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Coloniality of Affect: Theoretical Approaches to Contemporary Migratory Affect as Decolonial World-Making


This dissertation expands the understanding of migrants’ emotions beyond individual internal processes to argue that affect is political and is shaped by—while simultaneously shaping— structures of power. This project provides an overarching theory of the role that “affects” play within domination, argues that affect can be a route for decolonial transgression and redemption, and asserts that undocumented communities in the United States are mobilizing affects in relation to the Coloniality of Affect—both in compliance and in contestation to it.My dissertation delineates the connection between affect and coloniality through an analysis of cultural productions by undocumented or formerly-undocumented creators, including memoirs, poetry, novels, and media. Specifically, I look at the emotions depicted and produced in these works and understand them as existing on a spectrum between the dominant affects of the anti-immigrant state, what I call colonial affects, and the decolonial affects that present the possibility for making worlds where belonging and dignity are not dependent on citizenship. This project identifies new forms of affect, especially hope and joy, by which undocumented immigrants are performing belonging beyond categories such as “legality” and “citizenship.” I contend that decolonial affects mobilized by undocumented immigrants provide a new understanding of affect as transgressive and as a starting point for social justice work.

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