Plotting a Moral Trajectory, Sans Papiers: Outlaw Motherhood as Inhabitable Space of Welcome


  • Sarah S. Willen


This essay peers into the swirling, tumultuous lifeworld of Marlene, an unauthorized Filipina migrant living in Israel, and her extraordinary capacity for self-preservation and creative sociality to consider several key questions. First, in empirical terms, how might the particular form of abjection Marlene confronts—migrant “illegality”—influence the texture and contour of her existential and moral reality? Second, how do migrants like Marlene, for whom illegality penetrates virtually every sphere of life, craft “inhabitable spaces of welcome” in which their own existential imperatives and moral commitments are sustained despite the abjection they daily confront? In working through these questions, I turn to the work of Michael Jackson and Ghassan Hage, both of whom approach experience and subjectivity with a sensitivity to what Jackson describes as “existential imperatives,” and explore two imperatives that help anchor the tempestuous lifeworld that Marlene—a single mother, an abandoned lover, an unauthorized migrant, a victim of harassment, and an outlaw denied the possibility of police protection—now inhabits.