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Pauline White Meeusen

Pauline White Meeusen

PhD Student, Jurisprudence & Social Policy

Drawing on social movements literature on oppositional consciousness and law and society scholarship on legal consciousness, my dissertation combines ethnographic and interview methods to study how Central American asylum seekers and U.S. attorneys and legal advocates come to see themselves as part of a social movement. These actors’ identities, whether as professionals or as individuals without permanent legal status, inform the actions they take. In turn, the actions they take shape their identity. At the same time, the transnational and bi-national nature of actions by asylum seekers and U.S.-based legal allies pose unique legal conundrums. My dissertation maps consciousness among actors in the social field of the Central American refugee movement and generates a theoretical model for analyzing the processes through which asylum seekers, attorneys, and legal advocates begin to view themselves as part of a social movement. Focusing on the development of consciousness before, during, and after asylum seekers’ transnational border crossing, the study particularly examines how law and the policies enforcing law shape actors’ consciousness, how actors’ identities (including the asylum seeking identity and professional identity) influence the development of consciousness, and how space mediates consciousness. In addition to my dissertation work, my research interests more broadly include law and social movements, legal mobilization, immigration law and policy, and the legal profession.

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