Tag Archives: Migration

Feminism and Migration Studies

Source: http://www.unescap.org/sdd/issues/migration/migration.asp

The relationship between gender and migration is a hot topic in the social sciences and humanities. Increasingly, more books and articles, as well as conferences and working groups of scholars, tackle how gender intersects with migratory processes. For example, I am part of a group of 2011 Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Dissertation Proposal Development fellows, all of whom situate their work in the field of “gender and migration.” The rise of this type of work can be attributed to the acknowledgement of feminist theory in mainstream social sciences and humanities. In terms of this particular field, scholars recognized that works on migration had a masculine bias; the research overlooked women’s experiences. In response, we have seen a proliferation of works that address both male and female (though mostly female) migrants and the gendered components of their movements.

Yet, despite the increase in these works, Stephanie Nawyn, in her 2010 Sociology Compass article Gender and Migration: Integrating Feminist Theory into Migration Studies , explains that mainstream sociological migration studies has not fully acknowledged a feminist theoretical perspective. Most works from the mainstream describe the economic motivations and push/pull factors of migration; these are topics that surely have a gendered component, but few works adequately incorporate gender into their analyses. In fact, Nawn explains that we still know very little about why people migrate (theories of migration) and how migrants improve their social statuses (theories of assimilation) from a feminist perspective.

Nawyn’s discovery is not surprising. This is certainly not the first time that scholars have pointed out that feminist theory is missing or undervalued in sociology. Stacey and Thorne’s article, The Missing Feminist Revolution in Sociology, comes to mind. But what I found most interesting about Nawyn’s article was her suggestion for future directions. Rather than looking at gender as an individual status or attribute, she suggests that scholars analyze gender as “a system of power relations that permeates every aspect of the migration experience.”

How might migration scholars move past conceptualizing gender as a binary variable measuring an individual’s status to analyzing gender as a system of power relations? Nawyn suggests that ethnographic work is particularly useful for parsing out gender as a dynamic concept that shapes experiences of migration at the structural and individual level. But Nawyn is not convinced that ethnographic research is enough. She also wants quantitative research with large scale, macro data sets. While quantitative researchers generally utilize gender as a binary variable (measured as male or female, man or woman), Nawyn would like to see researchers take a feminist approach when designing their studies. For example, a feminist perspective predicts that the presence of children will have different impacts on men’s and women’s migration experiences. Since childrearing is a gendered phenomenon, men and women will have different responsibilities and roles with regard to their children, and thus men and women will have different earnings in the migration process. A feminist perspective would allow researchers to choose appropriate variables and ask the right questions when investigating gender and migration.

Nawyn, therefore, suggests that we need better survey research on gender and migration. I am not a survey methodologist and so I am curious to know how other people think that we can achieve Nawyn’s call for analyzing gender as a system of power relations through macro-level quantitative analysis. What questions could a researcher ask to achieve Nawyn’s goal?

Suggested readings:

Donato, K.M., D. Gabaccia, J. Holdaway, M. Manalansan IV, and P.R. Pessar.  2006.  “A Glass Half Full?  Gender in Migration Studies.”  International Migration Review 40(1): 3-26.

Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. 2011. “Gender and Migration: An Overview from a 21st Century Perspective.” Migraciones Internacionales 6(1): 219-233.

Cantu Jr., L., N. Naples, and S. Vidal-Ortiz. 2009 The Sexuality of Migration: Border Crossings and Mexican Immigrant Men. New York: NYU Press.

Immigration and the Limits of the Criminal Justice System

Candidate Barack Obama promised to enact immigration reform in his first term.  That promise is almost certain to go unfulfilled.  The result of years of heated debate has been deadlock between two seemingly irreconcilable positions.  On one hand, many in congress support a “path to citizenship” for undocumented workers and increased legal immigration.  On the other, a substantial number argue for greater border enforcement, mass deportation, and decreased immigration.  While the status quo has virtually no vocal support, systems create entrenched interest no matter how much everyone claims to despise that system.  Furthermore, the deadlock may have entrenched a dominant discursive framework that impedes reform. (more…)

The Paradox of Visas and the American Dream

USA_VisaThe playing out of class bias in the national debate over immigration  reveals the paradoxical nature  of the American Dream and the ways in which it is invoked.  Recent media coverage of the legal obstacles to obtain H1-B visas for highly skilled workers (see article below) highlights the class component of immigration.  On the one side we have educated immigrants singing the praises of the American Dream, of the opportunities which drew them to this country.  On the other hand we have the discourse of exceptionalism  surrounding such visa requests.  Couched in terms of the promise such excellent workers hold and the assets they will be to the United States, ultimately this is about hand-picking future American citizens based on racial, ethnic, and class criterion.  Does anyone mention the incredible contributions (possible and future) that working class Mexicans make?  In essence, we can not draw on notions of an American Dream to simultaneously encourage exceptionalism and deny entrance to those who have the most to gain from such ideology.  Veit Bader’s work on the ethics of immigration offers important insights into these contradictions that lie at the heart of immigration debates.  Framed within the context of normative criterion of citizenship, belonging, and universal rights, Bader offers important insights into the philosophical dilemmas that ultimately anchor issues of immigration, migration, and citizenship.

Square-eye NY Times

Square-eye price Bader

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Transnational Migration and Conflict

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by socanonymous

Ongoing fighting in Sri Lanka has brought together about 45,000 Tamils from across Toronto, to protest what they call the genocide of Tamil people. They came together to form a human chain in Toronto’s downtown city core. The powerful emotions shown in the video give a glimpse of the struggles that many transnational migrants have gone through and escaped from.

Globalization has facilitated diasporas to maintain political and social ties transnationally, in spite of geographical proximity. These nonstate actors, some of whom seek asylum or are displaced because of violence, relocate to safer nations and are better able to provide support back home. Support often comes in the form of remittances to loved ones, essential resources and sometimes, as in this case, support for political and humanitarian goals. Communication is now faster and more efficient, which is essential in the mobilization of collective political action across state boundaries. Transnational migrants are better able to empower themselves and give a voice for their people back home, thereby applying political pressure from a safe distance.

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square-eye42 Patricia Landolt on “The Transnational Geographies of Immigrant Politics”