Professor Michelle Castañeda
Performance Studies Assistant Professor, Michelle Castañeda, received a TOME Grant to support an open access edition of her book Imaginary Rooms: The Mise-en-Scène of Immigration Law.
Imaginary Rooms: The Mise-en-Scène of Immigration Law presents a close reading of the dynamics of immigration courtrooms and detention centers through a performance studies analysis. An experimental performance ethnography, Imaginary Rooms draws upon the author’s ethnographic fieldwork as a participant in immigration proceedings, where she provided language interpretation services and accompaniment. Each chapter examines the scenography of an individual room: a “Removal” office in New York City, a detention center courtroom in Texas, and an asylum office in the Northeast. Accounts of these rooms mobilize ethnographic details to lay bare the derealizing violence enacted in immigration law, while at the same time demonstrating how minor, embodied interventions into the mise-en-scène of sovereign power open up routes toward abolitionist perspectives.
The academic discussion of immigration law has largely been dominated by social scientific, legal, and historical approaches (with testimonial and oral historical work also emerging from the work of investigative journalists, activists, and legal advocacy organizations). This book builds upon existing scholarship in those fields, but brings a performance studies perspective to bear on the question of immigration law. It foregrounds what the author calls a “scenographic consciousness” to draw attention to subtleties of light, staging, framing, visual technology, utterance, gesture, and choreography. In so doing, the project produces insights about the racializing power effects of US immigration law, not through the macroscopic characteristics of that system but rather through its embodied, ritualistic, and affective components. Ultimately, the book aims to show how the abolition of immigration law is furtively present in forms of creativity and survival among the detained and potentially disappeared as they confront acute conditions of duress.
TOME: Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem is a program within the NYU Center for the Humanities. This program is part of an initiative developed by the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Association of American University Presses (AAUP). The goal of this program is to advance the wide digital dissemination of scholarship in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to all readers with internet access.