Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Bardhan, Nilanjana


This study seeks to understand how the migrant rights group No One Is Illegal’s advocacy works to rearticulate migrant subjectivity while furthering our understanding of what it means to communicate critically and ethically as global citizens in the context of postcolonial globality. Informed by critical and postcolonial iterations of cosmopolitan thought and guided by Sobré-Denton and Bardhan’s (2013) notion of cosmopolitan communication and peoplehood, this study offers a rhetorical criticism of No One Is Illegal’s Deportation Is Not Entertainment and Access Without Fear campaigns. With an eye toward identifying how No One Is Illegal works to rearticulate migrant subjectivity in ways not undergirded by the logics of the neoliberal nation-state, I identify rhetorical features within No One Is Illegal’s discourse that reflect an ethical and ecological view of culture and communication and hold the potential for progressive social change. In Deportation Is Not Entertainment, a campaign against the reality television show Border Security: Canada’s Front Line¸I argue that No One Is Illegal advances a rhetoric of emotional and material victimization of undocumented migrants at the hands of Border Security and the Harper government. I further argue that No One Is Illegal positions undocumented migrants as the victims of epistemic violence (Spivak, 1998) through the narrative framing of the television show and the Harper government’s public discourse. In Access Without Fear¸ I argue that No One Is Illegal’s discourse works in three important ways to further the goals of this study. First, I argue No One Is Illegal offers a vernacular articulation of coloniality that challenges normative understandings of Toronto and Canada while articulating an understanding of undocumented migrants as agentive subjects navigating a postcolonial world. Second, I argue No One Is Illegal’s rhetoric asks us to understand belonging in three different ways: belonging as rightful presence (Squire & Darling, 2013), belonging as multiple, and belonging as constituted in relationships as opposed to preexisting cultural categories or legal designations. Third, I argue No One Is Illegal offers a decolonial imaginary where migrant rights are pulled into relation with indigenous rights, environmental degradation, and the workings of global capitalism. This decolonial imaginary asks us to think of self-Other relations in new ways while being projective and outward. In the process, I identify rhetorical features in No One Is Illegal’s advocacy that reflect communication that is world- and Other- oriented, attentive to power, establishes mutuality, and reflects non-oppositional views of difference. This rhetoric, I argue, works to promote social change through fostering an enlarged and transformed imaginary, intercultural empathy, an Other-oriented sense of belonging and a type of coalitional agency, which work to cultivate a sense of cosmopolitan peoplehood in the service of social and global justice.




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