The 2018 recipient of the Seth Balkishan Das Singhal Award is Brittany Henry, a graduate student in English, for her paper “Undocumented Narratives: Migrant Testimonio in La Migra me hizo los mandados.”
In her paper, Henry discusses the ways in which migrant testimonios affect the transnational discourses surrounding immigration in the United States and Mexico, Central America, and South America. She goes on to describe the ways in which the publication of a collection of testimonios in a post-9/11 United States demonstrates how stories create “symbolic recognition” and “claim public space” for the undocumented immigrant community. Her paper also challenges what is traditionally considered as history and explains how the collection and sharing of testimonios leads to a discourse that does away with statistics and instead centers the lived experiences of the immigrants and their “embodied history.” Henry takes care to note that while the motivations of immigrants are to seek out a better life in the United States, the immigrants do not fully buy into the “national project,” instead recounting instances of “collectivity” and “interconnectedness with strangers” in their own testimonoios. In conclusion, Henry urges “witnessing-as-listening” and the centering of lived experience to work towards a “just and humane” response to the immigration crisis.