Symbolic Boundaries in Action

Part of the Cultural Sociology book series (CULTSOC)


Jaworsky offers a look into the potential implications of all the symbolic boundary work taking place around immigration and highlights the contribution of the Strong Program in studying this issue. Social movement “success” is notoriously difficult to measure; looking at the political outcomes and cultural consequences of mobilization around immigration reveals a complex landscape of “results.” Both sides can claim victories, the intensity of which ebbs and flows. This situation warrants future research, not least because the societal stakes are so high. More than 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States live in a social limbo and even those with legal status are often considered a threat. Fears or worries about immigration abound, and meaningful dialogue seems out of reach.


Social Movement Cultural Consequence Illegal Immigrant Boundary Work Symbolic Boundary 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agiesta, Jennifer. 2015. CNN/ORC Poll: Guns, Immigration, Abortion Increasingly Important to Voters. CNN Politics website. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  2. Agnone, Jon. 2007. Amplifying Public Opinion: The Policy Impact of the U.S. Environmental Movement. Social Forces 85(4): 1593–1620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akdenizli, Banu, E.J. Dionne Jr., and Roberto Suro. 2008. Democracy in the Age of New Media: A Report on the Media and the Immigration Debate. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. Accessed 8 Oct 2015.
  4. Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2003. The Meanings of Social Life. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 2006a. The Civil Sphere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ———. 2006b. Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance Between Ritual and Strategy. In Social Performance: Symbolic Action, Cultural Pragmatics, and Ritual, ed. Jeffrey C. Alexander, Bernhard Giesen, and Jason L. Mast, 29–90. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Bernadette N. Jaworsky. 2014. Obama Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Philip Smith. 2003. The Strong Program in Cultural Sociology: Elements of a Structural Hermeneutics. In The Meanings of Social Life, ed. Jeffrey C. Alexander, 11–26. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Amenta, Edwin, Neal Caren, Elizabeth Chiarello, and Yang Su. 2010. The Political Consequences of Social Movements. Annual Review of Sociology 36: 14.1–14.21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). n.d. Hazleton, PA., Ordinance No. 2006–18. ACLU website. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  11. Arizona State Senate. 2010. Fact Sheet for SB-1070. Arizona State Legislature website, January 15. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  12. Bail, Christopher. 2015. Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Baker-Cristales, Beth. 2009. Mediated Resistance: The Construction of Neoliberal Citizenship in the Immigrant Rights Movement. Latino Studies 7(1): 60–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bergeron, Claire. 2013. Top 10 of 2013—Issue #7: As Bill to Overhaul U.S. Immigration System Stalls in Congress, Immigration Reform Movement Broadens, Ups the Ante. Migration Policy Institute website, December 10. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  15. Bloemraad, Irene, Kim Voss, and Fabiana Silva. 2014. Framing the Immigrant Movement as about Rights, Family, or Economics: Which Appeals Resonate and for Whom?, IRLE Working Paper No. 112-14. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  16. Chavez, Leo R. 2013. The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation, 2nd ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Cherry, Elizabeth. 2010. Shifting Symbolic Boundaries: Cultural Strategies of the Animal Rights Movement. Sociological Forum 25(3): 450–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chishti, Muzaffar, and Claire Bergeron. 2014. Hazleton Immigration Ordinance That Began With a Bang Goes Out With a Whimper. Migration Policy Institute website, March 28. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  19. Chishti, Muzaffar, and Faye Hipsman. 2013. As Congress Tackles Immigration Legislation, State Lawmakers Retreat from Strict Measures. Migration Policy Institute website, May 23. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  20. Colford, Paul. 2013. ‘Illegal Immigrant’ No More. Associated Press (AP) website, April 2. Accessed 2 Nov 2015.
  21. Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2014. Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets! Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Costley, William. 2014. The Anti-Immigrant ‘New Mediascape’: Analyzing Nativist Discourse on the Web. PhD Thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson.Google Scholar
  23. Coutin, Susan Bibler, and Phyllis Pease Chock. 1996. ‘Your Friend, the Illegal’: Definition and Paradox in Newspaper Accounts of U.S. Immigration Reform. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 2(1–2): 123–148.Google Scholar
  24. Dugan, Andrew. 2015. U.S. Support for Increased Immigration Up to 25%. Gallup website, August 10. Accessed 8 Oct 2015.
  25. Earl, Jennifer. 2004. The Cultural Consequences of Social Movements. In The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, ed. David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi, 508–530. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Feagin, Joe R. 1997. Old Poison in New Bottles: The Deep Roots of Modern Nativism. In Immigrants Out! The New Nativism and the Anti-Immigrant Impulse in the United States, ed. Juan F. Perea, 13–43. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ferree, Myra Marx. 2003. Resonance and Radicalism: Framing in the Abortion Debates of the United States and Germany. American Journal of Sociology 109(2): 304–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fry, Brian N. 2007. Nativism and Immigration: Regulating the American Dream. New York: LFB Scholarly Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Fujiwara, Lynn. 2005. Immigrant Rights Are Human Rights: The Reframing of Immigrant Entitlement and Welfare. Social Problems 52(1): 79–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gamson, William A. 2006. Movement Impact on Cultural Change. In Culture, Power, and History: Studies in Critical Sociology, ed. Stephen Pfohl, Aimee Van Wagenen, Patricia Arend, Abigail Brooks, and Denise Leckenby, 103–125. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  31. Gleeson, Shannon. 2015. ‘They Come Here to Work’: An Evaluation of the Economic Argument in Favor of Immigrant Rights. Citizenship Studies 19(3–4): 400–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gonzalez, Roberto G., and Angie M. Bautista Chavez. 2014. Two Years and Counting: Assessing the Growing Power of DACA. American Immigration Council website, June. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  33. Gordon, Ian, and Tasneem Raja. 2012. 164 Anti-Immigration Laws Passed Since 2010? A MoJo Analysis. Mother Jones website, March/April. Accessed 7 Oct 2015.
  34. Harlow, Summer, and Lei Guo. 2014. Will the Revolution Be Tweeted or Facebooked? Using Digital Communication Tools in Immigrant Activism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 19(3): 463–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Higham, John. 2002[1955]. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Hipsman, Faye, and Doris Meissner. 2013. Immigration in the United States: New Economic, Social, Political Landscapes With Legislative Reform on the Horizon. Migration Policy Institute website, April 16. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  37. Huntington, Samuel P. 2004. Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  38. Jaret, Charles. 1999. Troubled by Newcomers: Anti-Immigrant Attitudes and Action During Two Eras of Mass Immigration to the United States. Journal of American Ethnic History 18(3): 9–39.Google Scholar
  39. Jaworsky, Bernadette Nadya. 2015. Mobilising for Immigrant Rights Online: Performing ‘American’ National Identity Through Symbols of Civic-Economic Participation. Journal of Intercultural Studies 36(5): 579–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jones, Jeffrey M. 2014a. In U.S., Border Security, Immigrant Status Equally Important. Gallup website, February 17. u.s.%20borders&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=tiles. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  41. ———. 2014b. U.S. Hispanics Back Obama Immigration Actions. Gallup website, December 10. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  42. ———. 2015b. In U.S., 65% Favor Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants. Gallup website, August 12. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  43. Kohut, Andrew. 2015. 50 Years Later, Americans Give Thumbs-Up to Immigration Law That Changed the Nation. PEW Research Center Fact Tank website, February 4. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  44. Lamont, Michèle, and Virág Molnár. 2002. The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences. Annual Review of Sociology 28: 167–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Long, Chrissie. 2014. Section 287(g) Enforcement and Immigrants’ Location Choice. Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy Journalist’s Resource website. Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  46. Meckler, Laura. 2014b. Obama Faces Skeptical Public on Immigration Action—WSJ/NBC Poll. The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire website, November 19. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  47. ———. 2015. Majority of Republicans Backs a Legal Status for Immigrants—WSJ/NBC Poll. The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire website, August 3. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  48. Morse, Ann, Gilberto Soria Mendoza, Leila Malow, and Hannah Weigle. 2015. 2015 Immigration Report. National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) website, August 3. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  49. Myers, Daniel J. 2008. Ally Identity: The Politically Gay. In Identity Work in Social Movements, ed. Jo Reger, Daniel J. Myers, and Rachel L. Einwohner, 167–188. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  50. National Immigration Law Center (NILC). 2013. Inclusive Policies Advance Dramatically in the States: Immigrants’ Access to Driver’s Licenses, Higher Education, Workers’ Rights, and Community Policing. NILC website, October. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  51. Nevins, Joseph. 2002. Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Nicholls, Walter J. 2013. The DREAMers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Nicholls, Walter J., and Tara Fiorito. 2015. Dreamers Unbound: Immigrant Youth Mobilizing. New Labor Forum 24(1): 86–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nicholls, Walter J., Justus Uitermark, and Sander van Haperen. 2016. The Networked Grassroots: How Radicals Outflanked Reformists in the United States’ Immigrant Rights Movement. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(6): 1036–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ono, Kent A., and John M. Sloop. 2002. Shifting Borders: Rhetoric, Immigration, and California’s Proposition 187. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Patler, Caitlin, and Roberto G. Gonzales. 2015. Framing Citizenship: Media Coverage of Anti-Deportation Cases Led by Undocumented Immigrant Youth Organisations. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41(9): 1453–1474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. PEW Research Center (PEW). 2014. Public Divided Over Increased Deportation of Unauthorized Immigrants. PEW Research Center U.S. Politics and Policy website, February 27. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  58. ———. 2015a. Broad Public Support for Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants, Other Attitudes About Immigration More Mixed. PEW Research Center U.S. Politics and Policy website, June 4. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  59. ———. 2015b. Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065, Views of Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Society Mixed. PEW Research Center Hispanic Trends website, September 28. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  60. Polletta, Francesca, and James M. Jasper. 2001. Collective Identity and Social Movements. Annual Review of Sociology 27: 283–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). 2015. Survey | Roughly Three-Quarters of Americans Favor Goals of Obama’s Immigration Action. PRRI website, February 12. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  62. Restrepo, Catalina. 2015. Annual Review of State-Level Immigration Policy Still Trending Pro-Immigrant. American Immigration Council Immigration Impact website, August 11. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  63. Russo, Chandra. 2014. Allies Forging Collective Identity: Embodiment and Emotions on the Migrant Trail. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 19(1): 67–82.Google Scholar
  64. Saad, Lydia. 2014. More in U.S. Would Decrease Immigration than Increase. Gallup website, June 27. search&utm_campaign=tiles. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  65. Schildkraut, Deborah J. 2007. Defining American Identity in the Twenty-First Century: How Much ‘There’ Is There? The Journal of Politics 69(3): 597–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schrag, Peter. 2010. Not Fit for Our Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  67. Sessions, Jeff. 2012. Recognizing 15th Anniversary of Numbers USA. Congressional Record 158(63): S2919–S2920. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  68. Smith, Rogers M. 1993. Beyond Tocqueville, Myrdal and Hartz: The Multiple Traditions in America. American Political Science Review 87(3): 549–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Snow, David A., and Robert D. Benford. 1988. Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization. International Social Movement Research 1(1): 197–217.Google Scholar
  70. The White House. 2012. Remarks by the President on Immigration. The White House website, June 15. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  71. United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). 2015a. Number of I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by Fiscal Year, Quarter, Intake, Biometrics and Case Status 2012–2015 (March 31). Department of Homeland Security website. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.
  72. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE). 2012. FY 2012: ICE Announces Year-end Removal Numbers, Highlights Focus on Key Priorities and Issues New National Detainer Guidance to Further Focus Resources. ICE website, December 20. Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  73. Yukich, Grace. 2013a. Constructing the Model Immigrant: Movement Strategy and Immigrant Deservingness in the New Sanctuary Movement. Social Problems 60(3): 302–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. ———. 2013b. One Family Under God: Immigration Politics and Progressive Religion in America. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. 2015b. Green-Card Holders and Legal Immigration to the United States. Migration Policy Institute website, October 1. Accessed 9 Oct 2015.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Masaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations