Fragmented Citizenships and Precarious Legality Among New Middle-Class Migrants: The Venezuelan Case.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:12
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Lourdes GOUVEIA, University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA
Jasney COGUA-LOPEZ, University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA
The very early phases of Venezuelan emigration were gestated at the collapse of Latin America’s state-led modernization and neoliberal projects, and when the cult and feasibility of hyper-consumption began a slow decline in the 1980s and 1990s. Its most intense and current phase began after 2000, in opposition to a re-emergent revolutionary utopia gestated under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. Chavez openly targeted the modernist aspirations of an increasingly beleaguered and downwardly-mobile middle class. Political polarization and increasingly fragmented citizenships are all but increasing. Studies about how immigrants construct legality and citizenship have yet to sufficiently scrutinize how such constructions are partly shaped by contexts of exit and, most importantly, by Latin Americans’ increasingly fragmented and market-based practices and imaginaries of citizenship. The Venezuelan case can help illuminate how these under-examined processes evolve and what consequences they have for migrants and their communities. Theoretically, the paper incorporates a combination of approaches that hail from literatures as diverse as political economy of migration, cultural studies and the literature on consumption, legality and citizenship/non-citizenship. Empirically, the paper is based on more than 100 interviews with Venezuelan immigrants in the United States. Viewed through a transnational lens, an analysis of interview responses of Venezuelan immigrants, afford us unexpected opportunities for also exploring some of the deepest expressions of Latin America’s current economic, political and cultural crises and their impact on migration journeys and the precarization of legality and citizenship. In other words, the study of immigrants’ strategies of legality and citizenship reveals as much about countries of origin as it does about countries of destination and the historical relationship between the latter and specific nationalities.