- Migrants and Migration in Modern North America: Cross-Border Lives, Labor Markets, and Politics ed. by Dirk Hoerder and Nora Faires
The editors and contributors to Migrants and Migration share a vision of changing not just the perception but also the teaching of North American history. In nineteen brief chapters plus a preface, they bring together basic information about migration to and from Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States. The bookend chapters, Hoerder’s introduction to the macroregion in context and a brief thought piece by Angelika Sauer and Catherine O’Donnell about how to teach a survey class on the macroregion (hint: start in 1867), offer guidance for those who take the charge of expanding national frames of reference seriously, and seek to do that on a North American scale. Most of Migrants and Migration covers the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though there are quick forays into more distant pasts, particularly by Hoerder, who starts the chapter he coauthors on the Southwest with peoples coming into contact with one another around 300 b.c.e. Considering that many chapters are ten to fifteen pages long, readers can expect synthetic treatments in many cases.
The book is divided into four sections. Part 1, “Intersocietal Migrations,” takes familiar information and expands on it. It covers Mexican migration to the United States, particularly as it related to Mexican political currents; regional variations of Canadian migrations to the United States; and migrations around the Caribbean (a piece reprinted from an earlier Hoerder collection). Part 2, “Connecting Borderlands, Littorals, and Regions,” features a chapter on the Canadian-U.S. border. Then it turns to the southwestern U.S.-northern Mexico borderland, with particular attention to patterns of discrimination and cultural linkages, followed by a study that highlights migration to and within Mexico. An overview of Caribbean migrations into and out of North America provides social and demographic basics. Part 2 also turns to policy, both an overview of immigration policies in the three continental nations, especially in terms of how they intertwined, and then a review of important points in the Mexican-U.S. border story both in terms of people as well as policy.
Part 3, “Complicating Narratives,” offers some of the most interesting and compelling chapters. In the hands of Susan Gray it becomes clear why finding words for “migration” or the “seasonal round” do not adequately capture the sense of space for the Odawa family, who moved [End Page 479] around the Great Lakes. Next, Dan Killoren illustrates the interest in expanding trade and success in adopting market techniques of the Gila River Pima in the mid 1800s, countering images of an economic model imposed from outside. James Gregory, in a study of the relationship of knowledge about migration to policy in the United States, offers one of the more provocative chapters. Scholars of migration may have doubts about his data, but they are less likely to challenge his basic premises that interest in and funding for studies of migration in the past seems out of proportion to actual numbers of migrants, and that there is a disconnect between scholarship and policy in the present. Other chapters cover African Canadian life, challenging the more open Canadian image and highlighting ongoing prejudice, and Asian migration into and sometimes through Canadian and Mexican as well as U.S. borders during the era of exclusion. This section ends with John Hart providing snippets from his books on U.S.-Mexican relations, the role of financiers, investment, and generally elite capitalists in setting the conditions for economic dependency that would spur migration.
The final segment of the book, “Contemporary and Applied Perspectives,” mixes a hodgepodge of chapters. My favorite was Maria Christina García’s comparative study of how nongovernmental agencies seeking to assist Central American refugees in the years 1975–1996 worked through national policies in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Another chapter covers people migrating through Mexico. The image...