Heteronormativity and Immigration Scholarship: A Call for Change

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Heteronormativity and Immigration Scholarship: A Call for Change

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Heteronormative policies and practices—which subordinate immigrants not just on grounds of sexual orientation but also on grounds of gender, racial, class, and cultural identities that may result in "undesirable" sexual acts or outcomes (such as "too many" poor children)—are deployed by the state to select who may legally enter the United States and to incorporate immigrants into hegemonic nationalist identities and projects. Sexuality more generally also structures every aspect of immigrant experiences. Yet immigration scholarship virtually ignores the connections among heteronormativity, sexuality, and immigration.

This occlusion becomes clear when we turn to the writings on gender and immigration. On the one hand, these writings offer valuable tools for thinking about sexuality and immigration; on the other, they show how gender-centered analyses often reinscribe heteronormativity, thus affirming Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's contention that "the question of gender and the question of sexuality, inextricable from one another though they are in that each can be expressed only in terms of the other, are nonetheless not the same question."

Yet some inroads have been made. In her classic review Silvia Pedraza mentions four main areas in which research on women and immigration (and, ultimately, on gender and immigration) have flourished. These areas address (1) how gender is related to the decision to migrate and organizes migration processes; (2) how gender shapes processes of settlement; (3) how immigrant women and men are incorporated into the labor market; and (4) how migration alters gender relations. These questions can be usefully transferred to the realm of sexuality and immigration to assess what we do and do not know about sexuality and immigration processes and also to show how attention to sexuality requires revision of these questions, which are normed around gender. Like gender and immigration scholarship, which began by considering "women" and then addressed gender more generally, I begin by discussing lesbian and gay experiences and then considering sexuality more generally.

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  • Eithne Luibhéid. “Heteronormativity in Immigration Scholarship: A Call for Change,” GLQ Vol. 10, No. 2, (March 2004), pp.227-235. Invited.