On Immigration, Identity, and White Privilege

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures at Emory University. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Hi, I’m Andie, and I’m an immigrant. But we’ll get to that. As I wrote this on Election Day in the U.S., I, like many of you I suspect, got very little work done. Instead, I was tuning in on social media to see the latest buzz on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. As I was scrolling through facebook, I came across an article that a friend posted which featured this tweet from Ann Coulter.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-1-12-41-pm Continue reading

It is Borders that Divide Us, as well as Our Ability to Recognize Them

Last week’s conclusion of the Canadian federal election marks another milestone in the exercise of democracy. Ballots were cast. A new party obtained a majority (of seats). The election is now over.

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I did not take part in that election. Despite being a Canadian citizen, I live outside the borders of the country, and I do not plan on moving back at a definite time in the future. Therefore, at least according to my reading, I am ineligible to participate in that democratic process.

My situation brings into relief Étienne Balibar’s observation about the undemocratic constitutive element of democratic nations: borders.

“They are, in sum, the point where, even in the most democratic of states, the status of a citizen returns to the condition of a “subject,” where political participation gives way to the rule of police. They are the absolutely nondemocratic, or “discretionary,” condition of democratic institutions. And it is as such that they are, most often, accepted, sanctified, and interiorized.” (author’s emphasis; We, the People of Europe: Relfections on a Transnational Citizenship. 2004, 109)

canadian-border-quebec-city-canada+1152_12866659878-tpfil02aw-29940One of the hot-button issues of the election, that of policing “barbaric cultural practices,” also brings Balibar’s observation into acute focus. Every now and then, democratic societies express the wish to recognize their borders more clearly. They ask that border-control practices circulate among themselves in order to secure their perception that their society is sacrosanct.

At such points in time, the absolutely nondemocratic condition of democracy comes into full view. And then, oftentimes in the denouement of a democracy’s crisis – the acceptance speech after an election in this case – the conditions of democracy slip into the shadows.

“Opie, it seems I made a mistake…”

IllgottengainWhen I first came to the US to work, back in 1993, I wasn’t aware of some of the subtle differences between the US and Canada (or at least where I grew up), but I soon discovered a bunch of them. I could talk about the blank stares I’d get if I said “zed” instead of “zee” for the last letter of the alphabet or, instead, I could tell you the story of, early on, asking a student, at the University of Tennessee, “to write a make-up test” only to be presented by her with an untaken, freshly made-up test a week later. Continue reading