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Seminar Topics and Questions





Term 1



Introduction: Why (and whose) history of migration?

For discussion: who is a 'migrant'? An 'immigrant'? A 'refugee'? Are these terms historically stable?

Unit 1

International Migration:

the USA

Unit 'provocation' reading: Shelley Fishkin, ‘Crossroads of Cultures: The Transnational Turn in American Studies--Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, November 12, 2004’, American Quarterly, vol. 57 no. 1, 2005, pp. 17-57. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq.2005.0004 – not a conventional research essay, but a call to arms for American Studies to become broader, more inclusive and less insular. Includes discussions of a wide range of topics and approaches, and a really interesting bibliography.

For more useful US sources, see here!


Making ‘immigrants’: immigration law and national citizenship

For discussion: what forces were at work in the shaping of national boundaries and identities in 19th century USA?


Ellis Island

How and why has passage through Ellis Island come to be seen as the archetypal 'immigrant' experience in the US? What was Ellis Island for?


Angel Island

If Ellis Island has become the symbol of the United States as 'a nation of immigrants', how should we interpret Angel Island? What was Angel Island for?


‘Melting pot’ America: integration, assimilation and ‘hygienic citizenship’


What happened after Ellis and Angel Island? Did 'immigrants' become citizens, and if so, how did they acquire this status?




From ‘Braceros’ to ‘illegals’: (re) making Mexican ‘migrants’

When the border crosses individuals, are they 'immigrants' when they cross back? What if they are invited to cross, as a vital source of labour?

Unit 2

Imperial Migration:

Britain and its empire

Unit 'provocation' reading: Brook Thomas, 'Civic Multiculturalism and the Myth of Liberal Consent: A Comparative Analysis', CR: The New Cenennial Review, 1:3 (2001)1-35 [Project Muse] Again, this essay offers a challenge to assumptions both in migration studies and in society.

You might also try this one, on historiography:

Rob Waters, 'Thinking Black: Peter Fryer’s Staying Power and the Politics of Writing Black British History in the 1980s', History Workshop Journal, vol. 82 no. 1, 2016, pp. 104-120. Project MUSE,

For a timeline of UK immigration laws, see here.


‘Civis Britannicus Sum’: forging an imperial citizenship

Formative Essay Deadline: Thursday 17:00 Please remember that I need hard-copy, which you can submit to the folder by my office door (H330)

If the USA was 'a nation of immigrants', was Britain then a 'nation of emmigrants'?


From Prison Colony to ‘White Australia’

What counts as 'migration' in the Australian context? How did Australian identity become 'White'?

NB: Exciting new reading (not required, of course): Webster, W. "Transnational Journeys and Domestic Histories." Journal of Social History, vol. 39 no. 3, 2006, pp. 651-666. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jsh.2006.0023


British Migrants in the 20th Century: ‘£10 poms’ and ‘Home Children’

Did the nature or meaning of British emigration change with the end of empire?

Winter Break

Term 2

Unit 2 (Continued)

Imperial Migration:

Britain and its empire


‘We are here because you were there’: migration and the metropole

Britain has a long history as a migrant-receiving nation, but how does this history relate to the history of empire -- and why has inward migration from empire been so controversial?


‘This crowded isle’: the end of ‘Open Door’ Britain

When and why did migration restriction become a key aspect of policy and public debate? Has post-war Britain been an open or a closed nation in relation to migration?


Migration, multiculturalism, and medicalization

British responses to migration and settlement in the post-war era have often drawn upon medical data, claims and discourses. Why?

Unit 3

Global Migration:

Africa’s Diaspora


Models of African mobility: the forced and the free

NOTE for dissertators: OUTLINE WEEK!

How do histories and historiographies of slavery relate to those of migration from Africa?


Imperial pasts and migrant presence: Africa in the metropole

NOTE: 2nd Formative Essay DUE 17:00 Thursday!

How did empire help to shape and define the experiences of African travellers and migrants to Europe?




‘Money has no smell’: travellers, traders and ‘economic migrants’

What roles do class and race play in mediating responses to and the experiences of African travellers and migrants?


Homelands and Hostlands: hybrid homes or multiple identities

How do and how should migrants manage their multiple, intersectional identities? Do plural identities dilute or multiply 'belonging'?

Unit 4


the Migrant


Naming to control: 'Coolies', 'Yids', 'Yanks', and 'Dagos'; 'Wogs', 'Pakis', 'Towelheads', and 'Negros'

NOTE: this unit will specifically address offensive and dangerous historical stereotypes, language and imagery. Please consult me if you have any concerns about or during our discussions of this sensitive material, or if the content of these weeks causes you distress.



Workshop: seeing ‘migrants’ in the media

Term 3

 Module Feedback Day

All your feedback is welcome, whether positive of negative! I am especially keen to hear your thoughts on the range and depth of the topics covered. Would you have liked to cover fewer topics in more depth, or to have sampled more topics in this expansive field? Do please also share your thoughts on individual weeks and readings, seminar practices, and the media archive.


Conclusion: Ethnicity, exoticism and ‘multiculturalism’

Looking at our three case studies, how can we understand the continuities/discontinuities in both the experience of migration and in responses to it?



NOTE: OPTIONAL mock exam question DUE 17:00 Thursday!

Feedback wll be provided on mock essay answers during our review session, date TBA.