Unseeable people

A while ago after I asked for assistance in locating research on the concept of invisibility I was forwarded a forthcoming book chapter by Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, who is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Cal State San Marcos that addressed a very tangible example of the impact of multidimensional invisibility on people.

She discussed how ‘seeable people’ become ‘invisible people’ by virtue of the machinery of citizenship. This idea fascinates me and is related to my ideas on exile, ‘passing’, and ‘authenticity.’ Her research team demonstrated (as have others) that ‘illegal’ (im)migrants often get lost in a mire of structural invisibility by being allowed to do some things like go to school while having no rights or sense of legitimacy to say anything about the nature of how the institutions address them.

Recently there have been renewed (in my mind idiocy) in Arizona calling for a ban on so-called ‘anchor babies.’ The larger question, as related to invisibility, demonstrates how corporeal presence does not negate a more dynamic invisibility – control in and through the squashing of power, voice, and a sense of belonging. 

It is incredibly ironic that on the one hand there are so many forces at play pushing a free and global world (read economy) while maintaining protectionist practices around the authenticity of people.

To my mind, citizenship ends up being an act of imposing and negating invisibility, not corporeally but otherwise. Not just of those who can be seen and those who must hide, but also in terms of who can be heard or exercise power, and how affect or feelings are used as an arena in which to engage in this struggle.

So much of the discussion coming out of Arizona uses a rhetoric of resource strain when, in reality, they use a strategy of manipulating the multidimensionality of invisibility – attaching to the sight of ‘brown skinned people’ a way to speak for and act on their behalf as played out in fear, loathing, and anger.