Untenable Lives

Tired of waiting for Congress to act, states are trying to take matters into their own hands, including my home state of Arizona. State laws dealing with immigration issues have generally followed a strategy of attempting to encourage immigrants, particularly those without proper documentation, to leave the state by making life for them untenable. ~Representative Jeff Flake (R – AZ), 2007; emphasis added.

The adjective “tenable” derives from the Latin word tenere – to maintain, to hold, or to keep. This week I have been thinking a lot about the concept of tenability as it intersects with state security projects, particularly in Arizona. If we take Representative Jeff Flake at his word, his use of tenability above suggests that the purpose of Arizona’s immigration enforcement strategy – attrition of the undocumented population – is to produce lives for certain groups of people that are characterized by such pervasive vulnerabilities (lives that cannot be maintained) that many attempt to leave the state.

Is “attrition through enforcement” a state security project? Can I use programs like this and Secure Communities to develop a framework for conceptualizing state security projects? I would like to work on generating a theoretical discussion between Paul Apostolidis’s use of racial biopolitics, James Scott’s notion of legibility, and the anti-security critiques (security as a mode of governing) to try and work toward this framework. My goal is to better understand how the state is attempting to control bodies, movements, and acts, and to better understand how people who are targeted by these attempts “squeeze out the state” using the principles of radical abolition. Food for thought: How do state security projects produce untenable lives for groups who are racialized as non-white?


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