Kitty Calavita — Immigration, Race, and Law in Italy: The Political Economy of Backlash

Begins at 2:00 in the Eleanor Roosevelt Administration Building Conference Room

Italy has one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in Europe. In this presentation, Calavita explores immigration law, the role of immigrant labor in the economy, and the racialization of immigrants in Italy. She notes that Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and one of the oldest populations, and that immigrants help offset population declines and provide a critical labor force in many sectors and jobs at wages eschewed by Italians. She analyzes the current political backlash and racialization of immigrants within the context of a fundamental contradiction between the economic utility of immigrants as a third-world workforce and political rhetoric calling for their “integration.”

Kitty Calavita is Chancellor’s Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. She has conducted research and published widely in the field of immigration and immigration lawmaking. Her work is both contemporary and historical, U.S.-based and comparative. An early book, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS, used unpublished archival material to document the internal dynamics of the INS in shaping the Bracero Program, and connected structural contradictions in the political economy to the details of agency decisionmaking. Her recent book, Immigrants at the Margins: Law, Race, and Exclusion in Southern Europe (Cambridge, 2005), examines immigrant marginalization in Italy and Spain, and the formal and informal legal processes that contribute to it.

Her most recent book is Invitation to Law & Society: An Introduction to the Study of Real Law (University of Chicago Press, 2010). Interweaving scholarship with personal anecdotes and humor, it is an engaging and accessible guide to the prominent issues and distinctive approaches in the field of law & society. Neither introductory text nor scholarly monograph, the book is meant for students and colleagues alike.

She has launched a new research agenda, together with her colleague Valerie Jenness,  that explores some of these issues of race, marginalization, and legal processes within the venue of prisons. She is interested specifically in the implementation of the informal grievance process in California prisons, and what the use of this process can tell us about prisoners’ legal consciousness, as well as about rights consciousness and prison life more generally. The study includes archival data from  prisoners’ written grievances, as well as interviews with current prisoners and corrections officials.

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