A self-reflective critical poesy examining the cost of immigration, inequalities on crossing borders, and the flattening down of identities through passports.

As an international student, I’m always thinking about papers and IDs -- my passport, my visa, I-20, tax forms, OPT, CPT, and many many more. This mental load is pre-occupational, and constantly serves as a reminder that before I am anyone else, I am an “alien authorized to work” in the US.

Before crossing the border to study in America, I always thought that traveling was the same for everyone -- everyone has to go through the long lines at the embassy to give an interview, showing them evidence that they will return home -- to get a visa. During planning for a study abroad program, I found that my American friends didn’t need a visa to travel to the Netherlands. 

Does your nationality impact travel?  

On researching, the hierarchy of nationalities was imminent. Depending on what citizenship or passport you hold, your ability to visit different countries is affected. 

Passports are “documented” identities, and perpetuate a colonial system

Passports don’t say much — just our name, date of birth, and nationality — yet bring so many assumptions about us when we cross borders. At the end of the day, a flat booklet dictates our identity and decides our fate about crossing borders.

When form followed rage

The more I read about people’s experiences with crossing borders on the internet, the more upset I got. I felt lost. Until I felt rage. 

The development of Critical Poesy

Critical Poesy is defined as poetic making (art, poetry, actions, zines) using a critical lens to protest against social injustices, inequity and politics.

I came up with the process and naming of critical poesy because more often than not, self-expression is labeled as “emotional” — so what if it is? That does not make it any less critical. Form can follow rage.

It is based on the idea that Indigenous practices in different cultures are inherent forms of resistance to the exploitation inflicted by colonizers.

*Inspired by Dr. Deepa Butoliya’s Critical Jugaad

A sanctum of protest

Inspired by the freedom birds possess in crossing borders, and the Japanese tradition of crafting a senbazuru, I wanted to hold space for immigrant experiences, but also reject the flatness of documents provided to us by countries by which they measure our worth. We are not documents, we are people.

A booklet of reflections

Self-authored through the application of Critical Poesy, and 5 interviews of immigrant experiences.