Citizens-in-Waiting, Deportees-in-Waiting: Power, Temporality, and Suffering in the U.S. Asylum System (Bridget M. Haas, Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, Vol 45, Issue 1, March 2017)

This article explores how the interrelationship of power and temporality shapes the lived experiences and subjectivities of political asylum claimants in the United States. By lodging an asylum claim, migrants enter into a system that will, in effect, produce them as legitimate refugees deserving of protection or as illegitimate, “bogus” asylum seekers in need of expulsion. In this way, asylum claimants inhabit a dual positionality of citizen-in-waiting/deportee-in-waiting, as they often spend many years waiting for the adjudication of their cases. This article ethnographically analyzes how this dual positionality is inhabited by asylum claimants, producing novel forms of suffering and being-in-the-world. More specifically, I argue that the asylum process evokes a sense of “existential limbo”: a subjective and temporal state of being in which the asylum system, in the present moment, is understood as the locus of suffering and in which life and meaning making are defined by a sense of immobility.