Spring 2023

Migrant Lives

Listed in: Colloquia, as COLQ-345


Ellen R. Boucher (Section 01)


Offered as COLQ 345. Meets the following History major requirements as a related course [EU/TC/TE/TR/TS].

In the decades following World War II, immigration into the U.K. from the decolonizing world transformed what had been a predominantly white nation into a multi-ethnic society. British immigration law initially welcomed these migrants of color as “Commonwealth Citizens.” As subjects of the British empire, they held full rights to live, work, vote, and receive welfare provision in the U.K. In spite of this formal political equality, Commonwealth Citizens experienced various forms of official and unofficial racism upon arrival in Britain. They were frequently – if erroneously – represented as “foreigners” who took jobs, housing, and benefits from white Britons. Changes in immigration law throughout the 1960s cemented this tendency to define Commonwealth Citizens as outsiders. By 1971, migrants to the U.K. needed to prove “patriality” (having a parent or grandparent born in the U.K.) to receive British citizenship, a shift that, in practice, severely restricted the entry of migrants of color into the country.This course explores the postwar experience of Commonwealth Citizens in Britain through the theme of risk. The act of migration itself entailed risks of various kinds, as Commonwealth Citizens left countries rendered politically and economically unstable by the forces of empire and decolonization to seek more secure lives in the U.K. Racism in housing, employment, policing, education, the media, and other realms amplified migrants’ experience of precarity. How did Commonwealth Citizens negotiate these risks? What individual, familial, or community-based strategies did they develop to limit risk and increase security? How did these strategies change migrant lives and communities, as well as British society more generally?This course is part of a tutorial series that engages sophomores and juniors in substantive research with faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Students enrolled in these courses are guaranteed funding for at least six weeks of work during the summer following the academic year in which they take the course. Working together, the six students in this course will conceive, research, write, and pursue publication of an original academic article on a topic related to the course theme. Two of the six weeks of summer work will be dedicated to archival research in the U.K. (Funding for the trip will be provided by Amherst.) Students seeking admission to the course must complete a short application and meet with the professor before receiving permission to enroll.

Limit: 6 students, instructor permission only. As a colloquium, enrollment is restricted to sophomores and juniors.

Spring semester. Professor Boucher.

How to handle overenrollment: Students will complete a questionnaire and meet with the professor. This course involves a trip abroad in the summer.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.

COLQ 345 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 205
Th 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 205


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023