Disrupting Displacements: Precarious Citizenship and Anxious Institutions

Disrupting Displacements: ​Precarious ​Citizenship​ ​and​ Anxious Institutions

Incredulous Fear: The Politics of Proof in Asylum Courts
Valentina Ramia (Stanford University)

What does it mean to be fearful in the eyes of asylum law? By examining the uncertainty and anxiety around demonstrating a “well-founded fear of persecution” in immigration courts, my presentation explores fear as a site of contestation of the politics of proof in asylum law. I take us through the details of Maria’s case, an asylum seeker whose fear, as I saw in my ethnographic research, did not match legal definitions. I include pictures of the material used to assess her fear, photographs taken by Maria’s lawyer, and a short audio of a re-enactment of her court hearing.

Iluminaciones: Pinhole Photography in a Woman’s Prison
Leyla Savloff (University of Washington)

“Iluminaciones” is a photo exhibit featuring artistic expressions of incarcerated women in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As their work is displayed at various art galleries, they alter subject positions and become part of a cultural production that redefines lives in and after prison. As maker of images, women who participate in this workshop offer a critical reflection towards existing power relations, structural inequalities, and gendered institutional violence. The workshop serves not only as a space to gather, but also to think with the senses in a collective way, and reflect on emancipatory practices and alternatives.

Presentlessness: Translating Negation Into Affirmation
Tamar Shirinian (Millsaps College)

Armenians often describe their country as ruins. The ghostly traces of the past’s fullness marks half-abandoned dilapidated buildings with uncared for interior common spaces within a changing urban landscape that juxtaposes empty million-dollar condominiums with abandoned factories. In this landscape, Yerevancis feel as if they are caught between nostalgia for the past and a nation that no longer exists in the present. In this context, local activists counter feelings of this presentlessness by insisting on negations of the present toward an affirmation of future.

Thinking About Thinking: Brain Injury, Institutional Transitions, and US Military Veterans’ Embodied Minds
Anna Zogas (University of Washington)

Combat veterans of the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are affected by mild traumatic brain injuries, which are physical injuries with cognitive and emotional effects. In a specialized Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic where I conducted ethnographic research, clinicians teach veterans about metacognition (“thinking about thinking”). Drawing on the theoretical paradigm of complex embodiment, I argue that this therapeutic strategy highlights how institutional discipline works on people’s “minded bodies” in a larger social context saturated with images of the brain and visualizations of its processes.

Displacing Presence: Manufacturing Stealth in Southern California
Mihir Pandya (Cal State University Long Beach)

From the 1970s until the 1990s, thousands of Southern Californians helped build stealth aircraft, planes designed to elide radar detection. In this presentation, stealth is the ethnographic object and the ethnographic phenomenon being analyzed. I argue that making an airplane functionally invisible to radar screens, to local communities, and to Soviet surveillance systems required more than formal secrecy. It required attending to secrecy at every stage of production. By aligning secrecy with design, the practice of compartmentalization, I argue, is a central if elided feature of the division of labor in knowledge economies.