Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saskia Sassen

Since I have been told since elementary school that the United States has a unique identity as a "melting pot," it was a bit unusual for me to realize that immigration is more of a global phenomenon than an American one. In result, I found the Sassen reading interesting because it swept away all the strange, incorrect notions I had of immigration. As evidenced by the general fear of "outsiders" and the self-important belief that our country is the most desirable destination for those who are less economically or socially or whateverly blessed, I began to understand that immigration policy and our understanding of migration is viewed through a very skewed and egocentric lens. However, Sassen pointed out that European countries have not only experienced immigration that is more intermingled and fluid than in America, but also that they have seen patterns of immigration and intercultural interaction that is similar to American immigration history.

One aspect of this that interested me the most was the idea that immigration is far less individual than it is made out to be. I've heard since childhood of how my grandparents came to the US as a way to provide better opportunities for their families-- and this type of immigration does exist. However, Sassen points out that the greater force that mobilizes immigration moves groups, not individuals. Thinking of immigrants primarily as individuals seeking a better life in a better country leads to a fear that opening the borders would be inviting a flood of poor immigrants, and this line of thought eventually leads to racialization and hostility, both in public policy and in personal perspectives. Labor demands, such as the rise of factories during the Industrial Revolution, led to waves of migration far greater than poverty did.

The article is long and dense, but what I got out of it is just a better understanding of how immigration works: it is logical, very scientific in its predictability, and less threatening than it's made out to be. Specifically relating to the upcoming trip, it was interesting to read about the immigration history of Germany, how the different ethnic groups interacted, how Germany tolerated migration through the country but resented settlement in their borders, and how the racialization of certain groups led to hostility.

No comments:

Post a Comment