Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
The focus of this project is to consider U.S. immigration policy as a critical domain in the political management of populations in advanced liberal states. Rather than seeking to understand how discourses over U.S. immigration policy function to construct identity (national, ethnic, and/or immigrant), this project seeks to understand how debates over U.S. immigration policy function to shape, manage, and direct the conduct of migrants, immigrants, and citizens. The project avoids the emphasis in much of the extant scholarship on U.S. immigration policy on the question of identity in favor of an ethos of investigation indebted to Foucault's concept of governmentality.
Studies of governmentality eschew grand theories or unitary conceptions of the state in favor of empirical studies of techniques, programs, strategies and technologies that seek to guide, shape, and direct the conduct of others. While much of the interest of governmentality studies centers on mundane mechanisms that shape conduct, I argue that debates over immigration policy function as critical sites where the state is articulated into activities of government. The state, therefore, is not conceptualized as a source of power to be smashed. As such, policy debates are not mere deliberations by politicians and experts about the merits of particular courses of action; they are sites at which populations are made visible and particular mechanisms for shaping conduct are elevated.
As such, the project attends to policy discussions featured as part of an overall strategic shift in U.S. immigration policy from apprehension to deterrence which began in the early 1990s. The new strategy sought to prevent migrants from entering the U.S. rather than apprehending them once they were here. Analyzing congressional hearings and floor debates, this project argues that discussions of immigration control policies (ranging from the enhanced border policing initiatives, to measures aimed at eliminating the employment and social services magnets, to official English legislation), function as part of a complex of programs, techniques, procedures through which authorities embody and give effect to particular ways of governing that seek to manage the conduct of populations both within and outside of the United States.
Copyright 2010 Jon Wiebel
Wiebel, Jon Christopher. "Beyond the border: on rhetoric, U.S. immigration, and governmentality." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.