Geopolitical Legacies, Nationalism, and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

11:00am -12:00pm
Friday, January, 27th, 2023
Social Science Centre 5220

A lecture by Thomas Soehl

This talk will present two papers from a research program that contributes to our understanding of the considerable cross-country variation in anti-immigrant sentiment. Whereas previous work has examined factors such as fluctuations in labor market conditions, changing composition of immigration streams, or the rise of populist parties, I will propose a macro-political argument: past geopolitical competition and war have shaped how national identities formed and in turn also contemporary attitudes toward newcomers. I will introduce a geopolitical threat scale and drawing on data from 33 European countries show a robust and substantively significant relationship between past geopolitical trauma and restrictionist attitudes towards immigrants. A follow-up analysis examines the role of popular understandings of nationhood as a central mediating variable. Building on recent advances in the measurement of popular nationalism and data from 43 countries around the world, I show that a turbulent geopolitical past decreases the prevalence of liberal nationalism (pride in institutions, inclusive boundaries) while increasing the prevalence of restrictive nationalism (less pride in institutions, exclusive boundaries).


Thomas Soehl is Associate Professor of Sociology at McGill University and holds the Canada Research Chair in International Migration. His research examines the socio-political attachments of migrants, the ways host societies transform migrants, and how migration challenges modern nation-states. His recent book "Origins and Destinations" (Russell Sage 2018) co-authored with Renee Luthra and Roger Waldinger provides the most comprehensive theoretical framework to date for understanding the trajectories of the children of immigrants, showing how their paths are socially structured not only by the contexts they grow up in but also by the contexts of emigration. In addition, he has published twenty articles in leading sociology and migration journals. His work has been funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the Fonds de Recherche Quebec Science et Culture, and the France Canada Research Fund. Currently he is the PI of the "Tajribati Canada Study" - a longitudinal study of 2000 Syrians resettled to Canada and the "Study of Nigerians at Home and Abroad" - a global study of the Nigerian diaspora and its engagements with the home-country.
Soehl received his PhD in Sociology from the University of California Los Angeles in 2014. He also earned degrees from the University of Kassel (Urban Planning), the Graduate Center at CUNY (MA Political Science) and the Harvard Kennedy School (MA Public Administration) and worked as a policy analyst for the New York City Council.

The Sociology Colloquium Series, brought to you by the Department of Sociology, MER and the Social Science Student Donation Fund, is open to the public, students and scholars of any discipline.

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