Surviving the Sanctuary City
Asylum-Seeking Work in Nepali New York
- PUBLISHED: May 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Anthropology, Asian Studies / South Asia, Asian American Studies, Politics
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 244 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 13 b&w illus., 2 maps
- ISBN: 9780295751528
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Over the past several decades, the vibrant, multiethnic borough of Queens has seen growth in the community of Nepali migrants, many of whom are navigating the challenging bureaucratic process of asylum legalization. Surviving the Sanctuary City follows them through the institutional spaces of asylum offices, law firms, and human rights agencies to document the labor of seeking asylum. As an interpreter and a volunteer at a grassroots community center, anthropologist Tina Shrestha has witnessed how migrants must perform a particular kind of suffering that is legible to immigration judges and asylum officers. She demonstrates the lived contradictions asylum seekers face while producing their "suffering testimonials" and traces their attempts to overcome these contradictions through the Nepali notions of kaagaz banaune (making paper) and dukkha (suffering).
Surviving the Sanctuary City asks what everyday survival among migrants and asylum seekers can tell us about the cultural logic of suffering within the confines of US borders. Through rich ethnographic detail and careful nuanced narratives, it puts the lives and perspectives of the Nepali migrant community at the center of the story. In so doing, Shrestha offers a fundamental rethinking of asylum seeking as a form of precarious labor and immigration enforcement in a rapidly changing US society.
Authors & Contributors
Tina Shrestha is assistant professor at the Waseda Institute for Advanced Study, Waseda University.
Chapter 1. Locating Nepali New Yorkers
Chapter 2. Language of Suffering, Language for Survival
Chapter 3. The Logic of “Claimant Credibility”
Chapter 4. Testimonial Coconstruction in the Asylum Backstage
Chapter 5. The Production of Claimant-Workers
Chapter 6. The Paradox of Visibility and Collective Censorship
Presents a valuable set of insights into the experience of asylum seeking in the US through an innovative blend of ethnographic description and policy analysis.- Sara Shneiderman, author of Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India
Impressive in scope and depth, Tina Shrestha's work really exemplifies the best of community-centered, accountable scholarship.- Julietta Hua, author of Trafficking Women’s Human Rights