Immigration in the Global Midwest

The U.S. Midwest has historically been celebrated as “America’s heartland,” a region that supposedly embodies the “authentic” America (often read as white, middle-class, and heteronormative). Popular understandings of immigration to the United States reinforce a characteristic set of narratives and myths: America is a “nation of nations” that has welcomed immigrants and allowed them to achieve their American dreams. Furthermore, immigration is primarily imagined and confined to either the east or west coasts, with Ellis Island being the primary point of arrival “back then” and JFK and LAX airports or the U.S.-Mexico border as the primary ones today.

The U.S. Midwest is an especially important site to study immigration in local/global contexts. In recent decades, increases in international and secondary migration have transformed the region. From 2000-2010, Latinos accounted for 60.7% of the population growth in the Midwest and 27.8% of growth in Minnesota. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul alone are home to some of the country’s largest populations of Hmong and Somali refugees as well as American Indians living in an urban area. But there are many other groups here as well, including Eritreans, Ethiopians, Tibetans, Lao, and Cambodians.

Some of the overarching research questions that we hope to explore include:

  • What does it mean for both immigration and the U.S. Midwest when immigrants and refugees (largely Asian, African, and Latino) make homes in “unexpected places” (to borrow American Indian scholar Philip Deloria’s term) like the U.S. Midwest?
  • How do immigrant communities make and remake racial formations within Midwestern locales and sites and how do transnational immigrant/migrant/refugee identities help to transnationalize and/or globalize the Midwest?
  • How have new communication technologies changed immigration, immigrant and refugee identities, and transnational and diasporic relations? ​

In addition to fostering broad multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary conversations about immigration in the global Midwest generally, we have identified two research clusters that probe specific sets of questions: Race, Indigeneity, and Diasporas and Local/Global Storytelling, Art, and Performance.


The Immigration in the Global Midwest bibliography lists available primary and secondary sources concerning the past and present mobility of groups beyond the European, Christian, and heteronormative immigrants popularly associated with the U.S. Midwest. 

         The Global Midwest projects defines the U.S. Midwest as eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Only sources that focus (entirely or in large part) on a community in this geographic area are included. Therefore, this bibliography does not include works that address the entire U.S. or a diaspora as a whole.

The bibliography is broken down into nine individual bibliographies: American Indians, African Americans, Gender and Sexuality, Multiple Communities, Religion, Asian Americans, African Immigrants and Refugees, Middle Eastern and Arab Americans, Latino/a, and Caribbean Americans. Categorization is, unsurprisingly, challenging and imperfect. The categories have changed and the number of bibliographies has expanded since the project's initial conception in 2014. When a source fits multiple bibliographies, it is listed in all applicable bibliographies so that it may be more easily discovered.

The bibliographies contain a broad range of materials useful for interdisciplinary teaching and research. Items are listed under subheadings that indicate the type of resource. These are Archives, Fiction, Museums, and Research Centers, Published Primary Sources, Reports, Secondary Sources. The fictional and primary sources include sources produced within and outside the communities represented.

The bibliographies are inclusive rather than an indicator of a source's quality or importance. Each item was verified in WorldCat to ensure that it could be accessed in at least one library or archive somewhere in the world. The bibliographies include published materials as well as unpublished master's theses and Ph.D. dissertation, but not bachelor's theses. Dissertations are not included when they were later published as peer-reviewed books. Directories of businesses and ethnic organizations are not included, nor are books published by Arcadia Publishing or similar presses. Due to the project’s time constraints, the bibliographies do not include works in languages other than English or periodicals. The archives and reports in each bibliography are intended to facilitate and encourage additional research, not to serve as a comprehensive list.

This project is supported by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.