“Mobilizing for Life: Illegality, Organ Transplants, and Migrant Biosociality” by Jonathan Xavier Inda, The Routledge Handbook of Chicana/o Studies, New York: Routledge, 2019


Jonathan Xavier Inda, “Mobilizing for Life: Illegality, Organ Transplants, and Migrant Biosociality.” In The Routledge Handbook of Chicana/o Studies, edited by Francisco Lomeli, Denise Segura, and Elyette Benjamin-Labarthe, pp. 126-37. New York: Routledge, 2019.


Over the past few decades, health-based claims and matters of life have become central to the citizenship politics of the United States. Indeed, individuals afflicted with a wide range of maladies—from AIDS and mental illness to chronic fatigue syndrome and muscular dystrophy—have taken action and sought to be recognized by political, medical, and other authorities in terms of their vital rights as citizens. In this context, undocumented immigrants too, despite their legal status and the intense immigration enforcement climate in the United States, have turned to their biology to make citizenship claims. This essay focuses specifically on the efforts of 14 young undocumented migrants to obtain spots on the transplant waitlists in Chicago-area hospitals. It examines their activism in terms of biosociality, a form of citizenship in which individuals and groups are “made up” and come together around a shared biological state or identification—a specific disease, corporeal vulnerability, genetic risk, embodied harm, somatic suffering, and so forth—in order to gain recognition, resources, and care. Biosociality thus amounts to collectivities mobilizing on the basis of their damaged or precarious biology as a way of securing vital rights—the right to life, health, and healing. In the case at hand, undocumented immigrants have been “made up” and have come together around organ failure and the general suffering of the “illegal” migrant body, the goal being to achieve access to new organs. Migrant biosociality is about collective entitlement to health services, hope for better treatment, and helping suffering bodies. It is grounded in the belief that undocumented immigrants deserve access to life-saving medical technologies.


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