Undocumented activists in the United States, and the organisations of which they are part, face unusual challenges in cultivating the kind of emotion states that enable participation in a successful social movement. First, because they live without legal status and may face hostile enforcement policies, undocumented immigrants experience a variety of feelings that present obstacles to becoming public actors. They are accustomed to living lives below the radar of public visibility and may experience anxiety, stigma, or demoralisation – all emotions that tend to be de-mobilising. They also enter a movement that is unusually high risk, as undocumented activism entails very real dangers of apprehension, detention, or deportation, and participants face a worsening political environment under Donald Trump.
In response to these challenges, organisations of undocumented activists self-consciously sought to create what theorists of emotion have called an “emotional habitus,” or a shared emotional environment, that fosters solidarity, emotional transparency, and the careful marshalling of affective resources. This talk will explore the assumptions and practices that shape the emotional habitus of the undocumented immigrants movement, shedding light on the meaning and cultivation of collective emotions.
Kathryn Abrams is Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law at UC-Berkeley School of Law. She holds a JD from Yale Law School, and taught Boston University and Cornell University before coming to Berkeley in 2001. Her early scholarship on constitutional and statutory civil rights led to a focus on social movements that aim to secure greater equality under law. Her work on feminist activism analysed the use of experiential narratives, and contention between sex radicals and dominance feminists over questions of women’s agency. More recently she has become interested in the relationship between law and emotion: specifically, the role of emotion in rights claiming, and social movement mobilisation. These interests led to her current project, on the mobilisation of undocumented immigrants in the state of Arizona, under the state’s policy of “enforcement by attrition,” a policy whose tenets have recently been embraced by the administration of Donald Trump.
Professor Abrams is visiting UTS as part of the distinguished Visiting Scholar’s Scheme. Her visit is being hosted by the Law Health Justice and the Feminist Legal Research Groups at UTS Law.
The event is free, but RSVP is required, please follow the "attend" button above to register.