Reviewed by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
“Potentiality” refers to something which is possible but has not yet been realized. Importantly, in contrast to similar concepts like risk and precarity, potentiality can have either positive or negative connotations. Broadly, the concept of potentiality enables scholars to consider how people orient themselves temporally. How do human beings conceive of the future? How do we conceive of the present when the future is uncertain? How do anticipated futures impact the way we lead our lives in the present?
In this roundtable, participants will explore the possibility of applying potentiality to their work on im/migration. The panel will begin with brief presentations from five scholars engaged in work with a wide variety of populations in several global contexts.
Ibañez Tirado will draw on work examining the mobile life trajectories of three generations of women of Afghan citizenship who reside as refugees in Istanbul. Her work analyzes their place of origin as existing ‘somewhen’ rather than somewhere, a notion which underscores these women's notions of when they come from (specific points in time – sometime) in combination with somewhere.
Kim will discuss the relevance of potentiality to her work concerning unauthorized ethnic Korean migrants from China to the U.S. seeking asylum on religious grounds. Given the protracted nature of the asylum procedure, asylum-seekers often have ample time during which they can improve their enactment of a Christian persona and deepen their sense of belonging to the host society. Thus, Kim suggests that religious conversion is sometimes produced as an effect of migration and asylum-seeking.
Ramsay will discuss the relevance of potentiality to forced migration and refugee policy by drawing on ethnographic work with refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Uganda and Australia. In particular, she will focus on the kinds of futures that are made possible or challenged by such policies, in light of the recent shift from humanitarianism to self-reliance.
Karlsen will discuss her work with a project called ‘WAIT - Waiting for an uncertain future: the temporalities of irregular migration’, which involves ethnographic fieldwork among irregular migrants in Oslo, Norway. This work is a continuation of previous work exploring how irregular migrants’ access to basic service provisions is politically and legally structured in the context of the Norwegian welfare state.
Cook will discuss her work with transnationally-oriented Mexican-origin U.S. legal permanent residents. As legal permanent residents, these im/migrants may opt to undergo the process of family-based legalization, through which their non-migrant spouses and minor children may become legal immigrants. Cook’s work examines intergenerational perspectives on legal migration and the role of imagined futures in the family-based legalization process.
After the brief presentations, Coutin and Martinez will offer their perspectives on the broader implications of these presentations for anthropological research on im/migration. A panel discussion amongst the participants will follow, after which the session will conclude with a facilitated discussion among audience members and session participants.