Amelia Frank-Vitale

AnthropologyUniversity of Michigan

Award Information

2017 IDRF Program

AnthropologyUniversity of Michigan

Saber Vivir: Deportation, Migration, and "Knowing How to Live" in Honduras

In the last two years alone nearly 2% of the entire population of Honduras has experienced deportation from the United States or Mexico. Analyzing how the Honduran state and supranational powers seek to manage movement, while foregrounding the lived experience of sky-high homicide rates, unauthorized migration, and forced return, this project explores sovereignty, mobility, violence, and possibility through the lens of young Hondurans sent back to some of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods. While my project recognizes general insecurity as a formative backdrop, I focus on how deportees survive in and contest structurally violent and physically insecure spaces. My aim is not to paint a romanticized picture of resilience, but to explore the multiple ways that young people go about "knowing how to live" – which can include employing and performing degrees of violence and moving from place to place. Using a combination of participant observation coupled with participatory photography workshops, I will document how deportees reintegrate into social and economic worlds they had left behind and how their experience with deportation produces the construction of new ones. My work treats migration and violence as deeply interconnected phenomena, raising questions about how people deal with, make use of, understand, and contest marginalization and (im)mobility. By understanding repatriation as a node within larger, multiple, and circuitous journeys, I aim to expand bipolar, unidirectional accounts of migration and demonstrate how movement becomes a central if intermittent aspect of life, rather than an exceptional moment between lives of stasis. By offering a fine-grained, participant-driven ethnographic analysis of life after deportation, this project will add an important dimension to studies of mass migration and refugee movements in the Americas and across the globe and the challenges they pose to regimes of sovereignty and security that seek to fix people in place.