Published April 19, 2016
Nancy Foner, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and a pre-eminent scholar in the field of comparative immigration studies, will deliver UB’s inaugural Jean Monnet Distinguished Lecture.
Foner will discuss why tensions about immigrant populations and their incorporation have taken different forms on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean as part of her talk, “Fear, Anxiety and Immigration: Barriers and Belonging in the United States and Western Europe.”
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 3 p.m. April 26 at the Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, 509 O’Brian Hall, North Campus.
“One of the reasons I wanted to invite Nancy as the first speaker in this series is because of her expertise on comparative perspectives,” says Deborah Reed-Danahay, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, who was one of only 40 university professors worldwide last year to receive a Jean Monnet Chair, a highly competitive, three-year teaching and research post awarded by the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union.
“She conceptualizes things at broad levels based on work that tries to understand the differences in reception of immigrants and the ways different immigrant populations perceive their experience.”
This visit is the first of what will be a three-lecture series over the next three years in connection with the personally chosen theme of Reed-Danahay’s Jean Monnet Chair: “Cultural anthropology: citizenship, mobility and belonging in the European Union.”
Foner is the author of numerous articles and 18 books on immigration, including her most recent, co-authored with Richard Alba, “Strangers No More: The Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe.”
She also wrote the afterward to Reed-Danahay’s book co-edited with Caroline Brettell, “Citizenship, Political Engagement and Belonging: Immigrants in Europe and the United States.”
“We tend to focus in the U.S. on our own issues of immigration,” says Reed-Danahay. “But we can learn by looking globally at how other places in the world have been handling some of the issues we’re facing — both their mistakes and successful strategies.”
Since being named a Jean Monnet Chair in September 2015, Reed-Danahay says immigration has become an even larger issue.
It has emerged as a contentious topic in the U.S. presidential campaign. More than half of the nation’s governors, meanwhile, have expressed their opposition to letting Syrian refugees into their states. In Europe, touchpoints include refugees fleeing to Greece from Turkey and the migrant camps in Calais, France.
The fundamental issue is immigration, but Foner’s lecture will present the argument that anti-immigrant sentiment within the general populations splits along mostly racial lines in America and along cultural and religious lines in Europe.
Furthermore, as a population that sees itself as a nation of immigrants, there remains much anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S.
“Why is that happening in America?” Reed-Danahay asks. “Why do people who are immigrants or come from an immigrant background themselves turn around and become anti-immigration?”
Reed-Danahay also says the significance of having a scholar of Foner’s stature discuss immigration in Buffalo shouldn’t be lost.
Buffalo is a city of migration with a population built from Europe and elsewhere. It is also a place that accepts a lot of immigrants, Reed-Danahay notes.
“The issue is timely, the place is important and our speaker is a leading authority on the topic,” she says. “The talk will be extremely informative and will appeal to a broad audience of people.”