“There’s an intractable schism going on in the field of immigration, except also there isn’t?”
- A Part and Apart
Having very little experience in the field of immigration studies, I must admit I was surprised to see just how heated some of these conversations can get. As readers of this article probably know, I’m of course referring to the incredibly heated, incredibly awkward disagreement had between professors Sanchez and Vecoli at the AHA panel. Though I’m certainly no expert in the field and could very well be horribly mistaken, it seemed like the crux of these men’s arguments centered around whether or not he field of immigration studies needed a “come to Jesus” moment in regard to its pedagogy. Namely, whether or not it should forgo its one-size-fits-all, (European-biased) “everything is universal” approach and instead branch out into more in-depth conversations about race and ethnicity, as well as the many different forms of immigration (not just incidentally, but systemically). Now, with that all being said, I will say by the end of the article the author did seem to implicitly disprove both men’s supposed notion of a crisis in the field (while also remaining more partial to Sanchez’s arguments as a whole).
Like the author herself, many in the field of immigration studies don’t see the impending schism that Sanchez and Vecoli are talking about. Take Donna Gabacci, for example, who believes that, while the field of immigration studies certainly does need a stronger focus on ethnicity and the “multidirectional character” of migrations as a whole, that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire discipline needs to be upheaved. Likewise, colleague Madeline Hsu argues that while the field is in desperate need of a more transnational, “ambulatory” approach to their research, academia is quickly evolving to meet those needs. Throughout the piece, important examples abound of people in the field earnestly trying to right these alleged wrongs through new research methodologies and more inclusive subject-matter when it comes to whose “immigrant stories” get told. For a great example of that, look no further than the work done by Roediger and Rudi. Though ideologically disparate, both professors (and the author herself) put forth the concept that European whites themselves had been racialized throughout the history of immigration, seemingly bridging the gap posited by Sanchez and Vecoli.
- Nation of Migrants
Just as many professors sought to do in the articles before it, Goodman’s piece seems primarily concerned with dismantling the notion that America is a “nation of immigrants” in the way that many politicians have rhetorically used it over the years. His main reason for doing this seems to be the fact that it wilfully neglects the stories of not only of African and Native Americans, the vast majority of which had very little say in their supposed “assimilation”, but also those who immigrated to the US for a time before eventually returning to their countries of origin. Simple as it may sound, one of Goodman’s supposed solutions to this misunderstanding would be to simply relabel the field as “migrant studies.” Rather than being a “nation of immigrants,” as Goodman posits, it would be more accurate to say America is a “nation of migrants.”
A helpful side-effect of this change, Goodman argues, would be the ‘depoliticization of immigration’ in the field and the country’s discourse. He also believes it would do much to move the focus away from borders, most of which are arbitrary anyway, and do away with the “us” vs. “them” mentality present in much of American thinking. In a similar vein, this piece argues that by making this change and critically thinking about America’s responses to migration as a whole, we can see some glaring inconsistencies when it comes to our claims about open arms, and the reality of our history and policies. From Japanese internment to mass deportations, America has very seldom been the open-armed receiver that sings and politicians claim it to be. Likewise, by doing away with this preconceived notion of uniqueness, we can better agknowledge our place in the greater story of migration, seeing it less as a “Point A to Point B” destination story, and more as as the multinational, multidirectional tale that it truly is.
- Globalization Mitigation Histories?
In the last piece we were asked to read, author Bruno Ramirez goes in-depth into the ubiquity of the term “global/globalization” in immigration studies and how its use may not, at times, be entirely justified. To begin, Ramirez points to the fact that widespread use of the term global/globalization only began sometime in the early 1990s. This is something the author personally finds interesting, considering the fact that ‘since the 1980s, the global dimension of migration has already been highlighted by things such as decolonization, the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, the outbreak of ethnic and religious wars in a variety of countries and world regions, etc.’ In a similar vein, he points to the fact that, though the term ‘global’ as we may use it now in current publication lexicon may be a relatively recent phenomenon, different time periods may very well have their own definition of what global means.
As he goes on to explain throughout the rest of the forum, the term globalization can often be misconstrued in a modern setting. Historians may often label patterns of migration ‘global’ when they are, in reality, consistently regional in scale.’ To better frame this dichotomy, Ramirez chooses to contrast two major case studies: the first documenting the many movements of those to and from a small Italian district, and the other, a virtually uninterrupted ‘Canadian diaspora’ that took place from 1830s all the way through to the 21st century. As we get to see by the end of this piece, the travels of Italians and non-Italians to and from this small, nondescript district are absolutely an example of global migration. In it, we find people from all across the world sojourning to and away from Italy in fluctuating numbers. While some may have stayed for a time, most used used it as an intermediate point, often ending up in entirely different continents by the time the study was done.
The interesting contrast of this piece, then, comes, in its second half. Documenting the travels of French Canadians from their home country’s southernmost regions, we see that not a single one of these people ended up leaving their initial destination of the United States. Better still, they barely left the confines of the New England textile mills they left to work in. With that in mind, how could anyone truly consider this story to be one of ‘global migration?’ Ramirez argues that you can’t; and that, to do so, would take away the meaning of migrations that do exhibit traits of true globalism.
I really like how you started this blog post with a direct quote that I kept in mind while reading the rest of your post! I felt the same way throughout the Lee reading, that we were gaining much more perspective regarding the state of the field. I think that you did a great job really explaining the debate going on in the field right now through your response to Lees writing.