Follow the Migrant

ASB  340  &  SOC  328,  A r i z o n a   S t a t e   U n i v e r s i t y

In Arizona immigration is controversial

—how about in the rest of the world?

  • Well over 244 million migrants live outside their birth country as of the last UN count in 2015. Some 43 million migrants live in the USwhere are the other 201 million migrants?
  • Why has global migration accelerated in the last 40 years?
  • Why can’t the proverbial “search for a better life” happen any longer in migrants’ home countries?
  • How has migrants’ ethnic diversity provoked a re-imagining of national identities worldwide?
  • What is the impact of migration on gender relations in countries of origin and settlement, now that half the world’s migrants are female?

In this undergraduate course we study global migration from current social science perspectives to learn how Arizona’s migration issues fit into this larger context. Explore global migration & culture embedded in a transnational field of social, economic, and political relations. Map the impact of migration as the effect of global restructuring of capital and culture. Study grounded in empirical research about migrants' lives, struggles, identities in migrant-receiving and sending countries worldwide.

Our PHOTOGALLERY has tons of great photos from our fieldtrip to the US/Mexico border.

A full-day excursion on April 5th brought to life our study of migration. BorderLinks binational staff Sabina, Josh, and Manuel guided our trip. We walked on migrant trails in the Arizona desert with Shura of the Green Valley Samaritans; made Salvadoran pupusas for lunch and learned about LGBTQ migrants from Mariposas Sin Fronteras; observed (in)justice at work at Operation Streamline in the Tucson Federal Court; crossed the border to Mexico to walk along the border fence and view artwork about migration, and Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez’s memorial; drove through the Nogales industrial zones and learned about maquiladora factories from a former employee; witnessed informal settlement colonias where the workers live; and ate dinner provided at La Casita de la Misericordia and learned about this community center from the dedicated women who founded it to help those in the colonias so they need not migrate abroad.

An interview is like taking a fieldtrip into someone else’s story. For the final assignment each student interviewed an immigrant or refugee and created a web-based project to tell their story. Our project draws inspiration from Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America by Warren Lehrer & Judith Sloan (2003). The book presents fascinating interviews with immigrants and refugees in Queens, a borough of New York City.


We take metropolitan Phoenix as our study site, an urban and transnational social landscape increasingly rich with “strangers, neighbors, aliens,” whose migration stories are every bit as intriguing as migrants in Queens. Building from the interdisciplinary social science approaches and perspectives on im/migration patterns and processes of our course, we look for migration stories “in the shadows between the superstores,” where we find the global has moved right in to our local communities. In conducting close-to-home expeditions, each student’s interview contributes to a collaborative, synergistic, whole picture of local migration that is more rich and complex than its separate parts. In Crossing the Valley, we cross the globe.