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From the very beginning of her essay, Cristina Beltrán makes it clear that citizenship is perhaps not quite as stable as we might want it to be. In regard to the DREAM activists she proposes, “what if the question of citizenship is itself the subject of protest?” (80). Western liberalism is fundamentally built around the concern for one’s fellow citizen, but as Beltrán points out, citizenship is certainly not universal. In this regard, I think that it is interesting to bring in the theorist Giorgio Agamben’s notion of “bare life” in order to better conceptualize some of the far-reaching implications of Beltrán’s argument. Agamben describes the law as a force that separates political beings (i.e. citizens) from bare life (i.e. bodies). This notion of a bare life—a life before politics—is symbolized by figures like the felon or the illegal immigrant, whose lack of status as “citizen” permits the state to act directly on their bodies.

And the DREAM activists in particular provide a way for us to conceive of this division of life, but also propose a hopeful alterative in which it is the “bare life” rather than the citizen that is the central figure of politics. Instead of lamenting their lack of documentation, the DREAM activists protest against the very notion of citizenship: “In claiming an oppositional stance of fearlessness, DREAMers…put forward a more agnostic account of membership that argues that it is the law, not the undocumented, that is illegitimate” (89). Through this “oppositional stance of fearlessness”, the DREAMers brazenly flaunt their lack of citizenship, subsequently urging the public to consider broader definitions of community that are not based around political lineation. Thus, their actions seem to be suggesting that it is perhaps in the consideration of communities as (pre-political, bare) bodies rather than citizens where we can find true solidarity.