Blog post #1: Being conscious as an outsider

Sunset Park has been the most-targeted area across the city in the past six days for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making up half of the eight so-far confirmed raids across the city (Mena).


Sunset Park is a diverse neighborhood and this sense of racial diversity is perceptible through both human and non-human “actants” (Bennett 9) that I encountered as I explored: families, vendors, and performers; flags of US and Mexico, foods, and posters on the wall in my native language and also Spanish. All these actants have efficacy, as illustrated by Bennett in Vibrant Matter, they “can do things, has sufficient coherence to make a difference, produce effects, and alter the course of events. ”(Bennet vii). As an observer with intentions, I saw the permeable boundary between me and the ecology with these effects accumulated around my idea of the precarity. 

The first time I went to Sunset Park, a street festival celebrating Mexican culture was taken place on 5th Avenue: people gathered and wore clothes in the flag’s color. I was able to feel the dynamic and joyful atmosphere of this neighborhood as a cultural outsider. “Affects evoke the thoughts” (Brennan 7). As I walked along the Avenue, surrounded by the smell of Mexican food and also chatting in Spanish, I could not believe it’s the same area that I read from articles written two months ago, a thought that kept distracting me from the circulating crowd. In July, two ICE raids were reported in different blocks near 5th Avenue. Residents in Sunset Park were scared to leave their homes since many of them are undocumented immigrants and face dangers to be deported once being found out by ICE agents (Benavides).


“What makes the event happen is precisely the contingent coming together of a set of elements” (Bennett 34). In Vibrant Matter, Bennett illustrates the idea of Assemblages, which are “ad hoc groupings of diverse elements, of vibrant materials of all sorts” (Bennett 23). Different cultures, lifestyles, foods, decorations, houses, and also humans constitute this diverse neighborhood that has a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty, but these vibrant elements also make Sunset Park an obvious target of ICE raids under the current Trump administration and put a part of its residents in a precarious condition.


Two months later, the shared panic has largely evaporated. I passed the building that one of the raids happened the second time I visited. A group of friends was chatting in front of the entrance. “The guy they[agents] tried to get no longer lives here and whoever’s in here now refused to open the door. The day after that happened, there’s a graffiti says ‘Fxxk you ICE’ over there and it’s already covered.” A girl in the group told me this while drinking beer. However, the Asian neighbor who lives next door told me he was not familiar with what happened. Hispanics and Asians are the two largest immigrants communities in this neighborhood (niche) and they center around two different areas, a distinction that is also visible through both humans and nonhumans. “It is more to do with Hispanic, Mexican people and less with Asians.” I met Olga at the crossroad of 60th Street and 6th Ave, next to a catholic school. Working at the same corner as auxiliary traffic police for over 14 years, Olga knows most of the residents living in this school area,  “I work on the street, so I know things happen.” Even though it is reported that no arrest resulted from ICE raids that were observed (Goldberg), Olga told me that a few Hispanic people on 42nd street were taken by the police because they suspected that these people have no “papers.” “The way they treated those immigrants is abusive and a lot of them are homeless now.” As I’m going to further explore this area in regard to this precarity, I’m hoping to interview people from communities that are helping these immigrants as Olga told me there are lawyers and priests who provide assistance to help immigrants without legal status to get documents.


— Karen


Work Cited

Mena, Kelly. “How Sunset Park Is Using Information to Combat ICE Raids.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 July 2019.

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Cornell University Press, 2004.

Benavides, Cristian. “Sunset Park Residents Scared to Leave Their Homes during ICE Raids.” pix11, 15 July 2019.

niche. “Sunset Park Demographics.”

Goldberg, Noah. “ICE Attempts Two Raids in Sunset Park.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 13 July 2019.



~ by Jingrong Qian on September 23, 2019.

4 Responses to “Blog post #1: Being conscious as an outsider”

  1. I think your blog post is the overall most informative and affective of what I have read. The way you have chosen to relay your precarity is incredibly engaging. The way you have narrated your journey through the streets and how what you saw brought certain associations to your had carried me along in a way that was very affective. You balanced the affect with pressing and well chosen truths of the precarity. Good work!

  2. I feel this bost is the best overall. Your engagement with the community as well as your beginning to scratch the surface of what kind of effects and vibrancy your ecology possesses in a time of precarity speak to this projects promise. I hope that you continue to build on the relationships that exist between the people here. The sentence “However, the Asian neighbor who lives next door told me he was not familiar with what happened” was especially interesting to me for the above reasons.

  3. Most affected/ engaged: I love the narratives you told about the interaction you had with people who lived in the neighborhood when the raid occurred. I especially enjoyed how you mentioned the culture of the neighborhoods and although they have a target on their back they still try to remain open and proud to be where they’re from!

  4. Best Overall: I liked the way you interacted and talked with the community, gaining more insight on their issues. You celebrated the vibrancy of the neighborhood, while being conscious that your position as an outsider affects the way and extent in which you can engage.

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