Establishing Identity: Documents, Performance, and Biometric Information in Immigration Proceedings

Jaeeun Kim, Postdoctoral Fellow, APARC

How do we know that a person is what she claims to be? Or how do we make others believe that we are the person that we claim to be? Sociologists have explored these questions by focusing on face-to-face interaction in various everyday settings. This talk concerns the micropolitics of identification in a more formalized and institutionalized setting, specifically in immigration proceedings. Drawing on the literature on bureaucracy, presentation of self, migrant sending communities, and deviance, the speaker examines how immigration bureaucrats seek to establish migrants’ identities in contemporary immigration proceedings; how migrants challenge these dominant identification practices, notably through their involvement in various “illegal” schemes; and what consequences these micropolitical struggles have for both receiving and sending states. The talk is based on a study of the contestations over family-based immigration in South Korea, which have focused on efforts to establish the kinship and marital status of co-ethnic migrants from China (Korean Chinese migrants). The speaker will show how bureaucrats and migrants mobilize various types of “identity tags,” how migrants combine strategic and moral reasoning as they engage in these micropolitical struggles, and how these struggles influence not only immigration policies in the receiving state but also migration brokerage networks and gender and family relations in the sending states. The talk is based on Kim’s award-winning article in Law and Social Inquiry.

Monday, May 06, 2013 | 3:00 pm — 4:15 pm
Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor