Witnessing Empire’s Bordering Practices: Afghan American Diasporic Politics in the Aftermath of Withdrawal
Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Anthropology
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Abstract: Based on preliminary and ongoing ethnographic research and community advocacy, this talk examines an emergent set of critiques around empire that have organised Afghan American diasporic political consciousness since August 2021, which marked the beginning of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. In this talk, I will present preliminary accounts of how community advocates interpreted the struggles of the displaced to evacuate Afghanistan and seek refuge in the US from August to December 2021. More specifically, I argue that through witnessing how immigration bureaucracies participate in a calculus of admissible life in the wake of imperial withdrawal, Afghan diasporic collectives were prompted to engage in new forms of political dissent that directly connect US bordering practices to imperial governance. This talk will highlight accounts from community leaders who saw firsthand how institutions such as US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, and Congressional offices deprioritised the humanitarian claims and evacuation requests of hundreds of thousands of displaced Afghans who were not employed by the US government during the war. Being immersed in evacuation efforts revealed the extent of the imperial state’s power over Afghan mobility despite its declarations that the withdrawal marked a sign of respect for Afghan self-determination. In bearing witness to such contradictions, diasporic collectives are now calling not only for changes to US immigration law and policies, but are also publicly critiquing the state’s historical performance of rescue in relation to Afghanistan coupled with its refusal to provide meaningful forms of refuge. I will posit that such collectives’ experiences are one lens to understand how bordering practices function under conditions of imperial retraction and the forms of political dissent that emerge in their wake.
Moderator: Amanda Cheong (Assistant Professor, Sociology)
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