Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States
by Monisha Das Gupta
(Duke University Press, Nov 2006)
 
Unruly Immigrants
examines feminist, queer, and labor organizing in post-1965 South Asian communities in the United States to mark the development of social justice politics that forwards immigrant rights.  It presents the first systematic account of the South Asian communities' contemporary political life as lived substantially outside the electoral arena and within cross-national spaces.  This ethnography is based on groups that organize South Asian survivors of domestic violence, queers, domestic workers, and taxi drivers who craft transnational social justice agendas through a reexamination nation-bound ideas of culture, identity, belonging, and rights.  The activists open up a conceptual space in which they question the modern subject of rights - the patriotic, self-sufficient, contributing, and consuming citizen.  By centering transnational realities of immigrants, the organizations expand the agendas of the social movements of which they are a part.  They also testify to the heterogeneity of identities, interests, investments, and politics within South Asian communities. These new actors - who live and work in spaces where they are defined as outsiders on the basis of their gender, sexuality, economic standing, race, and nationality - challenge those sections of their ethnic communities that try to secure national belonging by being model minorities. The book captures the multiple ways in which South Asian feminist, queer, and labor organizers articulate alternatives that better respond to the rights needs of people crossing national borders.  These unruly immigrants realize that migrants need social, political and economic rights to travel with them regardless of citizenship because they are members of social groups who are particularly vulnerable to rights abuse. The activists advocate cross-border rights to match immigrants’ cross-border realities.  Unruly Immigrants empirically grounds and theoretically develops speculations about what transnational social movements imply for nation-states, citizenship, and rights.