The "Illegal Alien": A Genealogical and Intersectional Approach
Cisneros, Natalie Packard
My dissertation suggests a new approach to political and ethical questions surrounding immigration by providing an account of the ways that “illegal aliens” are constituted as subjects in the contemporary United States context. Through an analysis informed by Michel Foucault’s description of normalizing power and Gloria Anzaldúa’s conception of mestiza identity, I analyze the constitution of the “illegal alien” on the United States’ southwest border in particular, both materially (in terms of locations of governmental institutions and disciplinary and regulative technologies) as well as symbolically (in terms of language, race, ethnicity and culture). In providing this account rooted in present struggles and interests as well as the work of Foucault, Anzaldúa and other feminist and critical race theorists, the dissertation is organized around different aspects of this “type” of subject as it is constituted by contemporary practices and discourses—as racialized, criminal, perverse and deathly. In so doing, I show how race, criminality, and perversion have themselves been reformed by their constitutive involvement with “alienness,” suggesting that an analysis of this form of subjectivity is central to understanding the way that normative power operates in these domains. By focusing on what I contend are central characteristics of “illegal aliens” as constituted in the contemporary United States context, I argue that this subjectivity functions differently from simple juridical categories which purport to determine it. For this reason, I suggest that resistance to oppressive structures of power with regards to immigration should be rooted in resisting the normalizing dichotomy I describe between the brown, criminal, and perverse “anti-citizen” and the white and virtuous “citizen.” I draw on Anzaldúa’s conception of “Mestizaje” show how the structures of power that constitute the “alien anti-citizen” might be reformed.