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Dr. Catherine Ramírez presents: "The Good Citizen"

Professor Catherine Ramírez, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism and the Cultural Politics of Memory, presents "The Good Citizen."

This paper studies the relationship between assimilation and citizenship in the United States, with a focus on the ways in which undocumented immigrants are redefining the latter in the early twenty-first century. Despite lacking formal citizenship, self-proclaimed shadow and undocumented Americans have claimed Americanness. In the words of José Antonio Vargas, founder of the immigrant advocacy project Define American, “I’m an American. I just don’t have the right papers.” Undocumented immigrants like Vargas pass as Americans, thereby unhinging Americanness from formal belonging and offering a broader and more inclusive vision of the United States. This is a bold and subversive move, yet how is Americanness enacted in the absence of formal citizenship and, by the same token, what are the signs of non-Americanness or undocumentedness? To address these questions, I study recent autobiographical works by undocumented immigrants as both immigrant and passing narratives, highlighting the ways in which some rely on and reinforce older notions of assimilation, race, and civic deservingness, while others reconceive of citizenship and belonging.

For more information, visit the LASER website.

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