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Nancy Hiemstra
Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies 

Nancy New Headshot
 2058a Humanities Building

I am a political, cultural, and feminist geographer, and my interests include global migration, immigration enforcement practices, detention and deportation, homeland security, borders, gender, race, Latin America, and feminist epistemology and methodologies.

My research examines how state policies shape patterns and consequences of human mobility, with a focus on restrictive border and immigration policies. One project identifies the embodied consequences of immigration enforcement policies at political borders and in countries of migrant origin and transit. It identifies reverberations of U.S. migrant detention and deportation practices in Ecuador, and critically assesses security and deterrence logics behind punitive policies. This research is the subject my 2019 book: Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime (University of Georgia Press)Other publications developed through this research have been published in Environment and Planning D: Society and SpaceEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Geopolitics, a co-authored piece in Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and several edited volumes. I am also investigating U.S. immigration policing practices south of U.S. territorial borders.

Another project (with Dr. Deirdre Conlon) investigates the “internal economies” of detention facilities in the greater New York City area, examining the micro-scale economies that develop in and around detention. Our research shows that the development of financial dependencies on detention contributes to the continued expansion of detention regimes around the U.S. as well as globally. This research has been published in Geographica HelveticaTerritory, Politics, Governance, Urban Studies, ACME, and as chapters in several edited books, and we are working on a book manuscript. Deirdre Conlon and I also edited a volume with contributions about detention around the world, Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives (Routledge, 2016).

Another area of research investigates how 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. Publications from this project include articles in Antipode, a co-authored piece (with Lise Nelson) in Social and Cultural Geography, and a chapter in Immigrants Outside Megalopolis. I am also interested in the qualitative research process itself, especially the role of feminist epistemologies and methodologies. A co-authored article (with Emily Billo) including reflections on and lessons from fieldwork was published in Gender, Place, and Culture. Another article introducing the idea of “periscoping” as a feminist research method for getting at seemingly hidden subjects was published in The Professional Geographer.

Finally, my teaching emphasizes global interconnectedness between communities, regions, and nations while considering the unique histories, gendered and racialized 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.

 updated March 2023



Hiemstra, Nancy. 2019.Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press (Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series).  

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra, co-editors. 2016. Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives. NY: Routledge.  

Refereed Articles

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2022. ‘Unpleasant’ but ‘helpful’: Immigration detention and Urban Entanglements in New Jersey, USA. Urban Studies.

Hiemstra, Nancy, and Deirdre Conlon. 2021. Reading Between the (Redacted) Lines: Muddling through Absent Presences in Public Information Requests on U.S. Immigration Detention. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. 20 (6): 666-686.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2021. Mothers, babies, and abortion at the border: Contradictory U.S. policies, or targeting fertility? Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. 39 (8): 1692-1710.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2019. Pushing the U.S.-Mexico Border South: United States' Immigration Policing throughout the Americas. International Journal of Migration and Border Studies (Special issue: “Displacing Borders”).

Hiemstra, Nancy and Deirdre Conlon. 2017. Beyond privatization: bureaucratization and the spatialities of immigration detention expansion. Territory, Politics, Governance.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. Periscoping as a feminist methodological approach for researching the seemingly hidden. The Professional Geographer.

Hiemstra, Nancy, and Emily Billo. 2017. Introduction: Feminist research and knowledge production in geography. Introductory article for co-edited special issue in The Professional Geographer, on feminist research in geography.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2014. Performing Homeland (In)Security: Employee-Detainee Relationships within the Immigrant Detention Center. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 32: 571-588.

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2014. Examining the Everyday Micro-economies of Migrant Detention in the United States. Geographica Helvetica (Special edition of Social Geography on “Criminality and carcerality across boundaries.”). 69: 335-344. 

Mountz, Alison, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2014. Chaos and Crisis: Dissecting the Spatiotemporal Logics of Contemporary Migrations and State Practices. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104 (2): 382-390. 

Billo, Emily, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2013. Mediating Messiness: (Re)writing the Proposal in the Field. Gender, Place, and Culture. 20 (3): 313-328. 

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2012. Geopolitical Reverberations of U.S. Migrant Detention and Deportation: The View from Ecuador.Geopolitics Special Issue: “Migration, Mobility and Geopolitics.” 17 (2): 293-311.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2010. Immigrant “Illegality” and Neoliberal Governmentality in Leadville, CO. Antipode. 42 (1): 74-102.

Nelson, Lise, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2008. Latino Immigrants and the Renegotiation of Place and Belonging in Small Town America. Social & Cultural Geography. 9 (3): 319-342.

Book Chapters

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2021. Detention Economies: Commodifying Migrant Social Death. In Migration and Mortality: Social Death, Dispossession, and Survival in the Americas, edited by J. Longazel and M. C. Hallett, pp. 101-122. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. No hay otro: An Ecuadorian Tale of Repeated US Immigration. In Forced Out and Fenced In: Immigration Tales from the Field, edited by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza, 217-226. New York: Oxford University Press.

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2017. Mobility and Materialisation of the Carceral: Examining Immigration and Immigration Detention. In Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration, edited by Jennifer Turner and Kimberly Peters, 100-114. Routledge.

Conlon, Deirdre, Nancy Hiemstra, and Alison Mountz. 2017. Geographical Perspectives on Detention: Spatial Control and its Contestation. In Challenging Immigration Detention—Academics, Activists, Policymakers, edited by Michael J. Flynn and Matthew B. Flynn, 141-159. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Hiemstra, Nancy, and Deirdre Conlon. 2016. Captive consumers and coerced laborers: facility micro-economies and the expanding U.S. detention regime. In Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives, edited by Deirdre Conlon and Nancy Hiemstra, 123-139. Routledge. 

Hiemstra, Nancy and Alison Mountz. 2015. Slippery Slopes into Illegality and the Erosion of Citizenship in the United States. In The Human Right to Citizenship:  A Slippery Concept, edited by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassman and Margaret Walton-Roberts, 161-175. University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2013. “You don’t even know where you are”: Chaotic Geographies of U.S. Migrant Detention and Deportation. In Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention, edited by Dominique Moran, Nick Gill, and Deirdre Conlon, 57-75. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Mountz, Alison, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2012. Spatial Strategies for Rebordering Human Migration at Sea. In A Companion to Border Studies, edited by Thomas Wilson and Hastings Donnan, 455-472. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Hiemstra, Nancy, and Alison Mountz. 2011 . Geopolitics. In A Companion to Social Geography, edited by Vincent Del Casino, Ruth Panelli, Paul Cloke, and Mary Thomas, 421-436. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2008. Spatial Disjunctures and Division in the New West: Latino Immigration to Leadville, CO. InImmigrants Outside Megalopolis: Ethnic Transformation in the Heartland, edited by Richard C. Jones, 89-113. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Review Article:

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2016. Deportation and Detention: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Multi-Scalar Approaches, and New Methodological Tools. Migration Studies 4 (3): 433-446 (Review of six recent books on detention and deportation).

Public Scholarship:

Conlon, Deirdre, and Nancy Hiemstra. 2022. How subcontracting key services leads to the entrenchment of urban immigration detention in many US communities. London School of Economics Phelan US Centre, blog post May 13.

Hiemstra, Nancy and Deirdre Conlon. 2018. The danger of building detention economies. The Hill (Opinion piece), March 22:

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. Displacement, Not Deterrence. Journal of Latin American Geography. 16 (2): 171-173. (Perspectives Forum).

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. Cautions for Activist Strategizing in the (Anti-)Trump Era. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. (Online Forum: Trump and Immigration Enforcement: The First 100 Days).

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. Trump’s “Skinny” Central America Budget. NACLA Report on the Americas, “Border Wars” column: July 25.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2017. What Would You Do To Save Your Kids? The Outrage Of Separating Immigrant Families At The Border. Huffington Post, HuffPost Blog (Opinion piece): March 12.

Mountz, Alison and Nancy Hiemstra. 2017. Borders At Sea. Cosmologics Magazine, Harvard Divinity School; Science, Culture, and Religion Program (reprinted excerpt from 2012 Companion to Border Studies chapter).

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2016. This is Fear: ICE Raids on Parents and Children. Huffington Post, HuffPost Politics Blog (Opinion piece): January 8.

Hiemstra, Nancy. 2012. U.S. and Ecuador: Is Intervention on the Table? NACLA Report on the Americas 45 (4): 20-24.

intimate  Detain and Deport

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