Tina Shrestha is Assistant Professor in the Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS) at Waseda University. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Cornell University (2014) and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore (2016–2018). Her research interests include the contemporary US immigration and asylum regime, inter-Asian migrations, brokerage, and infrastructure. Her publications have appeared in Anthropology of Work Review (2019), Pacific Affairs (guest co-editor with Brenda S.A. Yeoh, 2018), Studies in Nepali History and Society (2016, 2019), Refugee Resettlement in the United States: Language, Pedagogy and Politics (UK: Multilingual Matters, 2015). Her monograph Surviving the Sanctuary City: Ordinary Suffering and Asylum-seeking Work among Nepali New Yorkers is in contract with the University of Washington Press. She is currently researching on Nepali student-migration to Japan (awarded JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Early-Career Scientists, 2019–2021).
「 Surviving the Sanctuary City: Ordinary Suffering and Asylum-seeking Work among Nepali New Yorkers 」
This presentation is an overview of my upcoming monograph—Surviving the Sanctuary City—an ethnographically derived, situated analysis of suffering and seeking asylum in the 21st century United States. The paper highlights how asylum-seeking fuses the intense and the performative with the repetitive and the mundane. Nepalis often described the experience of this merging as “making paper” (kaagaz banaune), referring to drawn out bureaucratic processes, and “suffering” (dukkha) as they prepared and ultimately delivered their asylum testimonies. I argue that the consequences of combining these seemingly disjointed experiences are far-reaching, including a rise in interior immigration enforcement; production of new migrant legalities, including temporalization of labor; and legalized formation of precarious claimant-workers. The paper reveals that the work of applying for asylum extends beyond the mere legal realm to which it is conventionally consigned. Asylum seeking, including the documentation and bureaucratic procedures it entails, comes to define applicants’ survival strategies, suffering imaginaries, and much of the socio-cultural life of emergent Nepali migrant communities. Through these conclusions, the monograph reconceptualizes the notion of suffering into a learned practice and a powerful narrative that mobilizes differently situated ambiguities within the contemporary US immigration and asylum regime.