Going public: Hannah Arendt, immigrant action, and the space of appearance

Cristina Beltrán

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    While other theorists have turned to Arendt's analysis of statelessness and superfluity to consider questions of immigration, "illegality," and the status of noncitizens, this essay argues that Arendt's account of labor and her nonconsequentialist account of action offer a richer optic for considering the undocumented in the United States. To explore this claim, this essay constructs an alternate account of the nationwide demonstrations for immigrant rights that occurred in 2006. Rather than defining "success" in terms of replicability or immediate legislative results, the author's analysis of the 2006 protests emphasizes the significance of noncitizens laying claim to the public realm. Considering Michael Warner's concept of counterpublics, the author argues that the demonstrations can be best understood as a moment of initiation and an inaugural performance of the political. Rereading Arendt's notion of animal laborans, the essay concludes by exploring the limitations of noncitizens invoking labor as a way to gain civic standing.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)595-622
    Number of pages28
    JournalPolitical Theory
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Oct 2009


    • Arendt
    • Freedom
    • Immigration
    • Labor
    • Latinos

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science


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