Current Anthropology Preview: Awakening to a Nightmare

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez, Jr.

In advance of the upcoming printing of the June issue of Current Anthropology, we welcome guest-bloggers Roberto G. Gonzales and Leo R. Chavez with a summary previewing their article “Awakening to a Nightmare”: Abjectivity and Illegality in the Lives of Undocumented 1.5 Generation Latino Immigrants in the United States.” (Current Anthropology 53(3). 2012)

 

The political rhetoric over the fate of the children of undocumented immigrants is deeply divided.  Are they simply “illegal aliens” who broke the law and thus do not deserve what is called a “path to citizenship”? Or, are undocumented young people filled with great potential and we should provide a way for them to live and work legally in the United States?

“Awakening to a Nightmare” attempts to go beyond the political rhetoric. Using data collected from a random-sample survey and in-depth ethnographic interviews, it provides insight into lived experiences of undocumented young Latinos in Orange County, California, who came to the United States as children. They daily confront the importance of citizenship.  They are constantly aware of the potential for detection and deportation during the current period of heightened police surveillance and rising deportation numbers.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act was first introduced in Congress almost eleven years ago in effort to reconcile the untenable circumstances confronting these young people. While legislators continue to debate their futures, these young people must carry out their everyday lives.  Through the narratives of the study’s respondents, “Awakening to a Nightmare” reveals daily life to be rife with legal obstacles and risks. While much of contemporary immigration research focuses on outcomes, this study shows that increased enforcement efforts narrow their worlds and sows fears—so much that even mundane acts of driving, waiting for the bus, and traffic stops can lead to the loss of a car, prison and deportation.

The consequences of two related processes—the shrinking of rights for non-citizens and the intensification of enforcement efforts—are profoundly felt as young Latinos confront their undocumented status.  As they get older and want to experience the rites of passage common to American youth – getting a driver’s license, traveling, and applying to college – they come to realize they are different from their friends. As one young person told us, “It was like awaking to a nightmare.” The constraints on their lives become real and unavoidable, as one interviewee said:

I know I can do so much more, but I can’t because…I can’t choose where I live.  I can’t choose where I work.  And the worst thing is that I can’t choose my friends.  In high school I was able to do that.  I can’t anymore. I can’t even hang out with my high school friends anymore and that hurts a lot.  Yeah, they want to do grown up stuff.  I can’t do anything that is eighteen and over.  I can’t do anything.  I can only hang out where little kids hang out.  I can’t hang out with them. I can’t travel with them.  I can’t go out to dinner with them.  I can’t go to Vegas with them.  If I want to go to a bar, I don’t even have a drink.  If they want to go to San Diego, if they want to go visits museums down there, if they want to go to Sea World, I can‘t go with them.  I can’t go to Los Angeles.  I can’t go to any clubs in L.A.

“Awakening to a Nightmare” explores what an abject life means.  Undocumented Latino youth realize society sees them as discardable, as easily castaway. The idea that undocumented young people should simply “self-deport,” as if they did not have emotional or social attachments to the United States, captures this sense of being discardable and unwanted.  Rather than merely give up, many of the young people profiled here became involved in campaigns to change the law.  They are called DREAMers because they hope for the day the U.S. Congress passes the DREAM Act, thus giving them a chance to become legal residents and even citizens.  For these young people, this would be a sign that society recognizes them as contributing members of society. Until then, they must wait.

“Awakening to a Nightmare” is thus both timely and revealing, providing important insights into the fundamental questions facing the nation and the future of undocumented young people living among us.

 

Current Anthropology, published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, is a transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.

 

Current Anthropology Special Issue: The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations

The latest issue of the Wenner-Gren Symposium Series has mailed together with the Current Anthropology April Issue. This is our fifth supplementary issue and the series has been a phenomenal success. The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations. Is edited by Susan Lindee and Ricardo Ventura Santos and as with other Symposium Supplements is now available through the CA website as an Open Access Issue. This issue, which is available completely open-access, is the result of the International Symposia held in Teresopolis, Brazil in 2010.

 

The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations: World Histories, National Styles, and International Networks

 Current Anthropology Volume 53, Supplement 5, April 2012

Edited by Susan Lindee and Ricardo Ventura Santos

Karl Ernst von Baer, "Principal types of different human races in the five parts of the world", St. Petersburg 1862

This Current Anthropology Supplementary Issue developed from a Wenner-Gren Symposium held in Teresópolis, Brazil, in 2010, and explored the past, present and future of biological anthropology. The papers in this issue aim to understand from a comparative international perspective the contexts of genesis and development of physical/ biological anthropology around the world. While biological anthropology today can encompass paleoanthropology, primatology, and skeletal biology, the symposium focused on the field’s engagement with living human populations. Bringing together scholars in history of science, science studies, and anthropology, the participants examined the discipline’s past in different contexts, but also reflected on its contemporary and future conditions. Papers in this issue explore national histories, collections, and scientific field practice with the goal of developing a broader understanding of the discipline’s history. The work tracks a global, uneven transition from a typological and essentialist physical anthropology, predominating until the first decades of the twentieth century, to a biological anthropology informed by post-synthesis evolutionism and the rise of molecular biology, a shift which was labeled “new physical anthropology”. The papers thus place biological anthropology in a broad historical context, and suggest how the histories documented can inform its future.

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Current Anthropology and Communicating Climate Knowledge

We at the Wenner-Gren Foundation are very proud of our sponsored journal Current Anthropology, published by the University of Chicago Press. In honor of the release of the April issue of CA, we’re pleased to announce that the issue’s Forum on Anthropology and the Public will be available for all as a downloadable open-access article.

This interdisciplinary forum addresses the communication of cultural knowledge of environmental change. Titled “Communicating Climate Knowledge: Proxies, Processes, Politics,” the forum is the product of discussion at a Climate Histories conference held at the University of Cambridge in 2011.

The forum features two lead pieces by Simon Schaffer, a historian of science, and Kirsten Hastrup, an anthropologist, which highlight the role of agents and proxies—indicators that enable the representation and assessment of a certain environmental setting.

Hastrup’s article examines the role ice plays in climate knowledge for arctic peoples. She argues that the ice itself makes as powerful a case for a changing climate as science ever could. “I would suggest that the ice is its own argument; it is not for us to argue its case—it would only be a faint echo of its own powerful impression upon the Arctic world,” she writes. “Whatever climate history one wants to tell, it begins and ends with ice.”

Schaffer offers a historical account of mountains as proxies for western understanding of climate. He describes the work of the nineteenth century scientist John Tyndall in bringing his mountaintop discoveries to the public at large. Schaffer argues that the challenge for science then and now is finding ways to communicate knowledge that is often “judged remote, socially, geographically, and temporally.”

The two lead pieces are followed by five interdisciplinary commentaries that engage with the lead articles through new ethnographic material and a set of reflections by leading scholars of different disciplines, including a lead scholar of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We hope these cross-disciplinary exchanges will encourage further conversations and new approaches to action,” Diemberger said.

The forum is available free to all.

In addition to this piece, the entirety of April’s gold-covered Supplementary issue, “The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations: World Histories, National Styles, and International Networks” is available as open access.

(Thanks to UChicago Press’ Kevin Stacey for his help with the text of this post.)

Special Guest Editorial – Mark Aldenderfer of Current Anthropology

A special guest editorial by the editor of Current Anthropology, Mark Aldenderfer.

Changes Coming to Current Anthropology

One measure of the success of a journal is the number of manuscripts submitted. Current Anthropology does very well indeed on this criterion: over the past three years, the journal has seen upwards of 200 manuscripts of article length.  I’m pleased that authors see the journal as a publication venue for their research, but this large number of submissions creates new problems in these times of fiscal constraint: a relatively high rejection rate compared to other anthropology journals and a lengthening queue for publication.

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Current Anthropology Special Issue: The Origins of Agriculture

The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas

Edited by: T. Douglas Price (Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison) and  Ofer Bar-Yosef  (Harvard University)

This 4th supplementary issue of the Wenner-Gren Symposia Series in Current Anthropology  brings together a diverse international group of archaeological scientists to consider a topic of common interest and substantial anthropological import—the origins of agriculture. The volume is the outcome of a Wenner-Gren Symposium, (number 141) held from March 6-13, 2009, at the Hacienda Temozon,  Yucatan, Mexico. The group included individuals working in most of the places where farming began. This resulting volume is organized by chronology and geography. The goal was to consider the most recent data and ideas from these different regions in order to examine larger questions of congruity and disparity among the groups of first farmers. There is much new information from a number of important areas, particularly Asia. Findings highlight at least 10 different places around the world where agriculture was independently developed, and the antiquity of domestication is being pushed back in time in light of these discoveries. The volume emphasizes the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to such large questions in order to assemble as much information as possible and anticipates that the results and consequences of the symposium and this supplementary issue will have long-term ripple effects in anthropology and archaeology. The Wenner-Gren Symposia series is available through Current Anthropology as open access, permitting an international community of scholars to access and share these findings.

See the Table of Contents and access full texts here.