The Cultural Politics of U.S. Immigration

Gender, Race, and Media

288 pages

3 halftones

September, 2016

ISBN: 9781479823864



Add to Cart Available: 8/26/2016

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Leah Perry is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at SUNY-Empire State College. 

All books by Leah Perry

 How the immigration policies and popular culture of the 1980's fused to shape modern views on democracy
In the 1980s, amid increasing immigration from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia, the circle of who was considered American seemed to broaden, reflecting the democratic gains made by racial minorities and women. Although this expanded circle was increasingly visible in the daily lives of Americans through TV shows, films, and popular news media, these gains were circumscribed by the discourse that certain immigrants, for instance single and working mothers, were feared, censured, or welcomed exclusively as laborers.               

In The Cultural Politics of U.S. Immigration, Leah Perry argues that 1980s immigration discourse in law and popular media was a crucial ingredient in the cohesion of the neoliberal idea of democracy. Blending critical legal analysis with a feminist media studies methodology over a range of sources, including legal documents, congressional debates, and popular media, such as Golden Girls, Who’s the Boss?, Scarface, and Mi Vida Loca, Perry shows how even while “multicultural” immigrants were embraced, they were at the same time disciplined through gendered discourses of respectability. Examining the relationship between law and culture, this book weaves questions of legal status and gender into existing discussions about race and ethnicity to revise our understanding of both neoliberalism and immigration.


  • “Provocative and well-researched, The Cultural Politics of US Immigration analyzes the public sentiment, congressional discourse, and cultural politics surrounding immigration reform. Methodologically innovative, Leah Perry pulls multiple disciplinary threads in order to produce a unique paradigm for studying the relationship between popular culture and public policy.”

    —Isabel Molina-Guzmán, author of Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media

  • “Impressive in scope, The Cultural Politics of US Immigration explores popular culture, political rhetoric, and legal discourses from the 1980s and early 1990s as staging grounds for the transformation of  multiculturalism and the erosion of welfare policies in ways that anticipated contemporary neoliberal debates. Well-researched and clearly argued, Perry’s comparative emphasis on several migratory groups will make a significant contribution to immigration studies. An ambitious book.”

    —Claudia Sadowski-Smith, author of Border Fictions: Globalization, Empire, and Writing at the Boundaries of the U.S.