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Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Thoughts on Rapture by Iliazd (Ilia Zdanevich)

Iliazd’s Rapture is one of the upcoming titles in the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.


Today Veniamin Gushchin, CC ’18, Russian Library Intern responds to Rapture by Iliazd, translated by Thomas J. Kitson

The term emigrant, as opposed to the more commonly used immigrant, is inherently backwards facing, focusing on the country of origin rather than the destination. In the popular imagination, the immigrant arrives in a land of opportunity, while the emigrant flees from an oppressive regime, hopelessly yearning to return to their past. Though the two words have vaguely the same meaning, though the distinction in writing is but a few letters and in pronunciation is often barely detectable, the terms are antonyms due to the complex set of relationships an individual has with their countries of departure and arrival.

As the son of Russian immigrants that grew up in a bilingual and bicultural environment, I am very sensitive to this distinction. My parents immigrated to the United States in the 90s for greater job opportunities in the field of medicine and made the deliberate choice – mostly to spite my grandmother, who believed such efforts to be in vain – to raise me speaking Russian and aware of my cultural heritage. From watching the Soviet version of Winnie the Pooh before Disney’s to listening to tapes of the actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky reading Eugene Onegin on road trips, my parents recreated a small island of Russian culture in our home. They spoke of their Soviet past with a mixture of nostalgia and disillusionment, as many Russians do. My childhood experience was one of continually balancing my parents’ past with the pressures to assimilate to American culture. Living in suburban Maryland rather than in an immigrant enclave like Brighton Beach, my sole source for my Russian identity was my parents, my only chance to use my Russian my home. As a result, preserving this heritage grew in significance. Now, studying Russian literature in college, I seem to have come to some sort of compromise between these identities. Nevertheless, I do often feel as if I am still that child coming back from school to my parent’s home, part of and distant from both worlds. More importantly, my experience is different than those of denizens of Brighton, than those whose heritage becomes but a percentage mentioned in discussions of ethnic background.

To turn things back a century, and three waves of Russian migration, the tension between cultural preservation and assimilation is reflected in the most prolific Russian émigré writers, Ivan Bunin and Vladimir Nabokov. Especially in the works of the nomadic Nabokov, nostalgia for an idealized version of prerevolutionary Russia is central to the artist’s identity. In terms of assimilation, even in Paris, Bunin wrote exclusively in Russian and interacted mostly with his immediate circle of fellow emigrants. Though Nabokov appears to have shown a greater degree of adaptability, becoming internationally renowned as a writer in English, his constant relocation – the only “Nabokov house” is in St. Petersburg where his family lived before the Revolution – betrays his inability to settle down and fully reconcile his lost past with the present. The idealization of this prerevolutionary period has influenced perceptions of the Soviet Union and imperial Russia both abroad and in Russia. More recently, post-Soviet discourse, exemplified in artistic expression such as Govorukhin’s film “Russia That We’ve Lost,” returns to portraying the turn of the twentieth century as a time of cultural brilliance and sophistication. These notions about the first wave of Russian immigration and that era have become so widespread that they have come to represent its dominant narrative.

The figure of Ilia Zdanevich, or Iliazd, complicates this simplistic view of the reactionary emigrant. Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, his first act of migration was to Petrograd, where he became involved in a number of avant-garde artistic groups associated with the movement of Russian Futurism. His reason for migrating to Paris was to establish new artistic relationships between the nascent Soviet avant-garde and similar artistic movements in Paris, such as Dada and surrealism. Both political and artistic, he stands in contrast to the more conservation Nabokov and Bunin. While the latter two writers proudly continued the traditions of Russian nineteenth century literature, Zdanevich eagerly embraced the possibility of reshaping and developing his genre. Despite his efforts, however, once the Soviet government turned against the avant-garde, Iliazd found himself in “poetic reclusion,” effectively exiled despite having emigrating for an entirely different set of reasons. Nevertheless, the artist continued to live in Paris, collaborating with the likes of Picasso, Matisse, and Léger, developing a reputation in the European art world and, at least in part, assimilating.

Rapture is a doubly nostalgic novel, set in Iliazd’s native Georgia and written as an allegory of the Russian Futurism movement. Published in a doubly distant Paris, it is a thick mixture of avant-garde and traditional folklore, of Russian, Georgian, and Western influences that is impossible to fully separate into its constituent elements.

This new translation of Rapture allows Anglophone readers to experience Iliazd’s complex and thrilling artistic vision for the first time ever. In addition to placing the novel on the same shelf as the modernist masterpieces of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Thomas Mann, the publication of this translation complicates the simplistic binary between emigrant and home country present in the most influential narratives about this era. Iliazd’s voice joins the already dominant voices of Bunin and Nabokov to paint a more detailed and nuanced portrait of the first wave of Russian immigration in Paris. Immigration, emigration, and migration are all messy concepts, crossing the boundaries of identity as much as geopolitical borders. Each individual within these processes has a unique relationship to both the country of arrival and departure, the experience only able to be captured in polyphony.

Want to learn more about Rapture? Join the event TODAY, May 4, cosponsored by the NYU Jordan Center and PEN America World Voices Festival, with translator Thomas Kitson and scholar Jennifer Wilson. “What’s Old is New: Gender and Power in Iliazd’s Neglected Rapture

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Jacqueline Stevens — Citizenship to Go

“The real problem with citizenship laws is not their manipulation by lawmakers or entrepreneurs, much less by mythical “anchor babies.” The problem is more fundamental: the age-old, irrational linkage between citizenship and birthplace.” — Jacqueline Stevens

States Without NationsIn “Citizenship to Go,” a recent article published in the New York Times, Jacqueline Stevens argues that the system of giving citizenship based on birth is antiquated and unjust, and that the very idea of having strictly defined national borders perpetuates inequality. Stevens is a professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals, as well as the States Without Nations Blog.

In “Citizenship to Go,” Stevens acknowledges that the connection between birth and citizenship is an old and celebrated tie. However, she argues that today this connection causes more harm than good:

From ancient Athens to South Sudan, birth to certain parents, or in a certain territory, has been the primary criterion for citizenship. The word “nationality” comes from the Latin nasci, or birth. America is no exception, notwithstanding the enlargement of citizenship to encompass non-Europeans and women.

Archaic membership rules have made life miserable not only for Mexican migrants in the United States, but also for people who cannot persuade their governments to accept their claims of citizenship, as a recent conference at Boston College, titled “Citizenship-in-Question,” made clear. Scholars discussed cases in England, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Togo and the United States in which governments rendered their own legal citizens stateless.


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios Discuss “Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees & Their Stories of Exile”

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios authors of Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile were recently on the Brian Lehrer Showon what they learned having followed thousands of Dominicans deported following the 1996 U.S. Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act.

(To download a copy of the copy of Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile, “rent” a copy of the book for a month, or buy individual chapters, please visit Columbia University Press Online Access.)

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios on the “Brian Lehrer Show”:

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Interview with Adam McKeown, author of Melancholy Order

Adam McKeown“Migration control is the last bastion of open discrimination in the modern world.”—Adam McKeown

The following is an interview with Adam McKeown, author of Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders. The book is now available and paper and the cloth edition is on sale during our Spring Sale.

Question: What is Melancholy Order about?

Adam McKeown: Melancholy Order argues that immigration restrictions and border control have by no means been indispensable to national sovereignty. In fact, their origins go back only to the late nineteenth century—to the exclusion of Asians from liberal white settler nations. Before that, in the middle of the nineteenth century, international opinion and laws favored free mobility as one of the rights of man and a cornerstone of economic progress. Attempts to justify Asian exclusion to international and domestic critics helped establish the basic principles of modern migration control: that migration should be controlled at national borders; that it was entirely a domestic issue and not the concern of international diplomacy; and that humans have no rights at national borders. The enforcement of these laws also produced the basic mechanisms of migration control and identification, especially the extraction of migrants from social networks that produced identity and their reinsertion into a matrix of bureaucratically defined categories. By the 1920s these principles and methods, originally forged in a burst of racist segregation and believed to be a temporary expedient, became the norm in most countries around the world.

Q: Everyone talks about globalization these days. What is the globalization of borders?

A.M.: Globalization is often understood as a challenge to national borders. In fact, the dramatic growth of global flows in the past two centuries has come hand in hand with the modern international system, well-policed borders, and the imagination and enforcement of difference. The very act of proclaiming that we live in a “new” age of globalization (a proclamation heard repeatedly since the 1830s) is an act of forgetting the extent to which the world is already a product of dense interaction. The creation of legal, physical, political, and cultural borders has been crucial to that forgetting.

Similarly, the regulation of migration has both facilitated and restricted flows. The creation of standardized and streamlined passports, visas and inspection procedures has greatly facilitated the movement of a “globalizing class” of people who can obtain such documents and are free to move around the world. It has simultaneously created a class that is not free to move except under conditions of close surveillance and promises to return. The regional differences in wages and skill created by such restrictions help to make the movement of goods, money, and information even more lucrative and necessary.


Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Jacqueline Stevens on Democracy Now!

Jacqueline Stevens, author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals was recently on Democracy Now! to discuss the misconduct of U.S. immigration judges who have more concerned about deportation quotas rather than immigrants’—and citizens’—rights.

Here’s an excerpt from her appearance:

Now, the problem is that the immigration agents are not always accurate in their arrest reports…. The purpose of an immigration hearing is to review whether or not the claims that are being made in the arrest reports are accurate. But instead, the Department of Homeland Security is taking advantage of the discretion afforded them under our law and deporting people through a process that does not require them to appear before an immigration judge…. The vast majority of the immigration judges who review these do not review them carefully, and they just sign these orders by the hundreds. And as Rachel Rosenbloom, a colleague of mine at Northeastern Law School, points out, they are likely also ordering the deportation of US citizens among them.

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Deporting American Citizens — Jacqueline Stevens

Jacqueline Stevens, States without NationsIn a piece published on the Huffington Post, Jacqueline Stevens, author of the forthcoming States without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals, recounts the remarkable case of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen who was temporarily deported. (For more on the Mark Lyttle case you can also visit Stevens’s excellent blog, also called “States without Nations.”)

As Stevens shows, through a series of bureaucratic and administrative miscues and cover-ups, Mark Lyttle, who has a history of mental illness, found himself sent to Mexico despite the fact that his citizenship is easily verifiable. What is even more astounding is that Lyttle’s case is hardly unique:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been deporting over a million people each year. Most are Mexican citizens residing here without legal status. But thousands of those being detained and even deported are US citizens.

This sounds unbelievable, and it should…. Even more shocking are the several thousand of US citizens each year who are not only detained, but also deported. This occurs either because of ICE bullying, a fear of indefinite detention, or because the US government gave their US citizen parents, mostly of Mexican ancestry, incorrect information about their legal status and issued them green cards instead of telling them they were US citizens at birth.


Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Books for the Candidates: Immigration

David Brotherton and Philip Kretsedemas; Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today

Immigration, a contentious issue among Republicans during the primaries, is sure to surface again in the general election. The recently published Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement argues that while the focus on enforcement has intensified in recent years, current anti-immigration tendencies are not a knee-jerk reaction to the events of September 11th. Rather, they have been gathering steam for decades. Moreover, instead of finding effective ways of integrating newcomers into American society, the U.S. has focused on making the process of citizenship more difficult.

In their introduction Brotherton and Kretsedemas note the contradictory character of current U.S. immigration policy:

This enforcement focus has come to dominate in an era when the United States is becoming increasingly more reliant on immigrants for workforce replenishment and population growth in general. Given this context, it is telling that the predominant form of social spending on immigration focuses on routing out so-called undesirables and that most of the state and local legislation on immigration is geared toward capturing unauthorized migrants and other immigration violators. The dismantling of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the incorporation of its duties within the Department of Homeland Security, provides as good a metaphor as any of this shift in emphasis. . . . It is possible however to reinterpret security as pertaining to improving the legal rights, social mobility, and well-being of all U.S. residents—immigrants and native born alike.