Sarah Hart | Affecting Humanity, Challenging Exclusion, Moving-with Stories of Deportation

Sarah Hart

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With this paper, I consider the ways in which moving-with digital stories of deportation can become a humanizing experience that amplifies both speakers’ and listeners’ capacity to affect and be affected. The narrators in the Humanizing Deportation digital story archive affirm their connectedness to networks of care that are limited and fragile, enduring and adaptable, and that entangle us all. What can feeling how we are moved by these narratives teach us about the embodied experience of being “human”? Through contact improvisation techniques, we can express how hearing them impacts and changes us, paying attention to our senses and impulses, points of connection and departure. Moving-with thus potentiates the experience of witnessing beyond the individual self, reaching past passive spectatorship to feel-with individual narratives as a collective experience that implicates witnesses’ response-ability. In my analysis of this community-based performance practice-as-research—including my work on the digital storytelling project Humanizing Deportation and the contact improvisation technique I co-developed for moving-with these stories—I find that moving-with offers a way of not only disseminating narratives of deportation by authors in Mexico but also explores how this digital story archive can resonate in different body-minds in the US. In order to counter processes of dehumanization (the intended effect of hegemonic, nationalistic discourses, which “criminalize” and “racialize” certain bodies, through practices of confinement and expulsion), these creative acts of expressing/witnessing can reaffirm the humanity of both narrator and witness as inalienable and inherently interdependent.

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