Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Immigration and Refugees

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles about immigration and refugees

1. The border within: the economics of immigration in an age of fear
Watson, Tara. by Tara Watson & Kalee Thompson Chicago, 2021

Watson (Williams College) and Thompson (journalist and senior editor, Wirecutter) address the most important issues swirling around documented and undocumented immigration today. They organize their book in an ingenious manner. The chapters are devoted to thorough, scholarly reviews of the literature on the impact of immigration on the economy, crime, and the social safety net as well as the effectiveness of immigration enforcement efforts. Interwoven throughout the book, however, are the stories of six immigrant families who have faced the issues the authors analyze, putting a human face on the scholarly discussion. The authors conclude that immigration constitutes a net gain for the US economy, with the exception of already disadvantaged workers. More aggressive enforcement of immigration laws may have a small effect on the number of persons attempting to immigrate, but it comes at a high cost in terms of expenditures and broken families. Recent immigrants are less prone to crime and less likely to use social services than native-born Americans; over the long run, immigrants are net contributors to the government’s coffers. View on Amazon

2. The coffin ship: life and death at sea during the Great Irish Famine
McMahon, Cian T. New York University, 2021

The ocean voyages endured by 2 million Irish escaping the Great Famine receive comparatively limited coverage in the historical literature. McMahon (Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas) fills this gap with a signal contribution to Irish, Irish-North American, and Irish-Australian historical studies and to global Irish studies in general. The Coffin Ship frames the voyage from Ireland to Liverpool, the US, Canada, or Australia as a crucial dimension of Famine and broader modern Irish and diasporic histories. Emigrants fleeing Ireland in the 1840s or early 1850s exercised considerable agency in forging key relationships with loved ones left behind and new communities at their journeys’ end. These transoceanic connections strengthened emigrants’ chances of survival on board and their prospects in often unwelcome circumstances in far-flung points of disembarkation. Mining a wealth of emigrant correspondence and contemporary source material to document the journey from cottier cabin to shipboard berth, McMahon’s scholarly account transports readers on the voyage that often represented the last hope of survival for so many emigrants. His affecting depictions of Famine emigration bear the imprint of those who endured these voyages. View on Amazon

3. Cuban privilege: the making of immigrant inequality in America
Eckstein, Susan. Cambridge, 2022

In Cuban Privilege, Eckstein (global studies, Boston Univ.) applies primary research and builds on her previous, foundational works to offer a revealing account of how Cuban immigrants to the US—through a politicized refugee/asylee status—have experienced a privileged political position in American politics. From President Eisenhower to President Obama and through legislative processes, Cubans’ standing has been strategic, purposeful, and political. Though shifts occurred with President Obama and President Trump, Cuban Americans continue to enjoy tremendous advantages compared to other immigrants; Eckstein distinctly documents the comparison to Haitian and Dominican immigrants. The privileges Cuban Americans experience precipitate more privileges. Imperialism, race/racism, classism, and the like play an enormous role in why Cubans and Cuban Americans enjoy such privileges. Eckstein’s incomparable research clearly demonstrates the exact dynamic, even after the end of the Cold War, and includes a comprehensive exploration of “old” and “new” waves of Cuban immigration.  View on Amazon

4. The best of hard times : Palestinian refugee masculinities in Lebanon
Barbosa, Gustavo. Syracuse, 2022

Barbosa (Federal Fluminense Univ., Brazil) elegantly and astutely blends two years of ethnographic research among Palestinian and other Arab residents of the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut with a critical “diseducation” of structural concepts such as agency, gender, generation, power, and the state. Using innovative contexts and techniques for interviews and what he refers to as “nonparticipant observation,” Barbosa focuses his analysis on young men, or shabab, who are typically underemployed and impoverished, lack the means for houses or families of their own, and do not have personal connections to the heroism of the past, present-day access to power, or realistic expectations for a better future. Through their everyday lives and experiences, Barbosa demonstrates how shabab have learned to live without state institutions and resources and how they “come of age today and display their sex belonging” in ways that contrast with the revolutionary experiences of their fathers’ generation but also without a sense of emasculation because of their powerlessness. View on Amazon

5Un-settling Middle Eastern refugees: regimes of exclusion and inclusion in the Middle East, Europe, and North America
ed. by Marcia C. Inhorn and Lucia Volk Berghahn Books, 2021

Inhorn (Yale Univ.) and Volk (San Francisco State Univ.) draw on their dual academic groundings in anthropology and international relations to provide a comprehensive collection on refugees from the Middle East, especially Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, and Syrians. Tight editorial control of the length, tone, and structure of the chapters produces a sweeping view of Middle Eastern refugees as they move through the Middle East, Western Europe, and, to a lesser extent, North America. The book benefits enormously from a dual focus on the inclusion and exclusion of refugees throughout their travels. Rather than simply provide a critique of the many ways refugees are excluded, the volume also explores the ways refugees are included—if only partially—and how they utilize such inclusionary options in proactive ways. This book is especially vital for North American readers in showing the breadth and complexity of Middle Eastern refugee flows, the widely varying ways that different countries respond to them, and the limitations and options of the refuge sought and sometimes found. View on Amazon

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