De-territorialized infrastructures of post-socialist queer migration

Authors: Alexandra Novitskaya*, Stony Brook University
Topics: Queer and Trans Geographies, Immigration/Transnationalism, Russia
Keywords: post-socialist geography, deterritorialization, queer and trans geographies, immigration and asylum,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Since 2013, fleeing escalated homo- and transphobia in countries of origin, LGBTQ migrants from Russia and other post-Soviet states have been coming to New York City to apply for political asylum. The pace of this migration has not dissipated following the 2016 presidential elections and the subsequent changes in the US policies toward LGBTQ issues and immigration. This presentation investigates the infrastructures of migration, defined as a de-territorialized web of material and immaterial networks that facilitate migration and encourage asylum seekers to come to New York City despite the change in politics. Combining ethnographic research and discourse analysis, I distinguish between three types of migration infrastructure: local infrastructure (activist and post-Soviet diasporic networks in NYC), transnational infrastructure (LGBTQ activism in Russia and asylum seekers’ own intimate networks), and discursive infrastructure (the information about immigration). All three bear the impact of the Cold War legacy: asylum seekers report selecting the United States as a place of refuge based on the ideas of American superiority in protecting their rights and freedoms, as well as the promise of a liveable queer life they believe they could have there. These beliefs are a re-configuration of the “Imaginary West,” initially a Cold War-produced source of inspiration for Soviet dissidents. The “Imaginary West” of contemporary post-Soviet LGBTQ asylum seekers is a homonationalist construction which enables them to discursively claim a “home” and belonging in the U.S in the face of extreme immigrant precarity.

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