The Ethnography of Immigration: In Conversation with Dr. Tahseen Shams

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How are immigrants’ lives shaped by cultural and political dynamics in their homeland, hostland, and “elsewhere” countries whose geopolitical dynamics affect their experiences (such as South Asian Muslims who are affected by post-9/11 and more recent backlash against Middle Eastern nations)? In today’s podcast, we talk with Tahseen Shams, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto-St.George and author of Here, There, and Elsewhere: The Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World. Tahseen talks about how her own background as a Bangladeshi immigrant to Mississippi inspired her to become an ethnographer, and how her positionality affected her research with other South Asian Immigrants. She describes how she used content analysis of Facebook to overcome her own effect on interviewees and some of the difficulties she had in managing relationships with her participants. Also, in a fascinating discussion of how her female research participants navigated contrasting identity categories of “Good Muslim” and “Moderate Muslim”, she reflects on what she learned from the tensions between what they said in interviews and what she observed them doing. Finally, Tahseen talks about finding inspiration in reading novels and her new research project on inter-ethnic relationships.

Tahseen Shams is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto - St. George, and the Bissell-Heyd Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of the United States of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Alex Diamond is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago. Dr. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago.

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