Research on migration and gender has changed considerably since the 1980s, shifting from discipline-specific studies of women immigrants and sex roles toward multidisciplinary analysis. Scholars now treat gender as fluid, changing and relational rather than as an ascribed attribute; they have made masculinity, sexuality, and the many ways that power is expressed through gender central to our understanding of human migration. As gender, like race or class, has become viewed as a constitutive element of all social dynamics, human relations, and institutional structures, so too has every element of the migration process become understood to be gendered. Yet only a few disciplines—particularly anthropology and history—have generated theoretical insights about gender that have influenced other disciplines. Also, scholars in disciplines defined by quantitative methodologies have experienced particular difficulties in using theories of gender generated within the humanities, in part because their statistical evidence seems limited to bivariate and fixed categories of “male” and “female.” A rapidly growing literature on gender and migration produced through qualitative methodologies has not convinced scholars in quantitatively oriented disciplines (in which theory means prediction) that gender has theoretical significance.

We propose to bring together students eager to investigate the various roles and significance of gender in migration processes, such as the decision to move or return, the choice of destination, the experience of travel and separation, job-seeking, the formation and unification of families, cross-cultural encounters, transnational connections, and processes of adaptation, assimilation and incorporation.To help students who are undergoing training within specific disciplines to research such topics, our goal is to help them read gender theory across disciplinary boundaries and on that basis to identify the most appropriate mix of data and methods appropriate for their own dissertation research – e.g. reading of texts and archives; observing via ethnography, interviews or focus groups; collecting new survey data or doing secondary analysis of existing data sets; and other methods. Only in this way, we believe, can new research contribute to the theorization of migration and gender as it is understood not only in individual disciplines but also within the broader interdisciplinary field.

Students will be introduced to the development of the interdisciplinary research field of gendered migration studies and focus on refining their research projects to be competitive for funding. We will ask students to read about and discuss disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity in the field of migration studies, with a focus on humanist and social scientific assumptions and practices. We will use the theoretical and methodological diversity of gender and migration studies to help students understand the implications of multidisciplinarity for their particular research projects.

We seek students who are interested in situating their dissertation research within a broadly interdisciplinary field, which is methodologically diverse and responsive to a variety of theoretical perspectives, in order to help them sharpen their understandings of theories and methods within their own particular disciplines. We encourage students to submit proposals on topics of gender and migration to raise questions that are relevant to more than one discipline and could be addressed through varied methods of research and analysis.


  • Althea D. Anderson

    Columbia University, Sociomedical Sciences

    Adolescent boys’ experiences of sexual violence in South Africa: a comparative analysis of the effects of gender identity formation, structural inequality, migration and social conflict in two urban cities
    This research aims to elucidate the social determinants of adolescent boys’ experiences (perpetration and victimization) of sexual violence in South Africa. Sexual violence prevention efforts require an evidence base produced from theoretical frameworks that move beyond static conceptions of disempowered women against contrasting views of men as violating predators. In South Africa, this gender paradigm obscures an understanding of sexual violence within a broader historical context where intersections among structural inequality, migration, and social conflict shape gender identity formation and gendered behaviors. My central research objective is to understand how these social processes influence sexual violence in South Africa and the extent to which they are contextually dependent. This research poses the following questions: How have structural inequality, migration and social conflict interactively transformed racialized male gender identities over time in South Africa? What is the role of violence in shaping historically-specific constructions of masculinity? To what extent do South African adolescent boys incorporate several often contradictory, historical conceptions of masculinity into current social constructions of gender identity? Under what conditions do violent masculinities predominate other constructions? Is there geographical variation, within South Africa, in the role of violent masculinities structuring adolescent boys’ experiences of sexual violence?
  • Erin E. Collins

    University of California / Berkeley, Geography

    Recombinant Social(ist) Networks on the Landscape of the Lower Mekong Delta
    This dissertation will explore the historic forces underlying the political and cultural landscape of Vietnamese development within Cambodia. Twenty years after tens-of-thousands of Vietnamese military and civilians pulled out of Cambodia, both are returning in force—actively courted by the Cambodian state. Given enduring anti-Vietnamese Cambodian nationalism and a long history of Vietnamese military incursions throughout the region, this seems deeply paradoxical. At the root of this paradox is the tension between the physically and socially fluid landscape of the lower Mekong River on the one hand, and the violent history of territorialization through which discrete ethnic and national boundaries have been inscribed on the other. Gender is an active force in these processes, relationally interconnected with constructions of race, critical to how power operates, and is naturalized throughout the region. Through archival research, ethnography and in-depth interviews I will explore how contemporary Vietnamese investment and migration articulates with earlier geographies of (entwined) gendered migration and racialized citizenship crystallized during the periods of Vietnamese occupation (1979-1989) and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (1991-1993). Critically engaging geographies of investment and migration together can illuminate how the seemingly inconsonant practices of ethno-nationalism and regional integration may rest on the same exclusions.
  • Sarah J DeMott

    New York University (NYU), Humanitites and Social Sciences in the Professions

    Representations of Italian Migration: Visualizing Gender and Emigration through Monuments, Memorials, and Museums
    In the 20th century 26 million Italian citizens directly took-part in transnational emigration, yet every Italian has been affected by emigration’s cultural legacy. Italians, in Italy and the diaspora, have maintained a firm sense of imagined ownership and historical claim over emigration narratives. The lives of men and women that were changed by transnational movement have become incorporated into public works. My dissertation proposal investigates how public testaments, such as monuments, statues, and museums, record centuries of Italian emigration. How a nation’s history has been remembered produces (and excludes) a range of diverse actors, events, and places. Emigration memorials illustrate how Italians have come to imagine themselves as a people. Public interest also seeks to make meaning of the Italian emigration on the national level at the Museum of Italian Emigration in Rome and the Ellis Island Museum in New York, at regional museums in Genoa, Turin, and Naples as well as in Toronto, Melbourne, and Buenos Aires, and through a number of local museums in Sicily. I propose to examine how Italian emigration narratives have become gendered and historicized in the Italian imagination. As Benedict Anderson suggests, examining public memorials provides insight into discourses regarding nation, place, and identity.
  • Adrienne P. Dunn

    Howard University, History

    A Long Way From Home: African American Female Exodusters from the South to the West 1879-1900
    The migration of African Americans after Reconstruction from the South to the Mid west has mainly focused on African American men. However, many migration studies have rarely connected the relationship between African American women and their reasons for migrating. Many women left to find better employment and to escape racial oppression. Women experiences were rarely noted because in many sources, African American men spoke for the movement and women and children were virtually silent. However, in the African American Exodus Report conducted by Colonel Frank H. Fletcher from St. Louis, women expressed their discontent toward sexual exploitation. African American women played an active role in driving off Southern landowners that were sent to Kansas to persuade the Exodusters to return home. This study is an examination of the lives of African American female Exodusters and their experiences traveling from states such as, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Louisiana to Kansas and Indiana. By using letters, census records, local newspapers, libraries and historical societies this research will contribute to understanding their adaptation and job opportunities in a new location.
  • Laura Enriquez

    University of California / Los Angeles, Sociology

    Gender in the Shadows: Gendering the Institutional Incorporation of Undocumented Latina/o Young Adults
    Of the estimated twelve million undocumented individuals in the United States, almost a fifth are youth and young adults who came to the United States before the age of 15 and are currently under the age of 35. This dissertation project will explore the effects of gender, legal status, and education on a range of institutional experiences in order to assess the gendered incorporation patterns of undocumented Latina/o young adults. Departing from the assumption that gender and legal status are fluid, context-dependent identities, I will deploy a mixed method approach in order to asses the significance of gender and legal status in the lives of undocumented Latina/o young adults. In addition, I seek to model the ways in which gender, legal status, and education affect the interactions, mechanisms, and processes of immigrant integration. I also will reveal how these identities change and adapt within each institutional setting so that each individual can effectively participate in them and assert a sense of belonging and social integration. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, my project will draw from work in migration, gender, ethnic, and citizenship studies to bridge the theoretical gap between gender, legal status, and immigrant incorporation processes.
  • Maria Cecilia Hwang

    Brown University, American Civilization

    Mixing Business and Pleasure: Filipina Freelance Workers in Hong Kong’s Nightlife Industry
    My research examines the experiences of Filipina freelance sex workers in Hong Kong. They are independent migrants in control of their migration and labor, who ironically have been identified as trafficked persons. I use this irony as a springboard for an interdisciplinary interrogation of gender and migration. First, I bridge the discussions of human trafficking and labor migration. I interrogate how the Philippines uses its anti- trafficking campaign to restrict the mobility of women workers who opt to migrate outside state protectionist regimes of contract labor. Second, I examine the temporary “shuttle” migration of freelance workers to understand the reproductive politics of gendered migration. Finally, I use the example of the intra-Asia regional migration of freelancers to develop theoretical frameworks that will help gender and migration scholars better understand the diverse ways contemporary women are migrating. Drawing from analytical approaches in the study of gender, migration, and globalization, I use a multi-scale analysis to look at how the intersection of global political economy, the state, the family, and the politics of the body structures the migration of Filipina freelance sex workers.
  • Annabel Ipsen

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Sociology

    Harvesting Inequality: Peruvian and Bolivian Migrant Labor in the Agricultural Sector in Chile
    My proposed research focuses on the case of women migrant workers in the agricultural sector on the triple border of Chile/Peru/Bolivia and the local and global dynamics that influence both the configuration of the local labor market and the insertion of these workers into the labor force. Efforts to link market processes to gendered social stratification and are not new. Research on segmented labor markets has focused on how work is organized, how jobs are structured and how the working class is divided, but has placed less emphasis on the relationship between gendered labor force segmentation and socio-political inequities outside of the labor market. Yet economic, social and political institutions do not act independently of each other. Today firms confront a workforce not only segmented by race and gender, but also by citizenship and legality. Women migrant agricultural workers are particularly vulnerable to various forms of social and economic discrimination, exploitation and abuse that cut across both public and private domains. While the study of the segmentation of migrant agricultural labor and its relationship to changing agri-business imperatives is important within these countries, it is also important globally.
  • Alison Kolodzy

    Michigan State University, History

    "Poles and Algerians in France: Gender, Identity, and Confessional Cultures in the 20th Century"
    Poles and Algerians are two groups with long histories of migration, labor, and settlement in France. Throughout the twentieth century, these two groups have often arrived in the same “waves,” and have been alternately welcomed and considered unsuitable for French citizenship. This dissertation argues that a comparative approach will be necessary to examine the distinct religious affiliations, gender practices and confessional cultures that inform identities and perceptions of both of these migrant groups. Although there is a considerable body of scholarship that addresses issues of identity and Islam in North African communities in France, a comparison with Polish Catholic migrants, with its implications of a particular brand of Catholicism and gender relations, can serve as an unexpected and valuable analysis. Sources such as employment inquiries, police blotters, census lists, and recorded interviews will provide tools with which to assess how Poles and Algerians enacted transnationalism through a variety of sites and actions. By examining the ways in which these groups defined themselves as well as contributed to new definitions and understandings of European citizenship, this dissertation will offer an analytical framework that incorporates the consideration of change over time that can contribute to the interdisciplinary discussion of migration and gender.
  • Cheryl Llewellyn

    State University of New York (SUNY) / Stony Brook University, Sociology

    Proving Gender Exists: An Analysis of Gender Persecution Asylum Cases in the United States
    Asylum is an important part of migration; it provides an opportunity for marginalized and persecuted individuals to enter the United States. Individuals may apply for asylum if they have a “well-founded” fear of persecution in their country of origin based on one of five categories: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. While gender is not specified in this definition, women have made the case that they are persecuted based on membership in a gender social group. Given that gender persecution has been incorporated into the asylum system but has not been specified as a category, what accounts for the differences between successful and unsuccessful cases? The answer to this questions starts with deconstructing “gender” and “gender persecution.” Instead of starting with the assumption that women constitute a group, the asylum system asks applicants to prove their membership in a group of persecuted women. Then, the asylum system legitimizes which women are members of this group—by granting them asylum—and which are not—by denying their cases. Therefore, this project will demonstrate how the asylum system reinforces and institutionalizes gender as a category, as well as give voice to individual women’s experiences with migration.
  • Claudia Maria Lopez

    University of California / Santa Cruz, Sociology

    "Si Te Vas No Hay Lio": The Gendered Process of Forced Migration in Colombia and the Impact U.S. Drug Policy
    This research takes a look at U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. I will use a mixed method approach to examine the impact of U.S. drug policy on Colombian migration and the genderizing process of displacement. Plan Colombia has been implemented in Colombia since 2000 but according to many scholars, activists and politicians this drug policy has had adverse affects on the rural and urban communities of Colombia. Violence from Colombia’s civil war and the terror of guerilla and state-sponsored militias groups has led to the death and internal displacement of rural communities to urban areas, in addition to external migration out of the country. My main research question is: What are the effects, direct or indirect, of U.S. policy on foreign migration, and what are the gendered and genderizing effects of forced migration? I hope to use this research to evaluate foreign policy and to call attention to the human rights of people affected by displacement. The experience of gender in migration and policy scholarship is lacking and must be taken into serious consideration not only to advance the field of migration but for the creation of policy that takes into account its impact on human lives.
  • Yasmin Patrice Ortiga

    Syracuse University, Cultural Foundation of Education

    Educated for export: Higher education and the production of feminized migrant labor
    Recent studies highlight the “feminization” of migrant labor, a phenomenon often attributed to the growing need for care work in developed countries. Yet, little is said about how this feminized labor force is produced. Focusing on the case of Filipino nurse migration, my research will investigate how the Philippine state generates a ready supply of migrant nurses by linking its labor brokerage strategies with higher education institutions. In particular, I aim to explore how the needs and expectations of foreign employers affect the way Philippine nursing schools educate their students. My proposition is that this involves of not only teaching students to become competent professionals but inculcating a set of feminized “soft skills” such as docility, submissiveness and family values. This allows the Philippine state to build a brand of “care work” that does not only rely on female workers but a gender neutral labor force that holds such feminized qualities. My research will also investigate how male and female nursing students negotiate their migration aspirations with a gendered definition of “employability.” Through this, I hope to show how the migration process is gendered, not only in terms of gender ratios but how aspiring migrants are educated and trained.
  • Marie Ostby

    University of Virginia, English

    Gender and Migration in Modern Iranian Literature
    This project will aim to explore literatures of Iranian immigration, exile, and diaspora from the 1979 Islamic Revolution to the present, with a particular focus on the female gendering of those literatures and their role in “representing” modern Iran to the West through life narrative in what Gillian Whitlock terms the transnational “economy of affect”, taking into account factors of transnational censorship and embargo. I will examine gender and class demographic data of the post-Revolutionary Iranian diaspora, the political and religious stratification within the overwhelmingly female surge of post-9/11 public figures who “represent” and interculturally “translate” modern Iran to the West, and the iteration, translation, and promulgation of their life narratives as endeavors that are not only highly politicized, but can also be deeply gendered.
  • Nancy M. Rydberg

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Education

    Migration of female-headed households in northern Uganda and its affect on schooling
    Since the 2006 cease-fire, displaced families in northern Uganda have gradually returned home. I will examine the return-migration of female-headed households (FHHs) and how migration destination relates to FHH’s participation in schools. Agencies like the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and UNICEF have promoted community participation in the reconstruction of conflict-affected education systems. However, because family residence in northern Uganda is patrilocal, women are often considered outsiders by their husband’s clan and it can be difficult for their concerns to be heard. Since land in northern Uganda is inherited patrilinealy, widows depend on their husbands’ clans to access to land. Unfortunately, in-laws have increasingly denied widows access to land . Consequently, sometimes FHHs return to their parents’ land. I will analyze the diversity among FHHs to determine when and why FHHs migrate to their husbands’ land versus their parents’ land; when FHHs send children to live with relatives; how migration strategies relate to children’s school enrollment; and how the power dynamics in FHHs’ engagement with schools varies according to their migration strategy.
  • Jenn Lee Smith

    University of California / Los Angeles, Geography

    Finding Emancipation through Migration? The Impact of Fertility on Rural Women Migrating to Shanghai
    Within the body of literature addressing causes and consequences of internal labor migration, I focus on the relationship between female migration and fertility behavior. A rural migrant woman’s decision to move or return to her natal village is interwoven with her desire to form or reunite with her household. Most studies focus on the impacts of migration on fertility behavior; subsequently, a limited amount of research has been conducted on ways in which fertility behavior influence opportunities for migration, particularly amongst women. My research will use the selection model – which assumes that changing fertility behavior is a given due to the fact that migrants’ fertility preferences are closer to those at destination than at origin – and will focus on the reproductive identity of migrant women in Shanghai. Marital status and the motivations for migration are key indicators for the degree of freedom experienced by a rural migrant woman. The data that reflects these indicators, however, are extremely varied and scholars are divided on whether or not migrant women experience more restrictions from household obligations as compared to their male counterparts. Imbedded in the research is an overarching goal to discern how modernization and globalization have impacted rural migrant women, with particular attention paid to married women and women from dissolved households.