Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

“Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon, where people move into another nation with the intention of residing there (either temporarily or permanently) to make a better life for themselves. Anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigration and immigrants. The course begins with a brief historical overview of sociological, as well as social-psychological, research on immigrants, complemented by the highlighting of some theoretical perspectives on immigration. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing here the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. Reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants, we analyze the processes by which “illegality” is constructed. Here we look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Extending our analysis in the final part of the seminar to immigration’s impact on the host population enables us to conclude the course with a discussion of several social-psychological issues such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.