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Magical Pursuits: Legitimacy and Representation in a Transnational Political Field



ABSTRACT  In this article, I examine the strategies of Salvadoran state actors to contain and control transnational political subjects in the postwar period. The civil war in El Salvador (1980–92) precipitated massive emigration, most of it to the United States. Most Salvadoran migrants have been excluded from formal participation in national politics in both El Salvador and the United States. However, they have become important transnational political actors, owing in no small part to the increasing dependence of El Salvador on migrant remittances. This contradiction between their formal exclusion and their informal influence shapes an emergent regime of transnational governmentality, a system of domination that submits mobile subjects to the tactics of containment and control traditionally reserved for nonmobile citizens. This transnational governmentality depends on the appropriation of popular forms of organizing and expression associated with civil society as a way to mask the inequality at the heart of this relationship.