For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"I’ll Give You a Dollar If You Give Me Your Papers: Active Citizenship and Immigrant Women’s Right to Work"

by Stavig, Lucía Isabel (2015)


In studies of intersectionality, citizenship is a category that is rarely given much attention. When it is, the care it is given is usually limited to demonstrating how the “deserving” are differentiated from the “undeserving” within regimes of rights under the nation-state model. This article works to elucidate the role played by citizenship as status and concept in everyday interactions. I present three undocumented mothers’ interactions with out-of-work males of color who are US citizens that reveal the former’s understanding of citizenship as active, as something gained through work and involvement in the community. Reading their words through their context and understanding of citizenship, I find that these mothers’ statements are not merely appropriations of dominant discourses but rather complex interplays between embodied knowledge and hegemony. While the mothers’ discourse of active citizenship sounds like that of liberal, meritocratic citizenship, these women draw upon collectively and spatially informed notions of citizenship that originate in their home countries and migrate with them. This argument complicates notions of racial naturalization as well as analyses that see interethnic conflict as simply an effect of white supremacy. By highlighting a different form of citizenship—one whose ontology is based in active participation in the community in contrast to passive notions prevalent in the US imaginary—I hope to show that citizenship interacts with the categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and class to influence how these are experienced and negotiated in the everyday lives of citizens and noncitizens alike.


Citizenship, Gendered Labour, Immigrant Labour, Intersectionality, Gendered Labour, Division Of Labour, Mothering Work, Working Women, Working Mothers


Migrant Workers

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