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Beltrán argues that undocumented activists who “come out” as such are “queering” immigration politics — their presence serves to transgress its predefined categories and, in doing so, destabilize their normative authority:

“Understood in the context of traditional logics of sovereignty and kinship, queering the politics of immigration means opening up new possibilities to imagine political membership and political claim making. By refusing the politics of innocence, questioning the state-centered logics of citizenship, and reconfiguring the criteria for political membership, DREAMers are queering the movement in ways that can’t be ‘delimited in advance.'” (88)

But lest we misunderstand this queering as a political panacea, Beltrán explains that it is not “always and only productively transgressive.” Instead, the “proliferation” of “normativities” “amid the complex and contradictory ways in which queer subjects relate to nation-states” can lead to a certain formulation of imperial American exceptionalism that Puar calls “homonationalism”:

“The very concept of ‘being out’ as undocumented is capable of challenging the logic of sovereignty while shoring up notions of American exceptionalism … ‘the emergence of national homosexuality . . . that corresponds with the coming out of the exceptionalism of American empire.’ By considering the unexpectedly ‘convivial relations between queerness and militarism,’ the logic of homonationalism serves to mark “the distance between barbarism and civilization.'” (88)

This queering problematizes some oppositions (e.g., the undocumented vs. the citizen) while supporting other questionable ones (e.g. the barbarian vs. the civilian, or the “good immigrant” (an academically achieving, militaristic, neoliberal rational actor) vs. the “bad immigrant” (perhaps criminal, perhaps anti-capitalist, perhaps less patriotic and more skeptical of American exceptionalism)).

Although I didn’t find Rancière’s discussion of democracy (and what it might mean) particularly accessible, he is invested in the role of marginalized identities in democratic government. To him, there is no “other” outside of democracy (as Derrida would have us believe) whose inclusion might come in the future: “democracy is this principle of otherness,” of heterogeneity. “This is what the democratic process entails,” writes Rancière: “creating forms of subjectivation in the interval between two identities: creating cases of universality by playing on the double relation between the universal and the particular.” (57).

Both writers are concerned here with the creation of democratic political subjects and the “proliferation of normativities” that happens when they are created. I haven’t done a lot more here than identify where I think these two essays intersect in their discussions of democracy … partially because I’m not sure where this argument leads. Does Rancière’s claim that democracy presupposes inclusion of the other mean that the “queering” of immigration politics, though seemingly transgressive, is actually fundamentally democratic? (And does that change anything?)