Nancy Hiemstra


I am a political and cultural geographer, and my interests include global migration, immigration enforcement practices, 'homeland security', processes of racialization, constructions of borders and sovereignty, Latin America, and feminist epistemology and methodologies.

My ethnographically-based research broadly examines ways in which state policies shape patterns and socio-cultural consequences of human mobility. While immigration today is often regarded as a homeland security issue, I approach it as an issue of human security. My current project identifies the embodied consequences of destination countries’ immigration enforcement policies in countries of migrant origin. It focuses on the reverberations of U.S. migrant detention and deportation practices in Ecuador. I argue that while detention and deportation are enacted to protect and defend Americans’ security at “home,” these practices paradoxically decrease daily human security for detained migrants’ families and deported migrants, precisely at the scale of the home. The research also illustrates that the structure and operation of the detention system works to reinforce Americans’ perception of immigrants as security threats. The findings and arguments developed through this work are forthcoming in Geopolitics, a co-authored chapter in A Companion to Border Studies, and a chapter in Geographies of Detention and Incarceration. This research is also the subject of an emerging book project.

Another area of research investigates ways in which shifts in immigrant destinations are transforming social and political landscapes in the United States. I draw on fieldwork in small-town Colorado to explore ways in which constructions of "illegality" shape immigrant and non-immigrant interactions. This work illustrates the theoretical utility of framing immigrant “illegality” as a local-scale technique of neoliberal governmentality. Publications from this project include articles in Antipode, Social and Cultural Geography, and a chapter in Immigrants Outside Megalopolis

I am also interested in the qualitative research process itself, especially thinking through how theory influences method and vice versa. A co-authored article including reflections on and lessons from fieldwork is forthcoming in Gender, Place, and Culture. Additional projects consider the outward elasticity of borders through immigration enforcement, morphing ideas of sovereignty, and how destination countries’ immigration policies influence migrants’ decisions and migration paths.

Finally, my teaching emphasizes global interconnectedness between communities, regions, and nations while considering the unique histories, sociospatial relations, and political realities of individual places. I aim to create a dynamic classroom where students can connect what they are learning to personal experience.



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New MA/PhD in Women's and Gender Studies

The Department is pleased to announce that the new MA/PhD program in Women's and Gender Studies has received official certification.  "Click here for more information"


Nancy Hiemstra has been selected to receive the 2014 Graduate and Faculty Research Program in the Arts, Humanities and Lettered Social Sciences.

Robert Harvey has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor.

Izabela Kalinowska-Blackwood is curating a film series at the IWM in Vienna.


Beth Tsai has been selected to receive the 2014 Graduate and Faculty Research Program in the Arts, Humanities and Lettered Social Sciences.

Kudos Newsletter 

July 2014

The Humanities Institute

Cultural Analysis and Theory • Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5355 • Phone: 631.632.7460 • Fax: 631.632.5707
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