Framing Cultural Difference: Immigrant Women and Discourses of Tradition

Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1: 90-110

UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2127473

21 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2012

See all articles by Leti Volpp

Leti Volpp

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: November 1, 2011

Abstract

This article shows how depictions of immigrant culture can limit the lives of immigrants to a problematic battle between “tradition and modernity.” As illustrated in the portrayal of a case in which immigrant parents murdered their teenaged daughter, Tina Isa, the discourse of tradition versus modernity renders certain important facts illegible, underemphasizing or ignoring the structures of power within which violence against women occurs. This simple story positions culture and feminism as opponents in a zero-sum game and presumes that women will be emancipated when they have overcome or abandoned their cultures. But immigrant women possess a complex subjectivity that is not reducible to cultural victimization. This is illustrated in this article through the work of Asian American domestic violence advocacy groups, navigating antiracist and antisexist practice, and by the expert testimony given in a case of attempted parent-child suicide by a Sikh immigrant. Rather than position the immigrant as the disorderly and strange bearer of archaic traditions, this article argues for greater recognition of the role of racism, state policies, and material concerns in shaping immigrants' experiences of culture.

Keywords: gender, culture, identity, honor crime, violence, racism, migration

Suggested Citation

Volpp, Leti, Framing Cultural Difference: Immigrant Women and Discourses of Tradition (November 1, 2011). Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1: 90-110; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2127473. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2127473

Leti Volpp (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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