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Solidarity, Archival Activism, and the Ethics of Storytelling in Valeria Luiselli’s "Lost Children Archive"

Silvia Schultermandl

Pages 459 - 472



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Valeria Luiselli’s novel "Lost Children Archive" employs the structure of a makeshift archive as a means to represent the precarious lives of child refugees in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. The ways in which the narrator collects, cares for, and arranges archival materials facilitate the visibility of lives that otherwise remain obscure. By centering the narrative around the narrator’s attempts to document the extremely hostile conditions of child refugees’ lives, rather than her attempt to narrate their lives coherently, the novel depicts acts of solidarity through the narrator’s archival activism. Instead of giving in to sentimental excess, the narrator’s affective response is directed toward the archive and its potentials and limitations to adequately represent these lost lives.

Key Words: solidarity witness; archival activism; U.S. border regime; child refugees; storytelling

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