Between Children and Transnational Economic Actors: The Discounted ‘Belongings’ of Young Chinese Migrants

Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 39, 4-18, September 2016. DOI: 10.1111/plar.12168

Posted: 18 Jan 2018

See all articles by Michele Statz

Michele Statz

University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus; University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: September 1, 2016

Abstract

Each year, approximately 1,500 Chinese youth (typically aged 15–17) migrate alone and clandestinely to the United States. While most intend to advance themselves and their families socially and economically, not all are immediately successful: some are apprehended and placed in removal proceedings. Here, immigration cause lawyers are tasked with presenting clients who might otherwise be termed “economic migrants” as uniquely vulnerable and deserving of legal status. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research, this article confronts a disconnect between the forms of belonging many young Chinese migrants prioritize — belonging to the workforce and to transnational kin and peer networks — and lawyers’ strategic disregard for these situated identities. It asks: How do young migrants reconcile their largely autonomous maneuvering with the accounts put forth by their attorney — accounts of cultural coercion, parental deficiency, and unagentive “children”? What forces give rise to these narratives, and what are their consequences for clients, and for lawyers? Tracing the utilization and suppression of meaningful identities in various institutional, kin, and community contexts, this article illuminates the ways in which young migrants’ pursuit of one form of status, namely legal, powerfully impacts their valuation and attainment of other, more discrete markers of success.

Suggested Citation

Statz, Michele, Between Children and Transnational Economic Actors: The Discounted ‘Belongings’ of Young Chinese Migrants (September 1, 2016). Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 39, 4-18, September 2016. DOI: 10.1111/plar.12168, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3103160

Michele Statz (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus ( email )

1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812-3031
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.northlandproject.org

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

United States

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