San Diego State University, Department of Sociology
Mobilization vol:20 issue:3 pages:345-360
In recent years, undocumented youth have come out of the shadows to claim their rights in the United States. By sharing their stories, these youth gained a voice in the public debate. In this paper, I integrate insights from the literature on narrative and emotions as to study how storytelling is employed within the undocumented youth movement in Chicago. I argue that undocumented youth strategically use storytelling for diverging purposes depending on the context, type of interaction and audience involved. Based on ethnographic research, I show that storytelling allows them to incorporate new members, mobilize constituencies and legitimize grievances. In each of these contexts, emotions play a key role in structuring the social transaction between storyteller and audience. Storytelling is thus a community-building, mobilizing and claims-making social movement practice. At a broader level, this case study demonstrates the power of storytelling as a political tool for marginalized populations.