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Nancy Hiemstra

Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Stony Brook University
Chapter Member: New York City SSN
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About Nancy

Hiemstra's research focuses on migration and border policy-making, immigration enforcement practices (especially detention and deportation), constructions of borders and sovereignty, and Latin American migration. Overarching themes in Hiemstra's writings include the role of immigration policy in national identity, processes of racialization and securitization, ideas of borders and belonging.

In the News

Opinion: "The Danger of Building Detention Economies," Nancy Hiemstra, The Hill, June 22, 2018.


"Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime" (University of Georgia Press, 2019).

Pairs investigation of enforcement practices in the United States with an exploration into conditions migrants face in one country of origin: Ecuador. Reveals how the U.S. immigration enforcement system's chaotic organization and operation distracts from the mismatch between assumptions and actual outcomes. Draws on the experiences of detained and deported migrants, as well as their families and communities in Ecuador, to show convincingly that instead of deterring migrants and improving national security, detention and deportation generate insecurities and forge lasting connections across territorial borders. 

"Pushing the US-Mexico Border South: United States' Immigration Policing throughout the Americas" International Journal of Migration and Border Studies 5, no. 1 (2019): 44-63.

Identifies several components critical to transnational policing. Argues that as the United States extends its border policing activities through time and space, it conceals its direct role in migration policing activities that violate human rights and fuel illicit activities, distracts from policy failures, and evades international obligations.

"Geopolitical Reverberations of US Migrant Detention and Deportation: The View from Ecuador" Geopolitics 17, no. 2 (2012): 293-311.

Draws on research in Ecuador with families of migrants detained in the United States and deportees. Shows that the impacts of detention and deportation policies extend spatially and temporally beyond U.S. borders, and into local, personal spaces and places in Ecuador. Suggests that the detention and deportation do not meet U.S. policymakers' stated objective of deterring future migration. 

"Performing Homeland Security within the US Immigrant Detention System" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32, no. 4 (2014): 571-588.

Scrutinizes the behavior of detention personnel and the experiences of detainees through research conducted in Ecuador with detained migrants' families and deported migrants. Argues that the detention system works performatively to bolster contemporary imaginaries of homeland security.

"Chaos and Crisis: Dissecting the Spatiotemporal Logics of Contemporary Migrations and State Practices" (with Alison Mountz). Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104, no. 2 (2013): 382-390.

Considers why alarmist discourses of chaos and crisis emerge frequently in policymaking and scholarship on migration. Argues that states mobilize constructions of chaos and crisis to create exceptional moments in which sovereign reach and geopolitical influence are expanded. 

"Beyond Privatization: Bureaucratization and the Spatialities of Immigration Detention Expansion" (with Deirdre Conlon). Territory, Politics, Governance 5, no. 3 (2016): 252-268.

Draws on a study of immigration detention in Essex County, New Jersey, with a focus on the contractual arrangements delineating detention between public and private entities and actors. Posits processes of bureaucratization as central to the growth in immigration detention.

Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives (edited with Deirdre Conlon) (Routledge, 2016).

Provides crucial new insights into immigration detention recounting at close range how detention's effects ricochet from personal and everyday experiences to broader political-economic, social and cultural spheres. Draws on original research in the United States, Australia, Europe, and beyond to scrutinize the increasingly tangled relations associated with detention operation and migration management.

"Examining the Everyday Micro-Economies of Migrant Detention in the United States" (with Deirdre Conlon). Geographica Helvetica 69 (2014): 335-344.

Argues that tracing the political and economic geography of money inside detention facilities is critical for understanding detention expansion and its consequences.