Out of Line: Queuing as a distributive principle and the politics of migration

A common critique of efforts to apply principles of social justice to policies that affect the disenfranchised is that the people who benefit are not waiting their turn or are cutting in line. The framing of people who are offered or receive help as line-cutters has been remarkably successful in fanning resentment. This is in part because queuing activates a powerful but often subterranean set of reactions and beliefs. This talk will invite the audience to think about how easily we defer to the authority of first-come-first served principles, why we do so, and why this often yields troubling outcomes. Special attention will be paid to cases involving immigration, refuge, and asylum.

Elizabeth F. Cohen is Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University and Associate Editor of the American Journal of Political Science. She is the author of four books: Illegal: How America’s Lawless Immigration Regime Threatens Us All (Basic Books 2020); The Political Value of Time: Citizenship, Duration, and Democratic Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2018, winner of the APSA Best Book Award for Migration and Citizenship); Semi-Citizenship in Democratic Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2009); and Citizenship (with Cyril Ghosh) (Polity Press, 2019). Elizabeth’s research interests focus on immigration, contemporary political theory, justice, citizenship, and rights. At Princeton, she will work on a book about the political significance of line-waiting and first-come-first-served as a distributive principle. She is also researching the rise of short-term immigration and the casualization of citizenship in the contemporary United States.