Leveraging Labor in Building: Bodily Insecurities among Undocumented Honduran Migrants in New Orleans

Authors: Deniz Daser*,
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: migration, New Orleans, labor, insecurity
Session Type: Paper


Honduran migrants working in the New Orleans construction industry today carefully assess risk and opportunity in pursuing a livelihood characterized by wage theft, work injury, and potential detainment and deportation. Many of these workers have drawn upon their past post-Katrina labor in rebuilding to assert grassroots political and affective claims to a city – albeit one with deep socioeconomic and racial inequalities – that many of them have come to call home after arduous migratory journeys. Parallel to the recent history of rebuilding is an increasingly hardline federal deportation regime that expanded under the Obama administration and has only grown more aggressive since the recent presidential election. In a context of lax labor law enforcement and heightened immigration law enforcement, the (largely undocumented) Honduran migrants move through the urban space of New Orleans engaging in what Willen (2007) calls “bodily vigilance” in order to avoid potential threats from law enforcement working in concert with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). I argue here that the embodied experiences of migrants on worksites and in the public spaces of the city highlight how individuals are formulating new forms of “insurgent citizenships” (Holston 2009) under conditions of protracted insecurity.

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