Commentary on Ray Allen’s ”Jump Up! West Indian Carnival Music in Brooklyn” by Misty Crooks and Claudia Rey Crowie

Ray Allen is the first ethnomusicologist ARC faculty fellow. His work focuses on American folk and popular music within New York City music cultures. His latest project deals with the stylistic characteristics of calypso and soca in the 20th century. Allen’s work makes valuable contributions to understanding diasporic transnationalism, globalization, the politics of hybridity, and the relation between music and cultural identity.  Allen complicates these theoretical frameworks by thinking through the contextualized lives and development of these musical styles. He has three major interventions into these areas of research. First, diasporic transnationalism is cyclical, reflected in the flow of calypso and soca between the Caribbean and New York. Allen also questions the center-periphery model of globalization theory by showing how Trinidad and Brooklyn each served as centers and peripheries at different points in the life cycle of calypso and soca. Finally, the power relations between sites of artistic emergence can have effects on musical hybridity, as seen in the mass marketing of calypso music in the United States. Despite the unity fostered through this music, there were still island specific identities, that are clearly reflected in the annual Caribbean carnival in Brooklyn, for example.

Allen traces the development of Harlem and Manhattan calypso music from the 1920s to the 1960s, and after that the emergence and decline of soca, which now tends to enjoy only seasonal popularity in New York. The mobility of Trinidadians across the Atlantic from Trinidad to New York was reflected in the circulation of Harlem calypso between these sites in the first half of the twentieth century, and audiences included English speaking Caribbean islanders, as well as Harlem Trinidadians. Through playing a selection of songs, Allen points out that the  lyrics of this musical genre reveal that the songwriters and singers (including Wilmoth Houdini and Rupert ‘Lord Invader’ Grant) were inspired by their immigrant experiences. They drew from the Trinidadian tradition of using music as a medium of sociopolitical commentary. For the first time, calypso was generated by musicians in hybrid form: containing sounds from Africa, as well as new jazz sounds from the  United States. Calypso began to reflect elements of everyday life in New York, including the movement of the Trinidadian community from Harlem to  Brooklyn. It also incorporated local and universal political experiences, such as racism in the city, pride in African identity, and the growth of the Black nationalist movement globally. Allen traces the historical trajectory of calypso in the post-war period to illuminate the effects of capitalism and U.S. cultural imperialism in both its content and its production and distribution. For example, for the first time in 1956, calypso was appropriated for mass consumption through crossover appeal  in the United States by record companies such as RCA, and sung by artists such as Harry Belafonte, who mimicked West Indian linguistic traits.

With the Hart Keller Act of 1965, there was a surge in Caribbean immigration to New York, and the center of the NYC Caribbean community moved from Harlem to Brooklyn. This growing community created a demand for calypso music, leading to the establishment of record stores and recording studios in Brooklyn. This led to a flow of calypso music written in Trinidad that was recorded and produced in Brooklyn where the technology was available. Two of these record stores still stand in Brooklyn: Straker Records and Charles Records.

It was during this time that the musical style of calypso began to change as well. Songs began to incorporate electric guitar with more prominent basslines. Elements of funk and soul were also incorporated. These novel sounds became known as Brooklyn soca. Soca lyrics were not as politically themed as in calypso, but were associated with party going and dance scenes. Soca was a thoroughly transnational musical style. Artists from Trinidad saw their songs recorded in New York while these records were then popularized and sold in Trinidad. For example, the acclaimed soca artist Calypso Rose was born in Trinidad, toured the world and the Caribbean, and was based in Queens. The rise of soca in the 80s and 90s is attributed to its pan-Caribbean audience across the islands and Brooklyn, as well as its influence from soul, funk, and disco. However, there was a lull in soca music sales in the 1990s due to CD piracy and music streaming services. As a result, soca is no longer recorded in Brooklyn, and its popularity is limited to the Caribbean community and the festivity of annual Caribbean carnival in New York City.

Written by Misty Crooks and Claudia Rey Crowie


Reflections on Language and Power – Tatyana Kleynat at ARC By Sara Vogel

Language and power are tightly intertwined. That was my takeaway from November 16th’s ARC talk featuring the thoughtful, engaged, and critical scholar Tatyana Kleyn, who is an Associate Professor and Director of Bilingual Education and TESOL in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at the City College of New York.

This message about language and power came through in the substance of Kleyn’s talk and the film she screened about how transborder young people navigate language, family, and school as their families repatriate small towns in Oaxaca, Mexico after years of living in the United States. The power of words was also a theme that resonated in the post-talk conversation, including in ways that revealed some tensions in our ARC community that we would do well to address moving forward.

I’ll unpack that conversation in a bit. But first: the talk.

Tatyana is someone I have had the privilege to work with through the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a project that brings K-12 teachers, administrators, and professors in bilingual education from across the CUNY campuses together to study and improve education for bilingual kids. As Don mentioned in his opening remarks, Kleyn’s work truly embodies the values and mission of ARC. Her research is interdisciplinary, straddling all of ARC’s clusters. She views phenomena such as immigration and multilingualism through the lens of theories that take into account racial, economic, and linguistic power hierarchies. And she is a public scholar, not content simply to write for narrow audiences of academics. Her films about the experiences of undocumented and transborder youth, as well as curriculum and guides for teachers based on the content of the films, are accessible for free online.

Before showing her film Una Vida, Dos Paìses (One Life, Two Countries), Kleyn asked us to consider the power of film as its own language. She argued persuasively that film can be mobilized as a research method, a medium of dissemination, and as service and activism. At the same time that she celebrated the capacity of the medium to “reprioritize whom we listen to” and to bring research participants’ stories alive for wider audiences, she also described some of the limitations and challenges of this type of scholarship. She has had to build strong relationships with her participants, many of them folks targeted in today’s political climate for their or their family members’ undocumented status. In addition, while she prefers not to use voice-overs in her films so that audiences hear participants “direct from the source,” she acknowledged her and her collaborators’ roles in editing and juxtaposing clips to create cohesive narratives.

The film she screened at ARC introduced us to a group of transborder young people living in Oaxaca, Mexico who call themselves “New Dreamers.” The film captures the complex, mixed emotions that come with “going home” — the feeling of belonging, but also of being “ni de aqui ni de alla” (from neither here nor there). One of the core themes discussed by participants was the role of language in their transitions to life in Mexico. Across contexts in the US and Mexico, languages are used for different purposes and have different statuses attributed to them. While the youth expressed love for the English language, and were often called upon by peers to tutor them in English, they also found themselves lost in classes delivered in Spanish, and felt peers and teachers in Oaxaca sometimes viewed them as stuck-up for their knowledge of English and experiences in the US. In her talk, Kleyn also described how indigenous languages, often regarded as less prestigious in their communities, are a key part of students’ linguistic repertoires, enabling them to communicate especially with older generations.

After Kleyn’s presentation, an audience member asked a question about the young people’s accents. It elicited a strong reaction from some of those present, including one who found it so offensive that he walked out. Rachel Chapman, a fellow ARC student, has provided her take on the question, and her response can be read on our blog here. Kleyn responded by critiquing the premise of the question, arguing that language ideologies about accent are rooted in socially and historically constructed hierarchies that rank speakers based on race, economic status, perceived education, ethnicity, and other markers (see Flores & Rosa, 2015 for more on this).

To me, the strength of ARC is its ability to foster critical conversations about dynamic and complex issues — immigration, inequality, multilingualism, and our digital world — with people at different stages in their academic careers, from different disciplinary, racial, and cultural backgrounds, in order to deepen research and practice in our fields.

Having conversations about complex issues across difference is not easy, however, and this moment at ARC brought those tensions into sharp relief.

Despite a professed desire for open, democratic dialogue, academic communities can reproduce many of the hierarchies they seek to dismantle. As we learned from the student when he returned to the conversation, for people of color, academia can be a violent space. Too often, people of color shoulder the burden and invest much emotional labor into correcting the oppressive dynamics which permeate our institutions. Others (read: white people) need to step up.

At ARC, there are some first steps we can take. There are many incredible organizations such as Border Crossers and the New York Coalition of Radical Educators, among others, which have figured out how to facilitate critical and constructive conversations across difference. I’ve drawn on resources from these organizations as I navigate my role as a white scholar and educator engaged in work with youth of color and their teachers, and have found them exceptionally useful.

To have critical and constructive conversations across difference, relationship-building and setting community norms are key. I noticed that when I began my time as an ARC student, there wasn’t a space devoted to building this community — perhaps such a space could be useful in the future. Some questions for ARC students and fellows to consider as we build community might include:

  • What are the challenges of coming together as an interdisciplinary community?
  • What norms might help ensure our conversations are both critical and constructive?
  • Who gets to study, publish about, and profit from research on inequality, multilingualism, and immigration? Why? In what ways does our community challenge those trends? In what ways does it reproduce them?
  • How might ARC fellows and students not just share our research, but work together to ensure we are also engaged in making our fields more equitable and just?

In many ways, Tatyana’s work offers us a compelling example of engaged, critical scholarship. She began her talk by discussing her own positionality — her own background and experiences, and how she arrived to her topic. She is transparent about how her own power and privilege shape her teaching and research. She forges strong bonds with her study participants, reciprocating in the communities that provide her with data. And her scholarship and teaching go hand in hand with her social justice activism.

I hope the talk from this week is a catalyst for some soul-searching at ARC. Not only might we strengthen and deepen our own work, but we might continue the hard work of dismantling oppressive structures within academia too.


Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171.


By Sara Vogel

PhD Student in Urban Education, CUNY-Graduate Center

Commentary on Tatyana Kleyn’s ”Transborder Children and Youth (Back) in Mexico” by Kahdeidra Monét Martin

According to a recent Pew Research Report, between 2009 and 2014, one million people repatriated from the United States to Mexico. As a qualitative researcher, Dr. Tatyana Kleyn is interested in the stories behind these numbers. In particular, she studies the experiences of children and young adults who undergo these crossings—physical, social, linguistic, and educational. “Transborder youth are crossing many borders,” she said. Indeed, some recurring themes both in her research program and in reactions to her research are the power of language to form community and the need to cross borders in order to understand multiple perspectives. This blog piece begins by exploring the research topics, methodology and general findings of Kleyn’s work, and it ends by discussing the reactions to her lecture and offering practical suggestions for moving forward.

The Research

Kleyn, who is Associate Professor in the Bilingual Education and TESOL programs at the City College of New York, began her study entitled “The Other Side of Deportation Repatriation” as a Fulbright scholar in Mexico from 2014 to 2015.

Through interviews, classroom observations, and collections of art and poetry, Kleyn assembles portraits of transborder youth in elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools in Oaxaca, Mexico. Additionally, she uses documentary film as both a research method and tool for disseminating research findings to larger audiences. She said, “Film is accessible across borders. It does not matter your educational level or what language you speak.” Ethnographic data from her research on transborder youth in Oaxaca is highlighted in the documentary film “Una Vida, Dos Paises: Children and Youth (Back) in Mexico.” The complete film and accompanying unit plans are freely available at

So, what are her findings? First, transborder youth bring their assets of multilingualism and multiculturalism that can be harnessed in the classroom. Differentiating classroom instruction to exploit their English language skills and knowledge of United States cultures can better support everyone in the learning community.

Second, it is important to note that transborder children are multifaceted and have varying degrees of fluency in the languages that they speak. Their linguistic repertoires are formed from the multiple speech communities that they have lived in. For example, one could hear features of U.S. English from the Midwest, Florida, and California; features of Spanish spoken in Latinx communities in Southern California; and Zapoteca, a language indigenous to Mexico. Generally, most of the youth in her study are more fluent and comfortable speaking English than Spanish, and they are least fluent in Zapoteca, which is stigmatized and mostly reserved for speaking with grandparents.

Naming themselves the New DREAMers, transborder youth negotiate their identities using language practices that are rooted in cultural and political hierarchies. Sociolinguists often refer to stigmatized language varieties or specific features of language, what lay people refer to as “accents,” in regards to prestige. We often criticize the less prestigious, stigmatized variety of a language while praising the dominant, higher prestige variety. Furthermore, higher prestige speech patterns that are considered normative or standard; one focuses on the content that their speakers are conveying. On the other hand, lower prestige varieties are considered irregular and substandard. Listeners tend to focus more on phonology and syntax rather than the substance of what the speaker is saying. These New DREAMers may speak varieties of Spanish that are lower prestige because they are different than what is spoken in Oaxaca. Conversely, their fluency in English is an asset that may be perceived as threatening by their teachers. These power dynamics and cultural fissions reflect the politicized nature of language.

The Reactions

After hearing about the project and viewing the 30 minute documentary on immigration, language, race, and class, audience members undoubtedly were feeling a mass of emotions. Personally, I was thrilled. I was impressed by Dr. Kleyn’s integration of mixed methods qualitative research and multimedia to magnify underrepresented voices. Her scholarship provides a model for me in several ways. As an Urban Education Ph.D. student who has been studying sociolinguistics since my freshman year of college in 1999, one could say that I have a close relationship with these topics. I’ve had time to mull them over, clarify questions, process strong emotions, and formulate my positions. But, this is not the norm.

Scholars from other academic disciplines and thematic clusters were processing their thoughts in the moment, perhaps unaware of the potential volatility in the atmosphere. The very first comment expressed in the discussion period was an anecdote about teaching multilingual children and a separate comment that drew attention to the fact that although youth had lived in the United States for several years, they still spoke English with a “Spanish accent.”

I am not sure where the comment was leading, or if there were a follow-up question planned after the anecdote and comment. However, I noticed that several audience members appeared to be uncomfortable and perplexed. What I heard in the comment was a lack of awareness about linguistic repertoires and the role of speech communities in shaping our linguistic repertoires. At the same time, I heard an ideological assumption of linguistic purity in the United States that is false and has been used as an instrument of racism in education, housing, and employment. It is this last piece that triggered some audience members, including my colleague who stated, “I’m sorry, but that is a racist statement!” He made other comments about being tired of racism at the Graduate Center before hurriedly leaving the room.

What happened? It was a charged context. We all hear and process information according to our own individual experiences and social positions. Bodies matter. Words matter. In recent months, my colleague and other Ph.D. students have experienced blatantly racist remarks such as being called ‘the N-word’ and ‘oriental’ in classes devoted to the scholarly study of language, power, and culture. They also have been subjected to sexist remarks in the same classes, and the individual rights of the offending parties—who are White—were prioritized over the rights of students of color and women.

Despite news articles to the contrary, I can attest that professors at the Graduate Center do in fact support the views of “conservative” and “right wing” students. They do in fact support academic dissent, even when it appears that comments teeter on racial and sexual harassment. And in this context, we students seek refuge in the lectures held at the Advanced Resource Collaborative with its stated commitment to promoting equity and critical, interdisciplinary dialogue. This work will not happen by itself. We must be intentional about forging community across boundaries of academic title, race, ethnicity, class, gender, linguistic background, and religion.

If a graduate student becomes enraged, do not question his intelligence or maturity. As Audre Lorde told us in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” there is a place for eros in the academy. There is a place for rage as a defensive mechanism against the protracted, systematic oppression of our psyches. The academy is not neutral. There is a place for passion that can be transformative in our relationships, but reflexivity is key. What triggered our strong reactions to certain comments or actions? What are our “non-negotiables” as scholars? What experiences and teachings inform the values that we bring with us? Is it possible to understand someone else’s values and perspective? Can we apologize for our offenses and forgive others for offending us? Let’s assume the best of each other and receive each other with patience and compassion. Those are the first steps to navigating these often dangerous crossings of memory, of lived experience, and of perspective. As an ARC community, this is the work that we are uniquely called to do in these times, and to the extent that we are successful, the reverberations of our efforts are manifold.


Written by Kahdeidra Monét Martin, M.S.Ed.

Ph.D. Student in Urban Education

The Graduate Center, CUNY

Mellon Humanities Alliance Graduate Fellow


Commentary on Miri Song’s “How Do Multiracial Parents Identify Their Children? And Why It Matters” by Dae Shin Ju

Miri Song is the Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent in England. Dr. Song has extensive publications including Helping Out: Children’s Labor in Ethnic Businesses (1999), Choosing Ethnic Identity (2003) and Mixed Race Identities (2013). She has recently finished a book, Multiracial Parents: Mixed Families, Generational Change, and the Future of Race, which is coming out this fall. On September 14th, Dr. Song shared some of her findings from her upcoming book with the ARC fellows and students.


Interracial unions are growing in both the UK and the US. There has been a substantial rise in interest on the multiracial population and “mixing” not only in academia but also in popular culture. Responding to this demographic trend, the British census introduced the “mixed” category as a part of racial identification in 2001. Since its introduction, the “mixed” category has generated many theoretical and methodological questions: what does it capture? How do people report and what can we learn from their reporting?


Despite the growth in size and diversity of multiracial population, existing studies have largely focused on Black and White mixed people and their racial identification. Dr. Song argues that there is a need to broaden the research on the multiracial population since there has been a significant increase in interracial partnering among Asians and Latinos. Also, researchers should develop a generational framework that examines beyond the first-generation of mixed people (who have two monoracially distinct parents). Studying the experiences of later generations is crucial to understanding how identities are passed down through generations and how racial boundaries and meanings shift.


Dr. Song’s research addresses the gaps in the literature by exploring the following questions: how do multiracial parents make decisions about racial identification of their children? Do they identify their children as White, “Mixed” or a Monoracial Minority? What factors come into play during the decision-making process? To find answers to these questions, she conducted interviews with 62 multiracial parents. Her interviewees were mostly first-generation multiracial parents in England aged 25 to 50 years old. She recruited three groups of multiracial parents: Black/White, South Asian/White, and East Asian/White. She supplemented her interviews with online surveys where participants were recruited based on their reported multiracial ancestry.


The majority of her interviewees identified their children on official forms as “Mixed” (40 out of 62), followed by White. None of the parents reported identifying their children as a Monoracial Minority. Many parents expressed ambivalence and uncertainty toward racial identification of their children since there are no clear conventions as to who belongs to the “Mixed” category. The parents, therefore, developed their own criteria and justifications. Some of the factors that emerged during the interviews were: the racial mix of the parents, the physical appearance of the children, the multiracial parent’s own upbringing and identification, their partner’s ethnicity and the generational distance from minority ancestors.


Dr. Song also discovered that the meaning parents gave to the White and “Mixed” categories widely varied. Her finding challenges the assumption that many survey-based studies make, which is that selecting White as a racial category reflects one’s desire to be White. The interviews with the parents revealed that there is no one reason for choosing White. Some parents identified their children as White due to their own personal lack of contact with their minority parent. Some chose white due to the generational distance from their minority ancestor. On the other hand, some parents identified their children as mixed even when they looked white. The meaning of “Mixed” was also complicated. Some viewed it as a way to express their genealogical connections to their children while others thought of it as a way of breaking the boundaries of race.


The key takeaway from Dr. Song’s research is that the choices that multiracial people make on official forms such as the census do not speak for themselves. Therefore, we should be cautious with the assumptions we make about those choices and not take them at face value. In that regard, Dr. Song’s research provides important insights into what the “Mixed” category is capturing through careful examination of the ways in which multiracial parents make sense of their children’s racial identification and pass it down to their children. Her findings indicate that there are no unitary experiences among multiracial populations because they are lumped into the “Mixed” category. Moreover, her findings strongly suggest the need to revisit the traditional notions of assimilation, particularly the meaning of interracial marriage and its implications on racial boundaries.


Dae Shin “Hayden” Ju.

Ruth Milkman: Immigrants, Precarity, and Low-Wage Labor Organizing

This talk will offer an overview of the relationship between the growth of low-wage immigration to the United States since the 1970s and the restructuring of the nation’s labor market in the same period. The central claim is that migration patterns have been shaped by, and at the same time helped to shape, broader political-economic trends. More specifically, the large influx of low-wage immigration to the U.S. in the late twentieth century is linked to the dismantling of the highly regulated (and highly unionized) form of capitalism that characterized the United States during the New Deal era. As U.S. employers increasingly turned to new business strategies in the 1970s, seeking to externalize market risk through various forms of subcontracting, and to undermine the power of organized labor, low-wage precarious work expanded dramatically. Many U.S. born workers shunned the newly degraded jobs that proliferated at the bottom of the labor market, and employers turned instead to immigrant workers, both authorized and unauthorized, with the assumption that they would be more docile than the U.S.-born. To the surprise of most observers, however, many immigrant workers — including the unauthorized — became actively engaged in organizing efforts aiming to improve their pay and conditions.


Ruth Milkman
Professor of Sociology, Graduate Center

Ruth Milkman is a sociologist of labor and labor movements who has written on a variety of topics involving work and organized labor in the United States, past and present.  She has written extensively about low-wage immigrant workers in the U.S., analyzing their employment conditions as well as the dynamics of immigrant labor organizing.  She helped lead a multi-city team that produced a widely publicized 2009 study documenting the prevalence of wage theft and violations of other workplace laws in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.  She also recently co-authored a study of California’s paid family leave program, focusing on its impact on employers and workers.  After 21 years as a sociology professor at UCLA, where she directed the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment from 2001 to 2008, she returned to New York City in 2010.  She is currently a Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and at the Joseph F. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, where she also serves as Academic Director.

Karen Phalet: The Children of Muslim Immigrants in School: Comparative Perspectives from Europe


Karen Phalet
Professor of Social Psychology & Education/Social Sciences, University of Leuven, Belgium and Utrecht University in Flanders

Karen Phalet’s recent work develops comparative perspectives on school diversity and ethnic inequality and on the religious identities of Muslim immigrant youth in European societies. Her current project studies the interplay of social boundaries in European schools with the social ties and identities of Muslim youth. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Leuven in 1993 and has since been the author of numerous publications in ethnic and migration studies, social psychology and sociology journals and books. She was a 2013 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Fellow. She will be with CUNY for the Spring 2015 term.

Marco Martiniello: Music and the Political Expression and Mobilisation of Second-Generation Immigrants in Urban Europe

The ARC Research Praxis Seminar Series presents a talk by Dr. Marco Martiniello: “Music and the Political Expression and Mobilisation of Second-Generation Immigrants in Urban Europe”

The ARC Research Praxis Seminar Series Presents

Marco Martiniello
Music and the Political Expression and Mobilisation of Second-Generation Immigrants in Urban Europe

Thursday, February 19, 2015
4:00pm – 6:00pm
ARC Conference Room
Room 5318.05
The Graduate Center, CUNY


Marco Martiniello, Research Director, Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS)

Marco Martiniello received his PhD in Political Science at the European University Institute Florence and is currently the Research Director at the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS). He teaches Sociology and Politics at the University of Liège and at the College of Europe (Natolin, Poland). He is the director of the Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies at the University of Liège and a member of the executive board of the European Research Network IMISCOE. He has been President of the Research Committee n°31 Sociology of Migration from 2008 to 2014. He is the author, editor or co-editor of numerous articles, book chapters, reports and books on migration, ethnicity, racism, multiculturalism and citizenship in the European Union and in Belgium with a transatlantic comparative perspective. His most recent work includes An Introduction to International Migration Studies. European Perspectives (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2012) (with Jan Rath), Penser l’Ethnicité (Liège, Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2013). His current research examines the artistic expression and participation of immigrant, ethnicized and racialized minorities in super-diverse cities and countries (Australia, South African, USA, Belgium and Italy).

CANCELLED Race, Affect, and Belonging in Labor Migration: The Cases of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Marshallese Migrants

We apologize for the inconvenience, but this event has been cancelled at this time.

This panel explores the intersections of race, affect, and power in the study of labor migration in the United States. Using a range of interdisciplinary approaches, participants tackle this issue drawing on their own research on racial myths, constructions of masculinity and gender, the political economy of agriculture, immigration policies, debates about homesickness, and feelings of belonging to show how each worked toward the racialization of labor migrants.


Structuring National Belonging: Immigrant Psychosis, Psychiatry, and Remaking National Belonging by Deborah Cohen, Associate Professor of History, University of Missouri-St. Louis. Author of Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Post-War United States and Mexico (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
Padres Incumplidos: Post-War Puerto Rican Masculinity, International Labor Migration, and the Comparative Construction of Latino Identities in Rural Michigan by Eileen Findlay, Associate Professor of History, American University. Author of “We Are Left Without a Father Here”: Masculinity, Domesticity, and Post-War Migration in Puerto Rico (Duke University Press, 2014).
Mexican and Puerto Rican Labor Migrants, Citizenship, and Affective Bonds by Lilia Fernández, Associate Professor of History, Ohio State University. Author of Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
Pa’lla Fuera: Race, Estrangement, and Discipline in the Formation of Puerto Rican Migrant Farm Labor by Ismael García Colón, Associate Professor of Anthropology, College of Staten Island, and Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, CUNY Graduate Center.
“We Are Here Because You Were There”: Race, Labor, and War in the Natural State by Emily Mitchell-Eaton, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Geography, Syracuse University.
Discussant: Don Mitchell, Distinguished Professor of Geography, Syracuse University. Author of They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle over Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era (University of Georgia Press, 2012).

Download a PDF flyer for the event: Race, Affect, and Belonging in Labor Migration: The Cases of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Marshallese Migrants

Reflection on “The Performance of Exile: Deportation as a Theater of Cruelty”

In an eloquent presentation entitled “The Performance of Exile: Deportation as a Theater of Cruelty,” David C. Brotherton presented his research on deportation hearings, using the framework of Antonin Artaud’s theory of the theater of cruelty. Based on his experience as an expert witness in over 50 deportation hearings held at immigrant detention centers, Brotherton’s research sheds light on the experience of some of the 350,000 people deported each year, and the families many deportees leave behind. For Antonin Artaud, the theater needed to show the vibrant and cruel reality of modernity and represent the unrepresentable of society, which Brotherton argues, fits with the spectacle of immigration court in the United States today. Brotherton notes that in 2011 Congress appropriated nearly 700 million dollars for the government’s deportation programs, that ICE receives about 9% of the total funding for the Department of Homeland Security, and that record numbers of immigrants are being held in immigrant detention centers.

Brotherton argues that in the courtroom of deportation proceedings, emotional turmoil affects all those involved, including the deportable subjects, their families, the judges, and the lawyers present. The proceedings are performative. Brotherton describes five scenes from the inner proceedings of deportation and detention centers including the story of Frank Medira who is blind, diabetic, paralyzed on his right side, has had five strokes, and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Frank is trying to contest the government’s deportation order. His lawyer argues that his deportation should be seen as a death sentence and asks the judge to use his discretion to stop the deportation. The judge finds that the case does not meet the criteria for him to use discretion and orders him removed. Brotherton poses the question: What possible threat does Frank pose to U.S. society? He argues that the proceedings continue as if failure to adhere to tropes of good versus bad and deserving versus undeserving will cause a social crumbling.

In other scenes described by Brotherton, family members of the deportees are present and their emotional torment becomes part of the spectacle of deportation proceedings. In one “scene” a mother stands up and begins to pray and plead with the judge to release her son, swearing that she believes something terrible will happen to him if he is deported back to the Dominican Republic, before she collapses onto the bench having had a heart attack. In another case, the niece of a deportable man testifies that she believes her uncle will indeed face conditions akin to torture if he is deported. When pushed on her definition of torture, she states “If you want to know what torture is, this is torture, what you’re doing to my uncle…I have done my research, I have studied criminal justice and I don’t see any here today.” And in yet another case, a deportable man is cross-examined on the details of a long past criminal charge. Unlike in any other modern court, this crime is dragged up and its perpetrator re-tried and re-punished over and over again. For Brotherton, the performance spectacle of deportation court can be well served with Artaud’s frame of the theater of cruelty. These performative scenes illustrate the severity and the cruelty involved in state threats against immigrants, which constitute a particular form of othering that is indicative of denying processes of legal and social citizenship. This draws upon and reconstitutes moral panics around immigrants and criminality.

Reflection on “How to Pick Apples: Colonialism and Citizenship in the Formation of Puerto Rican Migrant Farm Labor”

In a presentation at The Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) on Thursday, October 2nd, professor Ismael García Colón shared with the audience the first results of his ongoing research…

A fascinating collection of interviews, documents, and reports on rural workers from Puerto Rico in the United States, “How to Pick Apples: Colonialism and Citizenship in the Formation of Puerto Rican Migrant Farm Labor” is part of a book project on the experiences of Puerto Rican farmworkers in the United States. In a presentation at The Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) on Thursday, October 2nd, professor Ismael García Colón shared with the audience the first results of his ongoing research.

Instead of looking at Puerto Rican farmers only from the perspective of transnationalism and migration policies, García Colón considers the group as part of the history of U.S. farm labor. The contrast between Puerto Ricans (as U.S. citizens) and guest workers from countries such as Jamaica and Mexico (frequently holding H-2 visas) raises questions of labor policies, state-formation, and practices of citizenship.

Professor García Colón focused on the lives of Puerto Rican apple pickers in the 1960s and 1970s, but the evidences presented suggest that some fundamental questions can be extended to Puerto Rican rural workers in the United States, in general. How conflicting classifications of nationalism, and citizenship impacts labor relations? What are the rights and working conditions of U.S citizens and guest workers, and in what category Puerto Ricans fit (in theory and in practice)? How Puerto Rican and U.S. governmental policies relate to everyday forms of labor relation? And what role nationalism plays in such dynamic?

The presentation began with the narrative of a New England apple grower who fired a group of Puerto Rican workers who complained about working conditions, wages, and working benefits. García Colón suggests that the episode is part of “a series of escalating events that accelerated the demise of Puerto Rico’s farm labor program.” He goes back to the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, which reaffirmed to Puerto Rican U.S citizenship, a status granted in 1917 as a result of the Spanish-American War.

The brief history of U.S. migratory policy towards Puerto Ricans is the first step to understand how U.S. colonialism (the author uses, here, Eric Wolf’s concept of structural power) shaped Puerto Rican migration. It is interesting to notice that the author reinforced the application of the term “migration,” instead of “immigration,” during the presentation. García Colón claims that transnationalism is not enough to understand how Puerto Ricans participated of U.S. legal and political structures. It is necessary to smoke out the limits of citizenship, and how apple growers and other workers perceived this group.

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