[-empyre-] The Remittance State of Being and Becoming

Robert Irwin rmirwin at ucdavis.edu
Sun Feb 21 06:58:12 AEDT 2016

Hello everyone,

I have not had a chance to participate as much as I would have like this 
week and I apologize.

I think some important issues come up here. I think it is important to 
get up as close as we can to the human experience of migration from as 
many angles as possible in order to understand its complexities and the 
ethical issues implied in assuming any position, whether in our 
politics, our art or our academic work.

I think the focus in the line of discussion here (below) on hospitality 
is an important one. While we might tend to think about hospitality in 
terms of a "nation" and whether or not it "opens its doors" to refugees 
or other categories of migrant or not (and I insist that although war 
refugees certainly are deserving of attention, if accepting them means 
turning away others that for not being war refugees are automatically 
categorized as "economic immigrants", this response is ultimately brutal 
and indefensible), this is a gross oversimplification, that only begins 
to get at the diversity in human experience of migration. The emigration 
of refugees is a form of violent displacement; the deportation of 
"economic immigrants" is often a form of displacement that is no less 

There is a much read book in the US on historical processes of Mexican 
migration called /Becoming Mexican American/ (George Sánchez 1995) that 
focuses on community building in Los Angeles. Immigration is often 
thought in this way: migrants arriving and gradually becoming 
comfortable as they are accepted into an ever growing community of 
peers. However, many migration stories, including those that are not 
merely about so-called circular migration (in reference to those whose 
aim is only to earn some money then return to their hometown), reflect 
not only rejection by the mainstream of the host country (whether 
institutions, vigilante groups, neighbors, etc.) but perhaps a lack of 
hospitality among immigrant communities - stories of often abject 
alienation that end in homelessness, incarceration, detention, 
deportation. These stories are much less well known.

The notion of community tends to be used very casually. Many immigrants, 
even in the context of long established flows such as the US-Mexico 
borderlands, are not unambiguously received by a welcoming community of 
peers. Alienation is a more important part of many individual stories 
than we tend to think. In many cases, there is simply no community to 
receive them, but rather individuals here and there who may or may not 
help them find shelter, work, food.

Ricardo defines unconditional hospitality in a way that would seem to be 
untenable perhaps for even the most tolerant individuals living in 
immigrant destinations, including those who manage to settle in stable 
communities composed of fairly recent immigrants. What would be a 
reasonable and viable ethical limit of conditional hospitality? What 
variables might be used to define such a limit? Would they have to do 
with the motives for their migration? the potential consequences of 
their forced return? their state of alienation? their state of material 



>> Ricardo, thank you for the link to Alex Rivera’s film. It is 
>> interesting to know this is happening in Newburgh. I’ve been there a 
>> few times and as a city it is struggling with cultural and economic 
>> development, this raises questions like:
>> *
>> *
>> How do migrant communities insert themselves into the communities 
>> they move to?
> It depends on the double intersection of how the open the communities 
> are to the immigrants and to what degree a pre-established
> ground has been staged by those immigrants that came before.
> Some individuals may never become a part of that the communities they 
> end up living for the rest of their lives-another Alex Rivera
> film about his own father, who spends all his non-work life watching 
> Peruvian TV:
> An experimental video about immigration. Looking at the potato (which 
> was first cultivated in Peru) Papapapá paints a picture of a vegetable 
> that has traveled and been transformed—following the migrating potato 
> North where it becomes the potato chip, the couch potato, and the 
> french fry. Papapapá simultaneously follows another Peruvian in 
> motion, the artist’s father, Augusto Rivera. The stories of the two 
> immigrants, the potato and Papa Rivera, converge as Augusto becomes a 
> Peruvian couch potato, sitting on an American sofa, eating potato 
> chips and watching Spanish language television.
> http://www.vdb.org/titles/papapapa
>> And in return, how open or inviting is the place?
> Yes, the question of "hospitality" is a core issue. This also echos 
> for me Derrida's 'possible’ conception of hospitality, in which our 
> most well-intentioned conceptions of hospitality render the "other 
> others" as strangers and refugees. Whether one invokes the current 
> international preoccupation with border control, or simply the 
> ubiquitous suburban fence and alarm system, it seems that hospitality 
> always posits some kind of limit upon where the other can trespass, 
> and hence has a tendency to be rather inhospitable. On the other hand, 
> as well as demanding some kind of mastery of house, country or nation, 
> there is a sense in which the notion of hospitality demands a 
> welcoming of whomever, or whatever, may be in need of that 
> hospitality. It follows from this that unconditional hospitality, or 
> we might say 'impossible' hospitality, hence involves a relinquishing 
> of judgement and control in regard to who will receive that 
> hospitality. In other words, hospitality also requires non-mastery, 
> and the abandoning of all claims to property, or ownership. If that is 
> the case, however, the ongoing possibility of hospitality thereby 
> becomes circumvented, as there is no longer the possibility of hosting 
> anyone, as again, there is no ownership or control.
>> *
>> *
>> The challenges of working class immigrants integrating into American 
>> cities should not be generalized, but the remittance culture does 
>> imply a desire to return to one’s country of origin.
> Yes, I agree, who is integrated, who is welcomed-as a number of 
> participants on the list serv has pointed is about class integration 
> speeds and abilities in the new space.
> And yes, remittance culture is the call of home that one wants to 
> return to-to be "homeless" to produce or maintain "home" as a possibility.
>> *
>> *
>> Grupo Union’s focussed goals in Boqueron seem key to navigating their 
>> many obstacles. The fragmentation of a life connected to disparate 
>> places is used as a tool for empowerment by establishing themselves 
>> in both cities and circulating the resources they have access to.
> By transversing the fantasy, the impossible, the field of dreams (a 
> baseball field) they do create agency in the fractalilty of being 
> "homeless."
>> *
>> *
>> It becomes problematic however, if the undocumented in Newburgh, as 
>> in many other places, are isolated or disconnected from their 
>> immediate environment.
> This is always/already the state of un-documented existences and the 
> always/already condition of networked cultures to some degree.
> The condition of virtual immigration states of being.
>> Kindest regards,
> Sorry for the long response, Alva.
> Very best,
> Ricardo
>> Alva
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
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