Conferences & Symposia

Crossing Borders

Immigration and Gender in the Americas
Photo by Linda SchaeferPhoto by Linda Schaefer

Each year, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University hosts a conference that explores the role of gender in a significant aspect of the human experience. This year’s conference is titled “Crossing Borders: Immigration and Gender in the Americas.”

Academics, practitioners, and artists from across all fields will investigate changing immigration trends and examine how gender, race, and social class shape the experience of immigrants and their children in the Americas.

Join the conversation on Twitter: #borders2013 #immigration


Thursday, April 25

The conference will begin on Thursday evening with a performance by Quetzal, a bilingual rock band from East Los Angeles whose songs tell the social, cultural, political, and musical stories of people in struggle. The band's most recent album, Imaginaries, a Smithsonian Folkways Recording, won a 2013 Grammy Award. Quetzal has deep ties to life in the barrio and has a strong feminist stance and commitment to social activism. Between sets, lead singer Martha Gonzalez will participate in a dialogue with a group of scholars and critics to contextualize the performance with the themes of the conference.

7:30 pm

Concert and Panel Discussion

  • Moderator: Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College

  • Frances R. Aparicio, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program, Northwestern University

  • Martha Gonzalez, Lead Singer, Quetzal and PhD Candidate, Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington
  • George Lipsitz, Professor, Department of Black Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
Friday, April 26

The daylong program considers ways in which gendered opportunities and restrictions lead to migration; how immigration laws in the United States are shaped by gendered assumptions and have differential consequences for men and women; and how the interaction of race, gender, and social class shape future generations.

8:45 am

Welcome Remarks

  • Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
  • Mary C. Waters, Conference Chair, M. E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
9:00 AM

Opening Speaker

  • Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize–winning Journalist and Author of the national best seller, Enrique’s Journey
9:30 AM

Introductory Address and Discussion

  • Rubén Rumbaut, Professor of Sociology, School of Social Sciences University of California, Irvine

Discussion and Q&A with Sonia Nazario and Rubén Rumbaut

  • Moderator: Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Academic Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education


10:45 AM

Panel: The Gendering of International Migration

This panel examines how the causes and consequences of international migration reflect the different experiences of women and men, and how they have changed over time. It will consider questions about the gender distribution of international migrants, how men and women maintain ties transnationally, and how people change when the cultural expectations of sending and receiving countries clash.

  • Moderator: Margarita Alegria, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School 
  • Donna R. Gabaccia, Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair of Immigration History and Director, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota
  • Robert C. Smith, Professor of Sociology, Immigration Studies, and Public Affairs, School of Public Affairs, City University of New York, Baruch College
  • Carola Suárez-Orozco, Professor of Psychological Studies in Education, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA
12:15 PM


1:30 PM

Panel: Law, Asylum, and Sending Countries

This panel considers how policies targeting women’s reproductive lives and freedoms, along with domestic and other violence, shape women’s decisions to leave their homes in Latin America and move northward; how laws have changed in the United States to take account of the special needs of women and children for asylum; and the impact on families of the drastic increase in deportations by the US government under the Bush and Obama administrations.

  • Moderator: Deborah Anker, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School
  • Marsha Freeman, Director, International Women’s Rights Action Watch, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Nancy Kelly, Co–Managing Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Cecilia Menjívar, Cowden Distinguished Professor, School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University
3:00 PM


3:30 PM

Panel: The Children of Immigrants

This panel explores how children of immigrants fare in American society. It addresses how cultures, institutions, laws, and racial boundaries in sending societies as well as in American society influence the children of immigrants, with particular attention to women influenced by gendered labor market expectations, undocumented youth influenced by changing legal rights and educational institutions, and black children of immigrants influenced by the American racial order.

  • Moderator: Natasha Kumar Warikoo, Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Raquel Fernández, Professor of Economics, New York University
  • Roberto G. Gonzales, Assistant Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
  • Flore Zéphir, Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Missouri
5:00 PM

Concluding Remarks

  • Moderator: Edward Schumacher-Matos, Ombudsman, NPR
  • Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, City University of New York, Hunter College


  • Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
  • Mary C. Waters, Conference Chair and M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
5:30 PM



About the Conference Poster Photograph

This photograph was taken by Linda Schaefer in 1988 in Tijuana. At the time, she was a photojournalist covering the presidential campaigns and working on a project called “The Face of America.” She was documenting what the nation looked like during a presidential campaign, starting in Iowa and ending in California; it involved photographing not only the candidates, but also the people she saw across America. Her work was exhibited at the Democratic and Republican political conventions and shown on CNN.

When Schaefer was traveling with a campaign in Southern California, she decided that just across the border there were “faces of America” to see and share. She walked into Mexico through a gap in a barbed-wire fence where many people were walking back and forth. The community she encountered was a small village, primarily made up of shacks. Schaefer spent most of her time outside one of the small homes and watched the women washing clothes and hanging them to dry. A family lived in the home, but only women were there at the time. The photograph selected for “Crossing Borders” was taken outside that shack in Tijuana.

For more information about Linda Schaefer and her work, visit her website