves within families and between countries. In so doing, some became activists, seeking passage of the Federal and California DREAM Act, founding transnational and transuniversity student organizations, and producing new literature that creates space and marks time for their generation. Through these and other strategies, youth re/membered, that is, they sought an accountability that would enable them to realize a more just future.
Susan Coutin is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at University of California – Irvine. Her research has examined social, political, and legal activism surrounding immigration issues, particularly immigration from El Salvador to the United States. Her first book, The Culture of Protest: Religious Activism and the U.S. Sanctuary Movement (Westview 1993) analyzed how congregations that declared themselves “sanctuaries” for Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees constructed a means and a language of protesting U.S. refugee and foreign policy in the 1980s. Her second book, Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants’ Struggle for U.S. Residency (U. Michigan Press, 2000), analyzed how Salvadoran immigrants negotiated their legal identities in the United States in the 1990s, a period characterized by immigration reform in the U.S. and post-war reconstruction in El Salvador. Her third book, Nations of Emigrants: Shifting Boundaries of Citizenship in El Salvador and the United States (Cornell University Press, 2007), considers how current forms of migration challenge conventional understandings of borders, citizenship, and migration itself. Nations of Emigrants is based on interviews with policymakers and activists in El Salvador and the United States as well as on Salvadoran emigrants’ accounts of their journeys to the United States, their lives in the U.S., and, in some cases, their removal to El Salvador. Her newest book, Exiled Home: Salvadoran Transnational Youth in the Aftermath of Violence (Duke University Press, 2016) examines the experiences of 1.5 generation migrants, that is, individuals who were born in El Salvador but raised in the United States. Based on interviews with 1.5 generation Salvadorans in Southern California and in El Salvador, this book explores the power and limitations of nation-based categories of membership. She recently completed is NSF-funded research regarding how the production, retrieval, and circulation of records and files figures in immigrants’ efforts to secure legal status in the United States. Currently, in collaboration with law school colleagues Sameer Ashar, Jennifer Chacon, and Stephen Lee and with funding from the Russell Sage Foundation and the National Science Foundation, she is carrying out a new project entitled, “Navigating Liminal Legalities along Pathways to Citizenship: Immigrant Vulnerability and the Role of Mediating Institutions.”
Co-sponsored by the Anthropology Department and supported by the New School for Social Research.
April 19th, 6pm
Wolff Conference Room, 1103, 11th Floor
6 East, 16th Street, New York.