Gender and Sexuality in the Migration Trajectories: Studies between the Northern and Southern Mediterranean Shores
reviewed by Debjani Chakravarty - January 17, 2019
Title: Gender and Sexuality in the Migration Trajectories: Studies between the Northern and Southern Mediterranean Shores
Author(s): Emiliana Mangone, Giuseppe Masullo, & Mar Gallego (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641131284, Pages: 160, Year: 2017
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Gender and Sexuality in the Migration Trajectories is a timely and methodologically innovative anthology that focuses on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and border-crossing practices. Editors Mangone, Masullo, and Gallego present writings on immigration processes and immigrant life experiences produced by researchers using qualitative methodology. The series editor Luca Tateos preface clearly demarcates a difference between explorers and colonizers, averring that this scholarship is for and about the former. Colonizers define citizenship and foreignness, positioning themselves as default citizens and familiar and righteous owners of the lands and cultures they have annexed. They also get to selectively pick and choose what aspects of immigration to write about. Tateo explains that the colonizer-explorer relationship, which to me also suggests other colonial binaries such as self-other, ruler-native, and citizen-alien to name a few, is best explored through qualitative methods. Such methods can reflexively, ethically, and creatively explore complexities of identities and spaces. Apart from the substantive content presented in the book, these varied qualitative methods are striking in their ability to address the intersections of gender and immigrant identities. The authors as well as readers are in a position to raise questions about immigration trends, identity negotiations, as well as the nature of the methodology itself. The editors also position the Mediterranean as an interesting, dynamic space to explore immigrant lives because it has experienced and continues to experience myriad sociopolitical conflicts. They explain that due to the interplay of a number of factors, a common destiny connects Europe and the entire Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to the Golden Horn (p. xii).
The Mediterranean is not merely a geopolitical space, it is also a perspective; one that is characterized by rethinking ideas of modernity and secularization as well as centering the notion of territoriality that can be built with the help of the geosociological approach to most recent changes in geopolitics and international relations (p. xv). This dynamic perspective promises a crossdisciplnary and current approach to the field of immigration studies. However, in trying to do so, the editors state that gender studies as a field has mostly adopted a constructionist perspective and rarely addressed the issue of migrant experiences. This claim might be inaccurate given that the fields of gender, women, feminist, and sexuality studies often adopt a cross- and interdisciplinary approach to study processes of immigration and globalization, often centering and foregrounding immigrant experiences at the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and other crucial identities.
The book is divided into three parts, titled (a) Migration and Sexuality: Theories and Problems, (b) Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Processes, and (c) Gender, Sexuality, and Social Change. True to its title, the first section covers methodological problems and prospects for studying migration while focusing on sociocultural phenomena surrounding gender and sexuality norms. Mangones chapter focuses on useful theoretical discussions about migration, integration, diaspora formation, etc. She discusses the nature as well as the study of sexuality, assimilating insights from Erving Goffman as well as Gagnon and Simons theory of sexual script. The chapter ends by discussing the current lack in migration studies of a focus on sociodemographic characteristics, as opposed to human characteristics, relationships, and behavior. Gallego, in Chapter Two, titled Gender, Sexuality, and Healing in Contemporary Women Writers from African Diaspora, shows us how black womens bodies and subjectivities (colonized, objectified, and fragmented) are represented in writings within the African diaspora. This is a theoretically rich chapter that could perhaps benefit from a more detailed discussion of black feminisms and postcolonial studies. The last chapter in this section, by Misiti and Demurtas, draws from institutional data, research studies (e.g., Farina & Ortensi), and theoretical frameworks (e.g., Bourdieus habitus and illusion) to explain the complexity of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in terms of practices, global spread, legality, and policies.
The second section of the book deals with identity processes in and through immigration experiences. Masullos article explores the integration processes of gay migrants into the Italian gay community. This article presents an analysis of interview data that reveal how migrants live and negotiate their sexuality in their home and host countries. The subjectivity of gay migrants within integration and migration processes is marked by ambivalence, stereotype stress, and selective adaptation. This article draws from queer theory frameworks and demonstrates intersectional processes of race, sexuality, immigration status, and other experiences. Calderón-García, Santamaría, and Benítez write on experiences of two female immigrants from Ecuador and Chile to Spain with regard to how they create and recreate their selves in the process of acculturation. They connect larger national, global, and political/cultural contexts with a microsociological frame, considering identity as a narrative construction.
The last section contains several articles on migrants from the Maghreb region. Guessous studies changes in gender norms experienced in home and host societies; Fidolini grapples with ethical implications and blurry boundaries while studying migrant sexuality; and Guedjali looks at trajectories of female engineering students in France. These articles are interesting in their substantive as well as methodological discussions, and I am particularly intrigued by Fidolinis ethnographic practices and her discussion of the ethnographic pact, the sense of a real anthropological exchange agreementsurpassing the framework of the scientific research itselfthat is established between interviewer and interviewee (p. 112). This author also struggles with the guilt and discomfort of being an unjustified presence in other peoples lives, and is sincere and reflective.
The editors return in the last chapter to discuss new research trajectories in migration studies while also considering the research presented in previous chapters. They suggest that theoretical/methodological challenges will be located in analyzing intersections of gender, sexuality, and the immigration experience, especially pertaining to women/femininities within migrations processes, masculinities in migration, and non-normative sexualities and migration policies. They conclude by stating:
The narratives of agency and empowerment that emerge from the critical dialogue fostered by this book highlight the need to continue researching into the diverse forms that migration processes have contributed to the fundamental changes and redefinitions of gender and sexuality, and vice versa. (p. 134)
As a classroom resource, this will be a suitable book for courses on immigration, globalization, global studies, and gender studies as required or optional reading. Especially in classrooms in the U.S., students often do not learn about immigration in a non-U.S. context or engage with texts produced by non-U.S. academic authors. The editors clarify several issues in their introduction: effective intercultural exchange and the Mediterranean Approach; current approaches used in migration studies and gender/sexuality studies; and other crucial themes. These clarifications will be helpful for students and scholars of immigration everywhere as they delve into the complexities of not just immigration policies but immigrant identities.