ZIMM Lecture Series 2015-2016 Presents:  

Nancy Hiemstra: “Detain and Deport: A Transnational Ethnography of U.S. Immigration Enforcement”

February 24th, 6pm-8pm, The Bob and Sheila Hoerle Lecture Hall/Hoerle Lecture Hall, UL105, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, Lower Level. 

In many states around the world today, immigration and terrorism are discursively conflated, immigrants are scapegoated as the cause of economic downturns, and xenophobic publics fear changing cultural and national identities. Amidst contemporary public and political debates over immigration, detention and deportation have become favored mechanisms in most national approaches to border and immigration enforcement. Policymakers typically frame detention as the separation by containment of unwanted immigrant bodies from national space, and deportation as the end of immigrants’ territorial incursion through their physical removal. Hiemstra contests these dominant understandings, arguing instead for the re-conceptualization of detention and deportation as practices that create spatiotemporal linkages between origin and destination countries through an inverse relationship of security/insecurity. She draws on fieldwork conducted in Ecuador with the families of U.S.-detained migrants and deportees. Through a transnational ethnographic approach, Hiemstra assesses stated and assumed policy rationales against actual policy outcomes. Instead of permanently removing ‘undesirable’ immigrants and deterring new migration, U.S. immigration enforcement policies come to be embodied in countries of migrant origin: they infiltrate and shape everyday lives and livelihoods, increase economic and ontological insecurity for family members and returned migrants, and – ultimately – galvanize new migration journeys. Hiemstra’s research suggests that not only are detention and deportation cruel, violent, and inhumane, but they work in ways contrary to typically unquestioned policy objectives.

Nancy Hiemstra is Assistant Professor of Migration Studies in the Department of Cultural Analysis and Theory at SUNY Stony Brook, in Long Island, New York. She was previously a Scholar In Residence at Emerson College. Dr. Hiemstracompleted her PhD in 2011 from Syracuse University in the Department of Geography, with a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. She teaches courses focused on human mobility, women’s and gender studies, cultural studies, Latin America, and feminist research methodologies. Dr. Hiemstra’s scholarship identifies and analyzes the political and socio-cultural reverberations of restrictive immigration policies in the United States and Latin America. As a feminist political geographer, she draws on critical geopolitical theorizations of the state and mobility, and deploys feminist notions of embodiment as tools for qualitative analysis. In order to take into account the spatial and temporal milieu in which international migration occurs, her work considers a broad range of scales, from the intimate to the transnational. She is currently working on a book monograph about the consequences of U.S. immigration enforcement policies in daily life in Ecuador. She has also begun a new research project, in collaboration with Dr. Deirdre Conlon of Leeds University, on immigration detention in the greater New York City area. Dr. Hiemstra is a Visiting Scholar at the Zolberg Institute for Spring 2016.