The New Immigrant Whiteness

Race, Neoliberalism, and Post-Soviet Migration to the United States

Mapping representations of post-1980s immigration from the former Soviet Union to the United States in interviews, reality TV shows, fiction, and memoirs, Claudia Sadowski-Smith shows how this nationally and ethnically diverse group is associated with idealized accounts of the assimilation and upward mobility of early twentieth-century arrivals from Europe. As it traces the contributions of historical Eastern European migration to the emergence of a white racial identity that continues to provide privileges to many post-Soviet migrants, the book places the post-USSR diaspora into larger discussions about the racialization of contemporary US immigrants under neoliberal conditions.

"The New Immigrant Whiteness" argues that legal status on arrival — as participants in refugee, marriage, labor, and adoptive migration — impacts post-Soviet immigrants’ encounters with growing socioeconomic inequalities and tightened immigration restrictions, as well as their attempts to construct transnational identities. The book examines how their perceived whiteness exposes post-Soviet family migrants to heightened expectations of assimilation, explores undocumented migration from the former Soviet Union, analyzes post-USSR immigrants’ attitudes toward anti-immigration laws that target Latina/os, and considers similarities between post-Soviet and Asian immigrants in their association with notions of upward immigrant mobility. A compelling and timely volume, "The New Immigrant Whiteness" offers a fresh perspective on race and immigration in the United States today.


Claudia Sadowski-Smith is associate professor of English at Arizona State University. She is the author of "Border Fictions: Globalization, Empire, and Writing at the Boundaries of the United States," which won the Institute for Humanities Research Transdisciplinary Book Award in 2009.

Praise for this book

This amazingly rich book provides a much-needed window into the diverse Post-Soviet diaspora and offers a new understanding of how immigrant whiteness and race work today. Sadowski-Smith's original interdisciplinary approach and cross-ethnic comparative research make 'The New Immigrant Whiteness' stand out in the field of migration studies. Scholars and students seeking to understand the transnational cultures, gender and family dynamics, and migration and adaptation strategies of contemporary European migrants need to start with this book.

Erika Lee University of Minnesota

This multi-layered, cross-disciplinary book makes us aware of the shades of whiteness that tend to be systematically erased when subjected to the binary color line that historically defines racial difference in the US. Looking at areas of representation as diverse as reality TV, literature, and international adoption, Sadowski-Smith's study of immigration from the post-Soviet region makes a persuasive argument for a subtle, relational understanding of race and ethnicity as flexible, historically shifting categories.

Anikó Imre University of Southern California