Next in Jo’s series of posts on our library – the Immigration section:
A topical subject at the moment, immigration.
Beneath the headlines, however, is a complexity of economic, social and political movement and motivations for movement, a tangled network of transnational relationships that criss-cross the globe and a morass of successive legislation and policymaking underpinning it.
There have been times when economic migrants were lumped together as primarily male, ageless, immortal and hardworking, because effectively they constituted an infinite supply of cheap labour. Little thought was given to them as individuals, or to their families and the kind of social issues they were leaving behind. And it seems strange that anyone would regret Britain’s diverse migrant population, when without doctors and nurses arriving to work here from abroad, often at the risk of depleting the health services of their own countries, the NHS would have been floundering.
The shelves of the Resource Centre’s Immigration section map the ebb and flow of people across the world over the centuries and more recent decades. Here are People on the Move (Council of Europe); Slamming the Door (Robert Moore); Human Cargo (Caroline Moore); Returning to the Source (Dwaine E. Plaza); and Moving Worlds (Tim Edensor and Mij Kelly).
There are pamphlets on how to apply for asylum; reports on government policy on matters of settlement, indefinite leave to remain, the rights of the individual, the family, the child; books that deal with obligations of the host country; assimilation, what to expect when moving to a new country; what constitutes a breach of human rights. There are books on Immigration and the Nation State (Christian Joppke) and Immigration and Social Policy in Britain (Catherine Jones), dealing with immigration control and integration, sovereignty, nationhood and citizenship.
There are some heavy volumes as well – International Refugee Law: A Reader (B.S. Chimni) gives the lowdown on the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, looking at asylum history, rights and duties of refugees, the law of state responsibility, internally displaced persons and the UNHCR from a third world and an interdisciplinary perspective, among many other comprehensive details.
Bang-up-to-date studies like Border Watch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control, which uncovers some of the inner workings of a fictional (but strongly fact-based) detention centre, Locksden, by Alexandra Hall, rub shoulders with such antiquated fare as The Unarmed Invasion: A Survey of Afro-Asian Immigration by Lord Elton (1965), or Enoch Powell on Immigration by B. Smithies (1969). Fortunately the section is, like the rest of the collection, pretty comprehensive, and counters with Peter Fiddick’s Enoch Powell on Immigration: An Analysis, which assesses Powell’s use of anecdote, language and statistics and also analyses his attitudes to racism.
Books that relate to specific communities of migrants include Ethnic Los Angeles (Roger Waldinger), which explores residential patterns, language, the labour market, and ethnic and gender divisions of labour in the manufacturing economy there; and American Karma: Race, Culture and Identity in the Indian Diaspora (Sunil Bhatia) which studies the case of Indian Americans.
Chinese San Francisco: 1850 – 1943: a Trans-Pacific Community (Yong Chen) challenges the myth that economic problems motivated Chinese migration to California, and Islam in Europe (Robert J. Pauly) includes detail of the impact of marginalization of Muslims on domestic and international security within and around Western Europe post-11 September 2001.
Refugee Women in Britain and France (Gill Allwood and Khursheed Wadia) is a study that, refreshingly, acknowledges the contributions made by women refugees to their new countries in the contexts of political, social, cultural and economic arenas, rather than viewing them as primarily victims. It gives accounts of the experiences of women in both French and British asylum systems, asking who they are, where they come from, what happens to them while they await a decision on their claim for asylum and afterwards. Flaws in a system of law and process designed to meet the needs of refugee men are illuminated, as they do not always do the same for women fleeing persecution.
Here you can trace the history of immigration, grapple with its ethical implications, investigate its legal technicalities or simply read the testimonies of those who are living it as an experience. Whatever angle you look at it from, immigration is one of the most important cultural, political, social and economic issues of the day, and it’s here to stay.