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Documenting the Undocumented: Latino/a Narratives and Social Justice in the Era of Operation Gatekeeper.

Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. Documenting the Undocumented: Latino/a Narratives and Social Justice in the Era of Operation Gatekeeper. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017.

Documenting the Undocumented: Latino/a Narratives and Social Justice in the Era of Operation Gatekeeper is a work of literary criticism that analyzes several genres of immigration literature published in the last twenty-five years. Marta Caminero-Santangelo considers narratives of and by the undocumented in an era that has witnessed the shunting of migrants through desert routes in the US Southwest. She examines work by journalists, Latino and non-Latino authors of fiction, accounts by the undocumented, and accounts by DREAMers. Three basic concepts--testimony, trauma, and ethics--weave their way through the analysis and Caminero-Santangelo ultimately examines if and how these narratives will compel readers to what she calls an "ethics of action." Moreover, she exposes the shortcomings of works that purport to provide "a voice for the voiceless" but allow empathy to substitute for a true ethics of action.

Caminero-Santangelo examines how fiction by Latino and non-Latino authors has been reshaped since the militarization of the border and specifically since the increased emphasis on border enforcement at urban crossing sites. The author demonstrates how this hardened border has reshaped views of border spaces, immigration, and legal status. Documenting the Undocumented asks readers to reconsider the terminology, purpose, and aims of immigrant literature. Caminero-Santangelo uses the concepts of testimony, trauma, and ethics to assess the purpose of this literature. The latter half of the book is noteworthy for its synthesis of the literatures of famous Caribbean authors and the memoirs of the undocumented who have crossed the US-Mexico border, which are usually treated separately. Documenting the Undocumented examines these as constellations of literature. In chapter 3, she analyzes the work of Caribbean authors Junot Diaz, Cristina Garcia, Julia Alvarez, and other non-Latino/a authors who are US citizens to show how they retain differences in origins but demonstrate solidarity with noncitizen migrants. Caminero-Santangelo demonstrates how country of origin frames narratives of the undocumented and how proximity changes writers' views of the border. Her work on the migrants' narratives is especially innovative for its emphasis on the need for an ethics of action. Narratives of the undocumented that reify the dominant categories of the border, the undocumented, and America come in for special criticism, as do works whose construction is highly mediated by an editorial pen, especially when the editors attempt to hide that mediation. The author praises DREAMer narratives because they resist facile categorization and force readers to confront an ethics of action.

Caminero-Santangelo provides a cogent analysis and a framework for understanding how migrants themselves processed their experiences in the United States. In her examination of highly edited memoirs, Caminero-Santangelo lays bare the constructed coherence, the editorial intent, and the mediated nature of collections that purport to provide a "voice for the voiceless." Some of these narratives encourage would-be migrants to stay in their countries of origin, others paint uncomplicated pictures of migrants' journeys and border crossing, and some recycle the trope of the hardworking migrant. These narratives elicit empathy but stop short of compelling action. In contrast, in her examination of DREAMer narratives and several other memoirs by the undocumented, the author demonstrates the polyvocal discourses of the counter-public and stretches the discourses of recognition beyond facile binaries such as legal or illegal.

Caminero-Santangleo encourages readers to become activists. Several of the works she analyzes have been selected as readings for first-year seminars and other university courses; Enrique's Journey and The Devil's Highway have both been selected as readings by core education committees at my university. Caminero-Santangelo's work reminds the reader that our pedagogical approach should recognize humanity and human rights and dismantle the reified binaries common in US immigration discourse. Moreover, globalization and neoliberalism have reshaped our relationship to the state and the nation--a relationship that is increasingly defined by the death of the social, interactions with militarized enforcement apparatuses, and the privatization of social welfare. Thus, an ethics of action requires us to recognize humanity and human rights as our primary goal. As the author demonstrates, human rights--a supranational set of rights--form the basis for activism.


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Title Annotation:LATIN AMERICA
Author:Sierra, Luis M.
Publication:Journal of Global South Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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