Illegality as dispossession

Authors: Lise Nelson*, Penn State University
Topics: Political Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism, Economic Geography
Keywords: immigration, belonging, race, legality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores interdisciplinary debates on illegality, ones that theorize the racialized categorization of laboring bodies as “illegal,” marking them as excluded from the body politic, rights, and political subjectivity despite their fundamental economic role and long-term residence within a national territory. Engaging the work of Nicholas de Genova and Joseph Nevins, I explore illegality as produced and historicized in the United States in relation to scholarship on dispossession. At the intersection of these literatures it is possible to trace illegality as both a mechanism of capital accumulation and as a discursive process of social categorization that shapes embodied geographies of everyday life. To work through these conceptual issue I draw on fieldwork in Georgia and Colorado exploring the emergence of (undocumented) immigrant-based labor regimes in the context of rural gentrification.

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