Establishing Identity: Documents, Performance, and Biometric Information in Immigration Proceedings



Date and Time

May 6, 2013 3:00 PM - 4:15 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Philippines Conference Room

FSI Contact

How do we know that a person is what she claims to be? Or how do we make others believe that we are the person that we claim to be? Sociologists have explored these questions by focusing on face-to-face interaction in various everyday settings. This talk concerns the micropolitics of identification in a more formalized and institutionalized setting, specifically in immigration proceedings. Drawing on the literature on bureaucracy, presentation of self, migrant sending communities, and deviance, the speaker examines how immigration bureaucrats seek to establish migrants’ identities in contemporary immigration proceedings; how migrants challenge these dominant identification practices, notably through their involvement in various “illegal” schemes; and what consequences these micropolitical struggles have for both receiving and sending states. The talk is based on a study of the contestations over family-based immigration in South Korea, which have focused on efforts to establish the kinship and marital status of co-ethnic migrants from China (Korean Chinese migrants). The speaker will show how bureaucrats and migrants mobilize various types of “identity tags,” how migrants combine strategic and moral reasoning as they engage in these micropolitical struggles, and how these struggles influence not only immigration policies in the receiving state but also migration brokerage networks and gender and family relations in the sending states. The talk is based on Kim’s award-winning article in Law and Social Inquiry.

Jaeeun Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University (2012-2013). Before joining Stanford, she received her PhD degree in sociology from UCLA (2011) and was a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University (2011-2012). Her dissertation entitled Colonial Migration and Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth-Century Korea examines diaspora politics in twentieth-century Korea, focusing on colonial-era ethnic Korean migrants and their descendants in Japan and northeast China. Her dissertation has recently been awarded the Theda Skocpol Best Dissertation Award from the Comparative-Historical Sociology Section of the ASA. Kim’s work has appeared in Theory and SocietyLaw and Social Inquiry, and European Journal of Sociology. Her article in Law and Social Inquiry, entitled “Establishing Identity: Documents, Performance, and Biometric Information in Immigration Proceedings,” has won the graduate and law students best paper award in 2011. After completing her fellowship term at Stanford, Kim will be Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University beginning in the fall 2013.