Mambo Montage: The Latinization of New York

By Agustín Laó-Montes; Arlene Dávila | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Immigration Status and Identity
Undocumented Mexicans in New York
Jocelyn Solís*

DISCOURSES AND COUNTERDISCOURSES OF ILLEGALITY

Some could argue that the adoption of discourses that label and identify are a necessary aspect of social life. One cannot have an identity unless one is named. As I approach the issue of illegal Mexican immigration, especially as it is taking place in New York City, it is important to keep in mind the problems that being classified as “illegal” can cause for an individual who must learn to navigate within and outside of the many sources of meaning that such an identity carries.

This essay will discuss the close link between discourse and identity and the complex conditions that produce an illegal or undocumented identity. As others have argued, identity is a locus of convergence of both societal and individual conditions (Deaux 1991). Although traditional studies of psychology define identity as a composite of traits inherent to an individual, social constructionist accounts of self and identity instead argue that social, political, and interactive conditions make certain identities possible (Gergen 1991). Sociocultural theory would further argue that the emergence of a psychological form rests on the transformation of the individual's manipulation of external conditions or resources into a bidirectional function

____________________
*
I am greatly indebted to the editors and anonymous reviewers of this volume as well as to my faculty and colleagues for their constructive comments and suggestions to earlier drafts of this manuscript, which continue to be instrumental in the shaping of this work.

-337-

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