Monday, June 10, 2013

Bridget Anderson's "Us and Them?"

Bridget Anderson's research interests include low waged labor migration, deportation, legal status, and citizenship. Publications include Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour (2000) and Who Needs Migrant Workers? Labour Shortages, Immigration and Public Policy (2010), co-edited with Martin Ruhs. She has worked with a wide range of national and international NGOs including the Trades Union Congress, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the International Labour Organisation. She is Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at Oxford University.

Anderson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Us and Them?: The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Controls, and reported the following:
I’d never heard of the page 99 test and I guess one of the points of it is it gets you to the heart of a book. If the author hasn’t started to say anything interesting by page 99 you’re in trouble. In the case of Us and Them it gets you to citizenship, more specifically, the gap between the rhetoric of citizenship and citizenship in practice. So while in the US, for instance, naturalising citizens must not be ‘habitual drunkards’, plenty of natural born citizens are habitual drunkards, without having their citizenship stripped from them. Naturalising citizens must be Good Citizens. Good Citizenship does not only exclude the foreigner. It excludes many others like the criminal, the single mum, and indeed the ‘habitual drunkard’. While immigrants, whatever their status, are eager to claim Good Citizenship – that they are hardworking, come from strong families, do not commit crimes etc – the book argues that there is much to be gained from looking at Non-citizens and what I term ‘Failed Citizens’ together. After all, in the US the convicted drug felon can lose the right to vote, to Medicaid and to food aid for life. Put like this, and purged of its moral claims there might be more in common between ‘illegal immigrants’ and alleged felons than vulnerability to incarceration. Both Non-citizens and Failed Citizens are the undeserving poor, one global, the other national. The book argues that strong efforts are made to keep them apart, and to view them as competitors for the privileges of membership. So supporters and migrants themselves often emphasise that they are not failed citizens, but are hardworking, come from strong families, don’t commit crime etc. Those who are opposed to migration in contrast present migrants as undermining hardworking families by taking jobs and lowering terms and conditions, fiscally draining the economy etc. This logic is ultimately unhelpful, and rather we need to question the values of Good Citizenship. The book theorizes immigration debates in order to re-politicize them and to demonstrate their relevance to wider politics. Immigration controls not only impact on ‘them’ but have profound consequences for ‘us’.
Learn more about Us and Them? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue