Alien Natives? Internal Migration and the Dilemmas of Belonging in the United States and Europe

AHA Session 123
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Kansas City Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Mary D. Lewis, Harvard University
The Audience

Session Abstract

(This panel was solicited by Linda Gordon of the Program Committee).

Alien Natives?  Internal Migration and the Dilemmas of Belonging in the United States and Europe

In border states of the United States and throughout much of Europe, the most recent economic downturn has been accompanied by exclusionary movements – both populist and government-instigated.  Although xenophobic rhetoric deploys clear dichotomies between “foreigners” and “locals,” one of the salient features of the recent hostility is that the targets of such movements are not always foreign.  Workers in the American Southwest, Roma in the European Union,  so-called “Travellers” in the United Kingdom, and other “strangers” are often rights-bearing individuals whose exclusion serves as a potent reminder of the distinction between legal and social belonging. Our title is meant to convey this problem: one can be a "native" in a legal sense and still be regarded or treated as an "alien." 

Hitherto, internal migration and immigration have been studied mostly separately -- indeed often by different historians with distinct concerns.  And yet, often internal migrants and foreigners not only have faced similar struggles and confronted similar policies, they have sometimes been confused with one another.  The four papers included here look critically at this phenomenon by situating its development in particular regional contexts and chronologies.  In so doing, they offer a unique historical perspective on contemporary exclusionary movements from Arizona to France and beyond. 

The panel gathers together scholars from an array of career stages and institutional settings.  The authors focus on different parts of the United States and Europe to consider xenophobia toward such “internal aliens” historically and comparatively.  Four papers rather than three are included for the purpose of a fuller comparison.  As a result, the papers will be shorter and the chair/commenter will limit her comments to five minutes in order to facilitate the audience's role as the main commenter.

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