- Making undocumented immigrants into legitimate political subjects: theoretical observations from the United States and France
- Theory, Culture and Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 30 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Over the last 20 years, the global North has witnessed the growing prominence of immigrant rights movements. This article examines how this highly stigmatized population has achieved a certain degree of legitimacy in hostile political environments. The central claim of the article is that this kind of legitimacy is initially achieved through the efforts of activists to represent undocumented immigrants in ways that resonate with the normative values of the nation. The author examines how activist networks are formed to present their cases within national political fields and the effects of this process on the political identities of immigrants and their respective citizenship regimes. The process of gaining legitimacy is contradictory. It contributes to nationalizing the political identities of foreigners and reproducing the exclusionary logic of national citizenship regimes. But in doing this, it encourages those who cannot conform to national values to embrace more radical and universal conceptions of rights. The generation of competing discourses and notions of rights (national versus universal) therefore arises through struggles to make undocumented immigrants into legitimate political subjects.
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