Marilynn S. Johnson (Boston College)


Course Description
For centuries, men and women have crossed the globe to labor in foreign agriculture and industry. But women have also migrated to become domestics, nurses, mail order brides, and sex workers. As such, gender has shaped both the opportunities and forms of exploitation that immigrants have faced. This course explores the role of gender in the lived experience of migrant families, workplaces, and communities since the early nineteenth century. How has gender and sexuality shaped migrants’ experiences, perceptions, and integration into their host countries? How does it influence transnational practices and national immigration policies?

We will consider these questions by studying immigration (mainly to the Americas) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and then across the globe during the past fifty years. The class will examine a broad range of racial and ethnic groups, while also focusing on certain categories of migrants—domestic workers, war brides, international adoptees, care providers, sex workers—in order to understand the role of gender, race, class, and sexuality in migration. We will use film and other multimedia sources to provide access to a range of immigrant voices and experiences.

Course Requirements and Expectations
Attendance and active participation in discussion and class activities are essential to this class; this may also include periodic short quizzes (25% of your grade). There are also two written assignments: a 5-page midterm paper analyzing the gender dynamics of two different historical episodes of migration (25% of your grade), and an 8-page final paper based on your reading of an immigrant biography or autobiography (40% of your grade). There will also be a required oral presentation of your final biography project at the end of the semester (10%).

Learning Outcomes
• Identify historical and contemporary factors that contribute to global migration and understand how gender (as well as race, class, and sexuality) shape these processes.
• Develop an understanding of how national immigration laws and international migration agreements can affect gendered migration.
• Develop good reading, comprehension, and speaking skills in English to enable the effective communication of ideas.
• For paper assignments, students should be able to analyze and compare different migrant groups, and critically read and analyze a primary source (autobiography).

Topics to be Covered
Irish Women in the Famine Diaspora, Chinese Exclusion and the Sojourner Society, Japanese & Korean Picture Brides, the European immigrant family in industrial America, gender and deportation, war brides in World Wars I & II, gender and the refugee experience, guestworkers, queer migrants and sexuality at the border, care workers, mail order brides, international adoption, sex work & trafficking.

Some Readings
COHEN ROSE, (1919), Out of the Shadow
CAPO JULIO, (2010) , “Queering Mariel: Mediating Cold War Foreign and US Citizenship Among Cuba’s Homosexual Exile Community, 1978-1994,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 29: 4
EHRENREICH BARBARA AND HOCHSCHILD ARLIE, (2002), Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy
OTSUKU JULIE, (2011), The Buddha in the Attic
PESSAR PATRICIA R. MAHLER AND SARAH J., (Fall 2003), “Transnational Migration: Bringing Gender In,” International Migration Review, Vol. 37: 3

A Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance (1984)
The Triangle Fire (2011)
Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight (2015)
The Women Outside (1995)
Maid in America (2005)
Seeking Asian Female (2012)
Geographies of Kinship (2022)


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272