February 27-29, 2011

There are few contemporary issues that provoke as much heated rhetoric as does immigration. Globally, anxieties over immigration inspire passionate debate over the impact of immigration on national economies and on the employment prospects of individuals, as well as handwringing over its overall effect on a nation’s cultural identity. Although candidates on the far ends of the political spectrum have run on extremist platforms regarding immigration policy, the mainstream has yet to present a “solution” that satisfies both sides. And although the xenophobic assertions about the necessity of border fences and gruesome crimes performed by “illegals” have come to the forefront in American political discourse, particularly in the wake of Arizona’s highly controversial S.B. 1070 (commonly known as the “Papers Please” law), such debates are also taking place around the world.

The increasingly global economy makes the movement of people a more complex problem and more critical topic. As transportation, communication and commerce all become more fluid across national boundaries, the stakes and the nature of migration necessarily change. These heated debates find expression in hotly contested legislation, but the most basic terms - who has the right to decide which people are allowed to enter or live in a country, and how that decision is made - remain in dispute. This seminar will consider both the forces causing movement (economics, politics, development projects, disasters) and the issues around settlement (community formation and exclusion, cultural and political citizenship).

When an immigrant group is introduced into a new regional or national context, questions about cultural identity become an important problem that must be negotiated. How does a community remain faithful to its own cultural traditions while simultaneously integrating into a new society? When is assimilation desirable or undesirable for a community, and to what extent can autonomy be preserved without isolation? Does the debate shift when a community is forced to migrate because of natural disaster or genocidal violence, and is it possible to return “home” after such a displacement? The history of African-Americans serves as a case in point in that regard, especially in the decades following the abolition of slavery as former slaves and their descendants fought to integrate themselves into a national community that was hostile and often violent towards them.

Giving equal time to pressing contemporary problems surrounding immigrant rights and current social policy debates and to the historical precedents of these debates, this seminar will address the concerns of migrant communities and the difficulties they face while weighing migration’s impact on larger regional and national cultures.

Speakers for this seminar include Amy Dru Stanley (History, Gender Studies), Kathleen Conzen (American History), Leora Auslander (European History, Gender Studies, Jewish Studies), Virginia Parks (Social Service Administration), William Sites (Social Service Administration) and Elizabeth Collier (Business Ethics).


  • Sara Mayeux - What We Talk About When We Talk About Immigration [Link]
  • Leora Auslander - Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris [Download]
  • Peter Schrag - Unwanted Immigration and Nativism in America [Download]
  • Michael Peter Smith - The Two Faces of Transnational Citizenship [Download]
  • Roger Daniels - Immigration Since World War II: The Need for a New Paradigm [Download]


  • Revisiting Shibboleths of Race and Urban Economy: Black Employment in Manufacturing and the Public Sector Compared, Chicago 1950–2000 [Download]