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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond a politics of integration : tactical cosmopolitanism among Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles Khajeh Hosseiny, Melika


Western liberal democracies have experienced increased political anxieties vis-à-vis migration, with a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment due to perceptions of immigrants threatening national identity and norms (Hainmueller & Hopkins, 2014). States promote migrant integration, encouraging immigrants to become more “embedded” in their host society’s cultural, social, economic, and political structures, as a diversity management response (Valtonen, 2016). However, recent scholarship has begun to criticize the very notion of ‘immigrant integration’ for upholding neocolonial power, maintaining purified notions of class and of race, implicitly characterizing immigrants as ‘objects of problematization’, and creating images of society that demarcate ‘us’ versus ‘them’ (Schinkel, 2017). On a pragmatic level, policies under the integration umbrella have been argued to fail to address the nature of ‘superdiversity,’ which encompasses an increased number of new, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants. Thus, we are presented with a tension between the necessary normative criticisms of the idea of integration, the limited analytical utility of integration in a superdiverse society, and the tangible and often material benefits of integration. How can we reconceptualize the politics of integration in an era of super-diversity? I argue that by placing an emphasis on entering the ‘mainstream,’ scholars miss an important dimension of immigrant social mobility that involves not ‘bridging’ into the mainstream, but instead participating in a host society through ways that transcend a national demarcation. Through an assessment of Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles, I demonstrate how Landau and Freemantle’s concept of ‘tactical cosmopolitanism’ serves as a reconciliation between these divides on the benefits of integration and its necessary criticisms. Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles choose not to mainstream their identity with a host society. Rather, they practice social mobility in ways that do not constitute traditional bridging—demonstrated by tactical cosmopolitanism—while nonetheless reaping the benefits of ‘integration.’

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