Migration and immigration transform communities worldwide. Population movements and displacements spark discussion, debate, and even direct conflict concerning culture, economics, historical memory, national identity, place-making, and politics. These processes also generate innovation, cultural revitalization, and new relationships.
Today in the United States, the percentage of immigrants making up the nation’s population is approaching the historical high of 14.8 percent in 1890. The number of international immigrants—persons living in a country other than where they were born—has increased 41 percent since 2000. And in China, the recent migration from rural to urban areas constitutes the largest such movement of humans in recorded history.
People, ideas, and cultures now interact at an accelerated pace, made possible by increased mobility and new technologies. It is a process that fosters tremendous creativity, but not without also raising certain apprehensions.
From our inception in the 1960s, the Center has documented and illuminated the diverse experiences and cultural dynamism that emerges from the movement of people to and around the United States. Later this engagement expanded to include transnational perspectives and contexts. Critically reflecting on the past, driven by the urgency of current affairs, and thinking strategically about the future, this research group works to reinforce the fact that migration and immigration are fundamental human experiences.
Our attention focuses around three areas:
- Documenting and interpreting the varied ways that migration impacts community life and culture
- Reorienting inquiry to recognize immigration as a process impacting not only those who move, but the communities they leave behind, and the ones into which they move—addressing both generative and disruptive outcomes
- Investigating our own field and practices (as researchers, curators, educators, public sector professionals, and performing arts presenters)
We collaborate with colleagues working in different countries, sectors, and disciplines, and engage a wide public, to apply our research in support of individuals, communities, scholars, policymakers, and other stakeholders worldwide. We endeavor to clarify the contributions that an emphasis on the cultural dimensions of experience can bring to bear on contemporary discourse about migration and immigration.