Tuesday, November 4, 2014

La Vuelta Podcast: Race and Immigration in the Americas

Click here to listen.

David Scott Fitzgerald and David Cook-Martín begin their sweeping history of the connections between racism and immigration in the Americas by quoting the Argentine writer Juan Batista Alberdi.  Alberdi, an advocate of white European migration to Argentina, famously observed in the mid-nineteenth century that “to govern is to populate.”  Nearly everywhere in the Americas in the nineteenth century (and continuing well into the early twentieth century), immigration and demography were hotly debated in legislatures, scientific societies and newspapers pages.  Fitzgerald and Cook-Martín’s new book, Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2014) takes a close and comparative look at the ways in which racism influenced the immigration policies of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil.  The story they recount, and that Fitzgerald expanded on in an interview with La Vuelta, is one that takes aim at standard interpretations of U.S. immigration history and the seeming incompatibility between U.S. democracy and racist immigration programs.  Indeed, compared with many of the other nations in the Americas, Fitzgerald and Cook-Martín found that the U.S. was a laggard in abandoning racist ideologies in the formulation of its immigration policies.  As we debate immigration policies in the U.S. at the start of the twenty-first century, Culling the Masses sharpens our understanding of how issues of race have always informed which immigrants we welcome into the U.S. and which one we don’t.           

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