Dr. Donna Gabaccia: “Where are the Nations of Immigrants?”

Even while the United States, along with many European states, remains embroiled in negative debates about the importance and role of immigration for their societies and economies, many Americans continue to celebrate the USA as a model “nation of immigrants.”The national mythology of the American “nation of immigrants” is no simple product of demography. Few in the United States or elsewhere realize that the demographic and cultural impact of international migration—past and present—has been much greater on other countries, including Canada, Australia, France, and Argentina. Why did historically significant migrations, affecting many nations, produce so few self-conscious “nations of immigrants”? This lecture examines a diverse group of countries with high rates of mobility of foreigners—countries such as Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Jordan, and China, among others—to try to answer that question. It also asks whether, in our own changing times, Canada might attempt to replace the United State as the twenty-first century’s paradigmatic “nation of immigrants.”

Donna Gabaccia is Professor of History at the University of Toronto and former Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. She has written and edited fourteen books and dozens of articles on Italian migration worldwide, on gender, class, labour and immigrant foodways in the United States, and on the global, comparative, and transnational methodologies useful for interdisciplinary study of international migration and mobility over the very long history of human life on earth.