Gaining a voice : storytelling and undocumented youth activism in Chicago
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
San Diego, Calif.
Mobilization. - San Diego, Calif., 1996, currens
, p. 345-360
University of Antwerp
In recent years, undocumented youth have come out of the shadows to claim their rights in the United States. By sharing their stories, these youth gained a voice in the public debate. This article integrates insights from the literature on narratives and emotions to study how storytelling is employed within the undocumented youth movement in Chicago. I argue that undocumented youth strategically use storytelling for diverging purposes depending on the context, type of interaction, and audience involved. Based on ethnographic research, I show that storytelling allows them to incorporate new members, mobilize constituencies, and legitimize grievances. In each of these contexts, emotions play a key role in structuring the social transaction between storyteller and audience. Storytelling is thus a community-building, mobilizing, and claims-making practice in social movements. At a broader level, this case study demonstrates the power of storytelling as a political tool for marginalized populations.