Asylum Speakers: Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse

Asylum Speakers: Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Asylum Speakers: Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse
    Book Description:

    Offering the first interdisciplinary study of refugees in the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States, Asylum Speakers relates current theoretical debates about hospitality and cosmopolitanism to the actual conditions of refugees. In doing so, the author weighs the questions of truth valueassociated with various modes of witnessing to explore the function of testimonial discourse in constructing refugee subjectivity in New World cultural and political formations. By examining literary works by such writers as Edwidge Danticat, Nikl Payen, Kamau Brathwaite, Francisco Goldman, Julia Alvarez, Ivonne Lamazares, and Cecilia Rodr!guez Milans, theoretical work by Jacques Derrida, Edouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, as well as human rights documents, government documents, photography, and historical studies, Asylum Speakers constructs a complex picture of New World refugees that expands current discussions of diaspora and migration, demonstrating that the peripheral nature of refugee testimonial narratives requires us to reshape the boundaries of U.S. ethnic and postcolonial studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4886-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Introduction: The Poetics of Hospitality: Refugee, Migrant, Testimony
    (pp. 1-44)

    In her 2007 memoir,Brother, I’m Dying, Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat recounts the events surrounding the death of her eighty-one-year-old uncle Joseph Dantica, who died while being detained by U.S. immigration authorities shortly after his arrival at Miami International Airport in 2004. Dantica, a pastor, fled his home in Haiti after gang members burned down his church and threatened to kill him. Despite having a visa, which had allowed him to enter the United States on numerous other occasions, Dantica, “not understanding the full implication of that choice, said that he wanted to apply for temporary asylum” when questioned by...

  5. 1 Inter-dictions and Limbo Citizens: Haitian Boat Refugee Narratives
    (pp. 45-87)

    As I have discussed, the politics of hospitality configures the asylum-seeking process as a site of struggle over refugees’ articulations. A poetics of hospitality foregrounds the place of language in deploying the state laws of hospitality in the asylum-seeking process while a poetics is also central for seeking the justice symbolized by unconditional hospitality. This chapter focuses on Haitian refugee narratives of migration that occur by boat or raft. I consider the implications of testimony and testimonial narrative within the limbo space of the ocean and the refugee camp for those who are interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard.


  6. 2 False Witnessing: U.S. Coast Guard Photography of Haitian Boat Refugees
    (pp. 88-130)

    In a speech given on June 1, 2007, in which he outlined his immigration reform proposal, President Bush described a moment from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremonies at which he gave the keynote address:

    I was preceded by a young man, a Latino, who stood up as the head of his class. . . . And he talked about his migrant grandfather, how proud the migrant grandfather would be. It struck me again what a remarkable country it is where a person with a dream for his immediate family and future family could come to this country, work...

  7. 3 Silent Subjectivities: Testimony and Haitian Labor Refugees
    (pp. 131-176)

    In chapters 1 and 2, I analyzed the implications of witnessing the conditions of Haitian boat refugees on the open seas. As I discussed, the U.S. government has systematically cast Haitians as economic migrants, thereby disqualifying them from official refugee status. In chapters 3 and 4, I explore how global capitalism, particularly that tied to U.S. policies, creates conditions in which laborers become refugees. Thus, I challenge the false dichotomy of political versus economic factors used to determine refugee status and address the precarious status of Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic by focusing, among other things, on U.S....

  8. 4 Corporate Containment: Refugee Seafarers on the Seas of Transnational Labor
    (pp. 177-212)

    After spending months trapped aboard a nonfunctioning ship in Brooklyn Harbor, Esteban Gaitán, the protagonist of Francisco Goldman’s novelThe Ordinary Seaman(1997), tells those he meets when he ventures into Brooklyn, that he is a “refugee from a ship.”¹ In fact, he has been working aboard a flag of convenience ship,² owned by Americans, registered to Panama, operated by a Central American crew. The crew has not been paid and lives in abhorrent conditions, without electricity, running water, or often food. They cannot legally leave the ship because they have no identification papers. This situation has been enabled by...

  9. 5 Crossing the Threshold of Asylum: Dominican and Cuban (Post)Refugee Narratives
    (pp. 213-240)

    The majority of this book focuses on the instabilities of refugee subjectivities and the difficulties New World refugees confront in attempting to gain legitimacy in a host nation. As I have discussed, the modes of articulation that refugees are required to navigate can often hinder the quest for political and/or economic refuge. However, it is also important to consider what happens for those refugees in the Americas who, once they leave the space of persecution, do gain asylum and citizenship in a host nation. In the narratives that I examine in this chapter, those who have been displaced because of...

  10. Epilogue: Diverted Testimonies: New World Refugees in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 241-250)

    It is difficult to imagine how to end a book about refugees, especially when so many of the refugees that I have discussed inAsylum Speakershave not arrived at a destination but remain in limbo. The conditions of New World refugees are inherently protean—their movements constantly shift and change, depending on the current economic and political configurations in the hemisphere. As I write this epilogue just weeks after a 7.0 earthquake leveled much of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince along with the cities of Carrefour, Léogâne, and Jacmel, we are presented with a new refugee crisis. Estimates suggest that more...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 251-286)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-303)
  13. Index
    (pp. 304-310)