Anthropology and Contemporary Immigration

Advanced Seminar

October 7–11, 2001

This academic year’s first Advanced Seminar, “Anthropology and Contemporary Immigration,” took place October 7–11, 2001. Chaired by Nancy Foner, the seminar included ten scholars representing cultural, social, urban, medical, psychological, and feminist anthropology. Describing immigration as one of the most pressing contemporary social issues in the United States, Foner stressed the seminar’s focus on evaluating the unique role of anthropology in the emerging interdisciplinary field of immigrant studies.

The mass influx of immigrants into the United States since the elimination of quotas in 1965 has led to “dramatic transformations in American society,” Foner stated, citing the importance of core anthropological methods such as ethnographic research in documenting the subtleties of changing cultural and social patterns. “Who better than anthropologists to determine how immigration is changing American culture?” reflected Foner at the colloquium presented to SAR mid-way through the seminar week.

The increasing phenomenon of the controversial category of “transnationals” sparked particularly challenging discussions as participants considered the experiences of immigrants who maintain “multi-stranded connections and associations” with their home countries.

Eight main themes emerged from the intense discussions: transnationalism, cultural invention and negotiation, cultural relativism, second generation, gender, city-as-context, medical anthropology and health policy, and research methods. The general goals of the seminar were to evaluate anthropology’s theoretical and methodological approaches to immigration studies, to consider how these are influenced by—and in turn influence—research in other social science disciplines, and to chart an agenda for future research.

Nancy Foner, Chair Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, College at Purchase
Caroline Brettell Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University Bringing the City Back In: Cities as Contexts for Immigrant Incorporation
Leo R. Chavez Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine Immigration and Medical Anthropology: Personal Reflections
Josh DeWind Discussant, International Migration Program, Social Science Research Council
Nina Glick-Schiller Department of Anthropology, University of New Hampshire Anthropological Perspectives on Transnational Migration
Jennifer Hirsch Department of International Health, Emory University Anthropologist, Migrants, and Cultural Appropriateness: Notes toward a Liberation Anthropology
Patricia Pessar American Studies Department, Yale University Centering Gender and Anthropology Within Migration Studies
Richard Shweder Committee on Human Development, University of Chicago The Moral Challenge in Cultural Migration
Alex Stepick Department of Anthropology, Florida International University Becoming American: Immigration, Identity, Intergenerational Relations, and Academic Orientation
Marcelo Suarez-Orozco Human Development, Harvard University Globalization, Anthropology, and Contemporary Immigration

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