HOME AS RELATIONAL, NOT SPATIAL: CONSIDERING DIASPORIC IDENTITY AND DISPLACEMENT IN MEMPHIS

The challenges of migration and acquisition of legal status in the US are numerous, persistent, and rapidly expanding. Geopolitically-motivated distinctions between the categories of “migrant”, “immigrant,” “refugee,” and “asylum-seeker” all result in pronounced disparities in the quality of life experienced once someone has migrated. Compounded with this current political climate and increasingly frequent ICE raids, for-profit detention centers, the current DACA situation, and delayed visa processing times, diasporic communities in the United States-- particularly those from Latinx backgrounds-- face severe challenges. This paper is centered around an ethnographic study of immigrant and refugee experiences in Memphis, Tennessee, though it also investigates larger patterns across diasporic communities in the mid-south. Drawing upon interactions with law firms and immigration attorneys, the paper examines the ways in which geopolitics have motivated immigration laws. It then pivots to focus on how these categorical distinctions shape social realities at an intimate level, particularly regarding experiences of home. In the absence of a fixed physical place, “home” becomes a highly imaginative and relational understanding of security and belonging. Incorporating mixed methodologies of ethnography, auto-ethnography, and quantitative data, I will intentionally explore the negotiations between diasporic identities, experiences of home, and larger political entities surrounding immigration status.

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