Marking “Preemptive Suspects”: Migration, Bodies, and Exclusion
by Seth M. Holmes
The dynamics of inclusion and exclusion are central to public perceptions and policy responses to transnational immigrants, including those arriving from Latin America in the United States. Scholars have shown in various contexts that even official inclusion by a nation-state involves important gradations of exclusion on social, economic, political, and symbolic levels (e.g., Blommaert and Verschueren, 1998; Castañeda, 2012). Social scientists have analyzed the metaphors through which different variations of exclusion are promoted and enacted, including the dichotomy of the undeserving voluntary economic migrant versus the (relatively) deserving forced political refugee (e.g., Holmes, 2013; Holmes and Castañeda, 2016; Yarris and Castañeda, 2015). Lynn Stephen analyzes the “preemptive suspect” as a metaphor of exclusion in the treatment of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving in the United States in 2014. She builds on her previous work on indigenous Mexican families (2007), resistance (2002; 2005; 2013), and transborder life (2007), synthesizing and organizing substantial scholarship and placing it in historical context. At the same time, her diverse experiences as ethnographer, activist, expert witness, and comadre add local color and thick description to her rigorous analysis. She develops her analysis explicitly in honor of Michael Kearney, who examined theoretical understandings of immigration and conducted ethnographic work focused on indigenous Mexican migrants in the United States and especially on their health (e.g., Kearney, 1986; Kearney and Nagengast, 1989). His focus on health, health care, and bodies seems especially important here. After all, for many transnational migrants the gradations of exclusion encountered in the process of displacement can easily become a matter of life and death.
CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE HERE