by Lisa Sun-Hee Park
The definition of “assimilation” and its subsequent usage has long been a contentious issue in American scholarship. Fundamentally, assimilation raises difficult questions about the social composition of a society or culture. More specifically, the debates around the term address the adaptation of those populations or individuals understood as outside or different from mainstream society. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines “assimilate” as a verb meaning to “take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully” and “absorb and integrate.”
The study of modern human migration takes place across multiple disciplines and engages a wide variety of methodologies, and yet issues of gender and sexuality have largely been understood as marginal to this pivotal area of research. This essay highlights key contributions regarding migration by gender and sexuality scholars. First, research on women’s migration experiences has opened new historical understandings of national inclusion and exclusion. Second, critical, queer, and trans migration studies approaches have scrutinized normativity in ways that have produced new and generative questions regarding state-based rights and policies. Third, and relatedly, this critique has forced us to rethink such fundamental social concepts as citizenship, belonging, and borders.