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March 27 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm CDT

Speaker Series: Leisy J. Abrego

Chicana/o Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
“Healing in the Face of Legal Violence: Kinship, Community Care, and Transformation"
Leisy Abrego
Hybrid: Virtual/In-Person (ABF Offices, 750 N Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor Chicago, IL)

Having accompanied the immigrant youth movement in the United States, we witnessed the leadership, relationality, and transformative capacities of undocumented youth who fought for access to legalization. Leisy J. Abrego will highlight undocumented youth-led practices of healing as inspiring examples of kinship, community care, and transformation in the face of legal violence. Reframing notions of undocumented youth in the U.S. as ‘good neoliberal subjects’ as was required for public-facing activism (Pallares, 2014), the talk instead centers their communal embeddedness. Undocumented youth were able to collectively organize and heal some of the harm caused by the legal violence (Menjívar and Abrego, 2012) of the citizenship regime by going through an affective and cognitive (personal and political) transformation process in which their subjectivities were reconstituted. Shame turned into pride, and a sense of isolation was met with a sense of kinship and belonging. Relying on humbled scholarship and participatory (co-creative) research, Abrego takes seriously the messiness of life and the complex personhood (Gordon, 2008) of immigrants without romanticizing their agency, nor underestimating the embodied effects of legal violence.

To register, contact Sophie Kofman at skofman@abfn.org


Leisy J. Abrego is a Professor in Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a member of the first large wave of Salvadoran immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

Her research and teaching interests – inspired in great part by her family’s experiences – are in Central American immigration, Latina/o families, the inequalities created by gender, and the production of “illegality” through U.S. immigration laws. Her award-winning first book, Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders (Stanford University Press, 2014), examines the well-being of Salvadorian immigrants and their families – both in the United States and in El Salvador – as these are shaped by immigration policies and gendered expectations. Her early research examines how immigration and educational policies shape the educational trajectories of undocumented students. Her second book, Immigrant Families (Polity Press, 2016), is co-authored with Cecilia Menjívar and Leah Schmalzbauer and delves deeply into the structural conditions contextualizing the diverse experiences of contemporary immigrant families in the United States.

More recently, Abrego has been writing about how different subsectors of Latino immigrants internalize immigration policies differently and how this shapes their willingness to make claims in the United States. Her current project examines the day-to-day lives of mixed status families after DACA. Her scholarship analyzing legal consciousness, illegality, and legal violence has garnered numerous national awards. She also dedicates much of her time to supporting and advocating for refugees and immigrants by writing editorials and pro-bono expert declarations in asylum cases.