In light of the current immigration debate, and in particular the state-sponsored carceral arguments most recently sparked by the arrival of Central American refugee children on the US-Mexico border, this article takes cues from the late José Esteban Muñoz’s call to sense the feelings of brown subjects. It examines cultural forms produced under the cloak of migrant rights movements to trace the ethical imperative of Brownness enacted by migrant sounds and visualities of loss. The article focuses on the cultural politics of digital art, music, and social media that theorize belonging and citizenship outside of the state and its terrorizing governance: the 2012 Dreamers Adrift’s video The Legalities of Being, by Yosimar Reyes and Julio Salgado; the 2007 migrant rights anthem “Pal Norte,” by Calle 13, the Orishas, and Don Cheto; and the massive responses on social media to a 2010 PostSecret card created by an “illegal” person. These cultural forms of migrant suffering render visible the centrality of affect and racial performativity to the undocumented student and migrant rights movements. The author argues that the brown feelings of migrant persons do not just refute the claims of democracy; the affective labor of their “illegal” cultural forms has the potential to radically alter sociality amid an anti-Brown world by endowing migrants and other deportable subjects with ontological leverage as a practice of everyday life under terror.
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Armando García; The Illegalities of Brownness. Social Text 1 June 2015; 33 (2 (123)): 99–120. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2869247
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