Humanities lecture to focus on immigration policy

2012 IHR Distinguished Lecturer Coco Fusco

Immigration policy, a topic at the center of ongoing state and national debates, will be the focus of the 2012 IHR Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, March 8, with scholar and performance artist Coco Fusco.

According to the U.S. government, the goals of immigration policy are:

• to reunite families

• to admit workers in areas where there is a strong demand for labor

• to provide refuge for people facing persecution

• to provide admission to people from a diverse set of countries.

However, the current political rhetoric uses statistics and stories to suggest that the immigration “problem” is primarily a matter of protecting borders and controlling the entry of “aliens.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law in 2010. It is designed to give the state and its law enforcement officers more power to detain and arrest those who they believe to be illegal immigrants. Oral arguments to determine the constitutionality of the law are currently scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 25.

In her performative lecture, “Migration Interrupted: Rights, Freedom, and the Controversy over U.S. Immigration Policy,” Fusco will address immigration using a creative and personal approach. Fusco will invite us to consider how U.S. immigration policy can acknowledge our nation’s social ethos, which celebrates the individual’s capacity for self-improvement and personal transformation. Her work suggests that the “immigration problem” is that we are not often asked to personally reflect on the political ramifications of our nation’s policies.

Fusco’s scholarship exposes the contradictions implicit in Americans’ moral embrace of the rights of human beings to choose their domiciles and seek a better life, on the one hand, and their political demands for the strict control of borders on the other. Fusco asks, “How much of U.S. policy is opportunistic and starkly political, and how much is moral and logical?”

The lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m., at the Katzin Concert Hall, on ASU’s Tempe campus. A reception will precede the event starting at 4:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research, is free and open to the public.

Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and the firector of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design. She has performed, lectured, exhibited and curated around the world since 1988. Her work is meant to provoke commentary and dialogue and to illuminate the unexplored.

Fusco proudly describes herself as an “anchor baby.” As she writes in her book “English is Broken Here,” her identification “as a child of diaspora, of the Cold War, of the Civil Rights movement, of the Black Caribbean, of Cuba, and of the United States” has informed her work as both a scholar and performance artist. Fusco’s Cuban mother came to the United States in 1954 and was deported shortly after Fusco was born, but Fusco’s U.S. citizenship allowed her and her mother to return to New York where Coco grew up.

Fusco’s performances and videos, including “Operation Atropos,” “Bare Life Study #1,” and “A Room of One’s Own,” have been presented internationally, including two Whitney Biennials (2008 and 1993), the Sydney Biennial, the London International Theatre Festival. Her books include "English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas" (1995), "The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings" (2001) and "A Field Guide for Female Interrogators" (2008). 

Her installations often combine a variety of formats, from staged multi-media performances incorporating large-scale projections and closed circuit television to live performances streamed to the internet that invite audiences to take part in a “chat room” and help chart the course of action. 

Fusco received her bachelor's degree in semiotics from Brown University, her master's in modern thought and literature from Stanford University, and her doctorate in art and visual culture from Middlesex University.

To reserve tickets to pick up at the event, visit If you have any questions about the event, contact the IHR at 480-965-3000 or