Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reviewed: Benhabib and Resnik (eds.), Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship, Borders, and Gender

Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship, Borders, and Gender by Seyla Benhabib and Judith Resnik (eds). is reviewed on the Law and Politics Book Review by John S.W. Park, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Park writes:

This edited collection has five interrelated sections that examine the gendered dimensions of global migration, primarily in Europe and the United States. These five sections include: situated histories of citizenship and gender; global markets and women’s work; citizenship of the family, and citizenship within the family; engendered citizenship in practice; and the possibilities for women’s citizenship in a transnational context. Each section has between two to five essays by leading scholars across a range of disciplines, including history, political science, anthropology, and law. The volume itself is over 500 pages, but given the richness of the topic and the multiple ways in which gender and immigration intersect, these things could be much longer. The broad themes brought forth by the contributors – from the protection of refugees and gender-specific forms of persecution, the right to family reunification, wage slavery now common among vulnerable transnational women, and the moral underpinnings of national sovereignty and citizenship rules – offer a rich introduction to the important problems that will occupy scholars of immigration law and policy for many years to come.

Seyla Benhabib and Judith Resnik state the purpose of this collaboration thusly: “Our intervention in this volume is to bring gender equality claims into the discussion of the four other major principles regularly invoked in this area – the free movement of persons; the need for protection of refugees; the jurisdictional authority of sovereign states over their borders; and the obligation to respect family ties, including through family reunification. Our argument is that the laws, policies, moralities, and theories of citizenship, as well as of sovereignty, jurisdiction, family life, and migration, must grapple with the way histories of discrimination and subordination based on gender affect the conceptualization and implementation of opportunities, rights, and burdens, as well as the nation-state’s powers” (p.5). Many scholars have already done this grappling, some appear in this new volume, and some of the essays here are versions of their earlier work. Still, the contributions presented together are deeply illuminating, even though they sometimes miss important new work in the
field.

The essays in the first section offer some historical context, the first by Cynthia Patterson, on citizenship and gender in Athens and Rome, and the second by Linda Kerber, on the recurring problem of statelessness in American history. Both are respected historians drawing upon past scholarly work in their subfields, although with a different spin here....

The second section of this volume has two essays, by Linda Bosniak and by Aiwha Ong, both covering the global comodification and transnationalization of “women’s work,” primarily in domestic labor....

That this volume brings together the unexpected, and also clarifies what is at stake overall in debates about migration, equality, and especially gender, makes this book a valuable resource for a wide range of scholars.

The full review, describing all essays and citing additional works, is here.

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