Confronting Legal Death Through Epistemologies of the South

Authors: Yolanda Valencia*, University of Washington
Topics: Migration
Keywords: Epistemologies of the South, testimonies, legal death, social life, undocumented immigrants, US-Mexico border, Latinx geographies, critical geographies of race
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


My paper draws from over 40 testimonios of Mexican immigrants (mostly undocumented) in Pasco WA – a city with over 70% Latina/o/x; as well as from ethnography and autoethnography (as a life-long ethnographer in the Mexican immigrant community). This work reveals the significance of epistemologies of the south in the thriving of (un)documented Mexican immigrants in the US. Such epistemologies have much to offer to western societies. Findings reveal that displaced people from rural marginalized communities in Mexico, adopt and re-adopt epistemologies of the south (de Sousa Santos 2015) to create humane lives (or social life) in the midst of legal death (through immigration law) in the US. Such practices have been shaped to confront different violence – from colonialism in Mexico to conditions of racial capitalism in the US – but core values of relationality, respect and reciprocity are maintained (as per Martinez Luna 2018). (Un)documented immigrants’ everyday politics consisting on practices of epistemologies of the south including: convivencia (fiestas, celebrations, getting together in the intimacy of the home), ritual practices (at church, home, and across borders), and solidarity (avoiding homelessness, intimate organizing to deal with deportability status, and economic cooperation for high expenses) all of which are rooted in core values of relationality, reciprocity, and respect have been key in immigrants’ ability to deny racial capitalist conditions of legal death and thrive under racial terror (as Johnson and Lubin 2017 would put it).

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