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Living from the Nerves

Deportability, Indeterminacy, and the 'Feel of Law' in Migrant Moscow

Madeleine Reeves

Keywords: affect; deportation; indeterminacy; Kyrgyzstan; legal and illegal residence; Russia; the state; thrill

While deportability has elicited interest as a legal predicament facing migrant workers, less attention has been given to the way in which this condition of temporal uncertainty shapes migrants' everyday encounters with state agents. Drawing on ethnography among Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in Moscow, I show that in conditions of documentary uncertainty 'legal residence' depends upon successfully enacting a right to the city and the personalization of the state. Alongside fear and suspicion, this space of legal uncertainty is characterized by a sense of abandon and awareness of the performativity of law. I explore 'living from the nerves' as an ethnographic reality for Kyrgyzstani migrant workers and as an analytic for developing a more variegated account of state power and its affective resonances in contemporary Russia.

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