Powerful Migrations: Identity/Security/Fluidity


April 27-28, 2017
Location TBA

Over the past years, new forms of terrorism, war, and the clash of opposed cultural and religious value-systems have caused unprecedented mass migrations in the modern world. They have, in turn, brought about a fundamental level of insecurity among Western Cultures, a far-reaching irritation as to how to react properly to the streams of migrants risking their lives on dangerous passages- across land, sea and air borders- to seek refuge in the more prosperous and politically stable counties of the Western World. Those recent events demand a closer look into the history and nature of migration, its manifold causes, forms, and effects. Joint interdisciplinary efforts in thinking about migration as a cultural, political, and social phenomenon have never been more urgent than they are now.

Keynote Addresses

Estranged Belongings, Dispossessed Futures, and Aspirations for Social Justice
Nina Glick Schiller (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany and University of Manchester, UK)

Scholars of migration need explanatory theory that speak to the loss of a viable future facing people around the world. In the face of the reality of hundreds of thousands of people on the move through the dispossessive forces of war, deportation, expulsion from ancestral lands, urban regeneration, and resurgent ethno-religious nationalisms, this paper calls for a multiscalar conjunctural analysis that can address the mutual constitution of political economy and political subjectivities. The goal of this theorizing is to develop an analysis that can put powerful migrations, disempowered people, both migrants and ‘natives,’ transnational processes, and networks of globe spanning power in an analytical framework that addresses the particularities of both time and place.

Hyper-Selectivity and the Remaking of Culture: Understanding Asian American Achievement
Min Zhou (Sociology, UCLA)

Asian Americans comprise only 5.5 percent of the U.S. population, yet about one-fifth of the entering classes in Ivy League universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and more than a third of the undergraduates in the most prestigious public universities like UC Berkeley and UCLA. Pundits have attributed their extraordinary educational outcomes to cultural factors, underpinned by values or traits that are innately Asian. However, this cultural explanation fails to consider the pivotal role of U.S. immigration law which has ushered in a new stream of highly-educated, highly-skilled Asian immigrants. Based on a qualitative study of adult children of immigrants in metropolitan Los Angeles, which I collaborated with Jennifer Lee at UC Irvine, we find that hyper-selectivity (as opposed to hypo-selectivity) of contemporary immigration significantly influences the educational trajectories and outcomes in the members of the 1.5 and second generation beyond individual family or parental socioeconomic characteristics, leading to group-based advantages (or disadvantages) that are consequential. Our analysis of qualitative data shows that the children of hyper-selected immigrant groups begin their quest to get ahead from more favorable starting points, are guided by a more constricting success frame, and have greater access to ethnic capital than those of other immigrant groups. In turn, hyper-selectivity gives rise to stereotype promise — the boost in performance that comes with being favorably perceived and treated as smart, high-achieving, hard-working, and deserving students—that benefits members of the group so stereotyped. Our analysis also suggests that, while the so-called positive stereotype enhances the academic performance of Asian American students, the same stereotype reproduces new stereotypes that hinder them as they pursue leadership positions in the workplace. We suggest that Asian American professionals face a bamboo ceiling—an invisible barrier that impedes their upward mobility much like the glass ceiling does for women.

The Commodization of Nature: Palestinian Landscape Zionized
Avinoam Shalem

Cities, villages and other forms of human settlement, like works of art, are in constant flux, a process of shaping and reshaping, of being erased, demolished, newly designed, renovated and preserved. Like a canvas on which marks of artistic activities – lines, scratches, stains of colors and spots – are visually documented, the urban and rural landscapes accumulate and display through their particular structures, urban planning, architecture, streets, allies, parks and public monuments histories of urban creativity and imagined landscapes of inhabitants. Thus the plethora of built substance and nature that turns spaces into places could be read like historical text, markers of remembering and forgetting.

A Different Kind of Migration: The African’s Journey into Liminality
Michael Gomez (History, NYU)

This presentation explores the experiences of African-descended persons and communities throughout the Americas, from the transatlantic slave trade to the present.  More specifically, the presentation considers the impact of slave trades, slavery, economic exploitation, and ongoing racial discrimination on the integrity of personhood, and looks at how movements, communities, and individual thinkers have attempted to respond to this assault.  Commonly referred to as the struggle for “freedom,” the paper raises questions as to what is actually sought, what is recoverable, what may be irretrievably lost, and the implications of the answers to these questions.  The approach is necessarily heuristic and incomplete, as the fields of psychology and history have yet to satisfactorily converge on the black experience, or set of experiences.  The inquiry is not only concerned with the classic formation of African-descended communities via the slave trade, but also subsequent African migration, and queries how these temporally distinguishable moments might conceptually and experientially converge, and what is at stake in placing them into conversation.

‘A Toda Madre (ATM)’: Migrant Dreams and Nightmares in El Norte
Miroslava Chavez-Garcia (Professor of History & Faculty Director of Graduate Diversity Initiatives, Affiliate in Chicana and Chicano Studies & Feminist Studies, UCSB)

Drawing on a cache of over 300 letters exchanged among family, friends, and intimate partners in the 1960s, this talk explores migrant longing and letter writing across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. As the correspondence illustrates, migrant men not only sought economic opportunity and social stability but also masculine affirmation and emotional fulfillment. To achieve their hopes and dreams, the men relied on each other and broader social networks to achieve lawful migration, employment, housing, and familiar forms of entertainment and companionship, easing their transition to the new environment and allowing them to bridge the best of both worlds, (aqui) here, the United States, and (allá) there, Mexico.


Jeanette Kohl (Art History) and Kelechi Kalu (Vice Provost of International Affairs)


UCR Center for Ideas & Society, UCR International Affairs Office, the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and World Affairs Council of Inland Southern California