Disappearing Rooms: The Hidden Theaters of Immigration Law

Regular price $ 24.95

by Michelle Castañeda

Duke University Press

3/17/2023, paperback

SKU: 9781478019633


In Disappearing Rooms Michelle Castañeda lays bare the criminalization of race enacted every day in US immigration courts and detention centers. She uses a performance studies perspective to show how the theatrical concept of mise-en-scène offers new insights about immigration law and the absurdist dynamics of carceral space. Castañeda draws upon her experiences in immigration trials as an interpreter and courtroom companion to analyze the scenography--lighting, staging, framing, gesture, speech, and choreography--of specific rooms within the immigration enforcement system.

Castañeda's ethnographies of proceedings in a "removal" office in New York City, a detention center courtroom in Texas, and an asylum office in the Northeast reveal the depersonalizing violence enacted in immigration law through its embodied, ritualistic, and affective components. She shows how the creative practices of detained and disappeared people living under acute duress imagine the abolition of detention and borders.

Featuring original illustrations by artist-journalist Molly Crabapple, Disappearing Rooms shines a light into otherwise hidden spaces of law within the contemporary deportation regime.


"In this book, Michelle Castañeda takes us deep into one of the shadowy recesses of state power--the immigration courtroom, where the immigration regime ritualistically enacts its racializing coloniality through absurd spectacles of the Rule of Law that are bizarre, irrational, and fundamentally cruel. Disappearing Rooms is a memorable work of exceptional intellectual imagination, critical creativity, and refreshing originality." -- Nicholas De Genova, coeditor of The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement

"A provocative and transformative work of scholarship, Disappearing Rooms defies disciplinary boundaries in its exploration of ideas that are unsettling, powerful, and thrilling. Emphasizing the embodied, ritualistic, and affective components of immigration politics, Michelle Castañeda presents necessary and surprising insights about the effects, habitus, and scenography of racialized immigration law in the United States." -- Joshua Chambers-Letson, author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life

About the Contributors:

Michelle Castañeda is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at New York University.

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer based in New York.