Queer and Feminist Film
Group 4 Post
In dealing with the complex narratives of citizenship, sexuality, and migration, Monica Enriquez-Enriquez’s work provides essential representations for queer asylum, but also highlights the important function of digital technologies, communities, and arts with regards to creating visibility and representation for historically silenced and marginalized populations, particularly queer migrants and asylum seekers. Her installation fragments of migration, a Spanish-English video project, combines video and audio in depicting interviews with four transgender women from Mexico and one from El Salvador who are seeking asylum. This project in particular, questions the asylum as a United States institution largely based on gender identity and sexual identity. It depicts the normative narratives that characterize the asylum process which yield violence and exclusion for queer migrants. Further, it creates what Enriquez calls a “collective counter-narrative” to the institutionalized narrative produced the Department of Homeland Security.
In an online interview Enriquez-Enriquez discusses how this project and her work in general allow for very real and personal emotions to be made public. Enriquez-Enriquez suggests that when this happens, representations can “serve as a common point to resist oppression, racism, state violence, xenophobia, and queer phobia as a community or as a set of communities coming together.” While reading this, I am particularly interested in thinking about documentary and other media representations as creative tools of activism. In “The Cultural Politics of Lesbian Asylum,” author Rachel Lewis claims, “to be visible is to be in the realm of popular culture” (Lewis 428). Lewis engages with the relationship between LGBT human discourses and rights, and more broadly, media advocacy. I would agree with Lewis in that media is increasingly being used as a tool for human rights activism and globalizing social justice movements. Lewis suggests, “Human rights organizations are repeatedly turning towards global communication networks in order to obtain and promote visible human rights victories” (Lewis 427). NGOs, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the NCLR all have used mini-documentaries to both document and distribute queer asylum cases in the United States.
While on the one hand, I recognize the manner by which documentary serves as a vehicle for enhancing representation, visibility as well as creating space where the personal can become political, I question whether or not there is a politics of exclusion present within the realm of documentary advocacy, distribution, and representation itself. If the claim that to be visible is to be in the realm of popular culture is true, it is important to consider how documentary advocacy for queer asylum seekers can become more visible. Who has access to these films? Who gets represented? Is language itself a barrier in terms of terms of accurately representing and depicting the identities and needs of queer migrants and asylum seekers in a globalizing world? How do we avoid universalizing certain identities and experiences while depicting them? While more cinematic films like “Unveiled” enhance visual representation in the realm of popular culture, they do not always “build communities in the flesh” as Enriquez-Enriquez aims to do through real representation. Likewise, advocacy documentaries do not always pervade “mainstream” audiences and venues. Enriquez-Enriquez expresses recognition of the limits of certain types of media advocacy. In an online interview, she admits having struggled and continuing to struggle with the concept of digital technologies, New Media, interactivity, and online communities because of issues of access and marginalization. I question whether or not some of these mini-documentary video projects actually have enough of a following and platform to yield palpable political change. According to Timothy Randazzo in “Social and Legal Barriers” Sexuality Orientation and Asylum in the United States,” to some extent, they do. Randazzo argues that documentary work by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and its Asylum Program have recently been the deciding factor in several successful asylum cases and in combating anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States. I do, however, believe many of these organizations have extremely limited resources in addition to limits in their capacity to reach out to and represent a diverse range of queer asylum seekers and allies both nationwide and globally.
Crossing Borders in the Digital and Flesh: Monica Enriquez-Enriquez!” Interview. Weblog post. Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. Margaret Rhee, Apr. 2010. Web. Apr. 2013.
Lewis, Rachel (2010). “The Cultural Politics of Lesbian Asylum.” International Feminist Journal of Politics, 12:3, 424-443.
Randazzo, Timothy. “Social and Legal Barriers: Sexuality Orientation and Asylum in the United States.” Queer Migrations: Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings. Eds. Eithne Luibheid and Lionel Cantú Jr. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.