Spotlight: Nancy Foner

A distinguished sociology professor at Hunter and a former Macaulay Honors seminar professor for The Peopling of NY, Nancy Foner has recently been appointed to a position with the National Academy of Sciences. She is now part of the immigration research panel, which is working on a project to prepare a report on the integration of immigrants in American society. “The goal of the panel is to synthesize and evaluate the large literature on this topic,” she says, “to tell us what we know about how immigrants in the contemporary period have been integrating into the U.S. and also how they have been changing the country in the process.”

The chair of the panel is Mary Waters, a Harvard sociologist whom Professor Foner has worked with closely over the years. Since the panel was formed in early 2014, members have been meeting every few months to “discuss substantive issues that will be involved in the report, to hear papers from panelists and others on topics we need to know about, and to begin to divide up assignments in terms of who will research and write various parts of the report.” The next meeting will take place in July in Irvine, California—a West Coast outpost of the National Academy.

Professor Foner has been teaching sociology at Hunter College for about 10 years now. She also teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center, which has one of the best programs in the country for studying sociology. Focusing on immigration policy research, she notes that immigrants now make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population — around 40 million people. “If you add on their children, we are talking about nearly a quarter of the U.S. population. This is an amazing figure,” she commented.

Author or editor of 16 books and numerous articles, Foner has published two books this past academic year. These books are a product of the collaboration between herself, her colleagues, and PhD students. The first one is One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century (Columbia University Press). Sharing her inspiration for the book, she says: “A previous book I had edited on recent immigrants in New York had become badly out of date, and I thought that it was time for a serous update.” This edited volume, “provides a view of immigrant New York after nearly half a century of massive inflows.”

The other book, New York and Amsterdam: Immigration and the New Urban Landscape (NYU Press, 2014) is one she edited with several colleagues form the University of Amsterdam. “We are delighted that the book has been attracting considerable attention on both sides of the Atlantic,” Foner claims. Some questions this book explores are: Is Islam in Amsterdam like race in New York? How has the immigrant past affected the immigrant present in both cities? How have immigrants been entering the precincts of power?

In addition to the work she has accomplished this past year, Foner is working on some projects currently. She is completing a book project with Richard Alba, her colleague at the Graduate Center. The book is titled Struggles for Inclusion: Immigration and the Challenges of Diversity in North America and Western Europe, and will be published by Princeton University Press. It is a thoroughgoing comparison of the dynamics of integration of immigrants and their children in four European countries (Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands) and the United States and Canada. “Our analysis runs the gamut from understanding how immigrants are gaining political office, the impact and extent of residential segregation and growing economic inequality, and the role of national identities and intermarriage to the barriers based on race and religion.” She has also been working on a book on Fear, Anxiety, and National Identity with Patrick Simon, a French colleague.

Additionally,  she has been devoting a lot of time to organizing the annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society that will be held in New York in February 2015.  This meeting will be discussing the theme of “Crossing Borders,” pertaining to immigration, race, gender, and religion. Many Hunter faculty members in the Department of Sociology are closely involved in the planning. “We think it’s going to be a very exciting meeting,” Foner says. “Since it’s in New York City, we hope that many Hunter College students will be able to attend some of the sessions.”

For future work, Foner is considering writing a book that looks at how immigration has been transforming American society, with a particular emphasis on the past fifty years. Finally, sharing her thoughts on the diversity of Hunter, she remarks, “Given the composition of Hunter’s student body — with so many students being immigrants themselves or the children of immigrant parents — it is a wonderful place for me to teach.”

The featured image can be found on Flickr Creative Commons here.

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