Seated woman speaking at an FRN event while other attendees listen attentively

Representing Race & Immigration in the Popular Imagination

Immigration policy in the United States occurs at the intersection of two competing and seemingly incompatible frames of discourse: a “nation of immigrants” or a “nation of laws.” An alternative (“gatekeeping nation”) framing suggests that immigration policy, prior to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, was based on the racialization of ethno-racial groups targeted for exclusion, detention, or deportation. Racialization renders an ethno-racial group as the “Threatening Other” regardless of citizenship status in periods of perceived or actual crisis—economic dislocation (forced repatriation of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Chinese Exclusion Act); disease (bubonic plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown); war (Japanese internment during WWII, militarization of the Texas Borderlands during Mexican Revolution, the War on Terror); and demographic change (eugenics movement). Racialized representations of the “Threatening Other” in the popular imagination shaped the contours of immigration discourse and policy in the United States from the late 19th Century to the 1960s.

The seminar interrogates immigration policy through the lens of racialized representations of the “Threatening Other” in film, documentaries, theater, political cartoons, newspapers/magazines, and government propaganda. Seminar participants will explore these sites of popular discourse and imagination to reveal the racial logic implicit in the gatekeeping function of US immigration policy. This seminar is designed for faculty who utilize interdisciplinary course material in their courses that focus, in part or in whole, on race or immigration.

Seminar objectives:

  • Familiarity with multiple frames of immigration discourse (nation of immigrants, nation of laws, gatekeeping nation).
  • Familiarity with racialization as a process of constructing the “Threatening Other.”
  • Familiarity with the gatekeeping function of US immigration policy.
  • Exploration of pedagogical challenges in using cultural productions (film, documentaries, theater, political cartoons, newspapers/magazines, and government propaganda) as sites of racialized representations.
  • Development of a learning module that integrates racialized representations of immigration for their course syllabi.

Seminar Schedule. Seminars run Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a midday communal lunch. Seminar conveners may adjust the class schedule in response to participant needs. Special events may also be held during the week. Participants are required to attend the full week of seminar meetings and maintain 90% attendance overall.

Seminar Materials. Eligible participants are provided with all required seminar materials (books, articles, laboratory equipment, and entrance fees).

Accommodations & Meals. Limited housing accommodations are provided to participants who live more than 50 miles from the program site. All admitted participants are provided with some meals during the program period.

Application Procedure. Applicants should submit the completed application along with all of the following:

  • A statement of intent that indicates how the seminar participant will apply what is learned at the home institution
  • A current CV
  • A letter of support from either the division dean or department head, who is well-acquainted with the applicant’s area of research
  • Their institutional liaison officer’s approval