Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Migration and the Moral Imagination

By on September 6, 2013

“Reexamining our Words, Reimagining our Policies: Undocumented Migration, Families, and the Moral Imagination,” Journal of Poverty, Vol. 13, 2009, 1-20.


Don't fence me inAbstract 

Through examining words and phrases being used to define U.S. immigration in popular speech and public policy, I argue that just speech is an essential component in the creation of just policy toward migrants. Particular consideration is given to the use of the word “illegal” to describe migrants and how the use of this word inhibits the moral imagination. Utilizing a justice framework in conversation with postcolonial ethics, I suggest that migrants and their movements can best be understood not primarily through the lenses of individual action, but through the lens of their communal and social relationalities and responsibilities. With this distinction in mind, I argue that an understanding of the particularity of persons rooted in particular familial structures can provide a more adequate lens for creating just policy for migrants and their families than can the paradigm of the individual as border crosser.


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 With thanks to the Journal of Poverty (Taylor & Francis) for permission to post this article in this portfolio.