Monday, August 6, 2018

Anna Tuckett's "Rules, Paper, Status"

Anna Tuckett is Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Tuckett applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rules, Paper, Status: Migrants and Precarious Bureaucracy in Contemporary Italy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Rules, Paper, Status: Migrants and Precarious Bureaucracy in Contemporary Italy falls at the beginning of the chapter titled “Becoming an Immigration Adviser”. This chapter focuses on the emergence of self-styled immigration experts – or “community brokers” – who help migrants navigate Italian immigration bureaucracy. These brokers have various motives for their assistance work, but one shared outcome is that their brokerage activities enable these individuals to fashion themselves in particular ways. These include fulfilling desires to be professional, gaining standing in their community, satisfying charitable impulses, and fighting for social justice. Crucially, the role of the community broker offers possibilities for gaining social status that are generally not otherwise available to migrants in Italy. For example, by translating documents, interpreting at offices, and filling out basic applications, Mehdi, a Moroccan community broker, was able to eke out a basic living for himself and avoid employment as a fruit picker or other similarly poorly paid wage labor.

The emergence of community brokers goes to the heart of my book’s focus on the productive nature of migrants’ legal and bureaucratic encounters and the unintended consequences these produce. In Italy, migrants generally have very low social and economic status and are restricted to the lowest status and most poorly remunerated jobs. Italian immigration law, which ties legal status to employment, effectively traps migrants in these positions, and is therefore a key factor in their marginalization in Italian society. As I argue in this chapter, however, although immigration bureaucracies function as a mechanism that reproduces migrants’ continued precarity, these brokers are able to turn this mechanism on its head, using immigration bureaucracy as a tool to overcome such marginalization and create alternative career opportunities for themselves. In doing so, they broaden their life horizons in spite of a legal and institutional matrix that is stacked against them.
Learn more about Rules, Paper, Status at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue