Heather Silber Mohamed, Ph.D.
I am an Associate Professor at Clark University, where I am also affiliated with the Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies, the Latin American and Latino Studies program, and the Women's and Gender Studies program. My research interests include Latino politics, gender and politics, immigration policy, immigrant socialization and participation, and identity politics in the U.S., with a focus on the influence of race, class, and gender. My book, The New Americans?: Immigration, Protest, and the Politics of Latino Identity (University Press of Kansas 2017), was named the Best Book of 2017 by the American Political Science Association’s Latino Caucus. In the book, I analyze how protest and the immigration debate influence Latinos’ sense of belonging in the U.S. I also explore different elements of diversity within the Latino population, including national origin, gender, and immigrant generation. The book focuses primarily on an unprecedented wave of protests that occurred in the spring of 2006, in which millions of Latinos mobilized across the U.S. in opposition to a far-reaching immigration proposal. My research on immigration has also expanded to include an analysis of media images of immigrants in a collaborative project with Emily Farris (TCU). We describe some of our research in a blog post for the Monkey Cage in the Washington Post, "The news media usually show immigrants as dangerous criminals. That’s changed — for now, at least." I am also currently engaged in research around policies related to reproduction, including abortion as well as Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF. A discussion of some of this research is included in another recent post for The Monkey Cage in the Washington Post, “The Politics of Assisted Reproduction, Explained," (co-authored with Erin Heidt-Forsythe, Penn State University). I earned an MA and a PhD from Brown University. I also hold a BA from Tufts University and an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before pursuing my Ph.D., I spent six years working as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Congress, including three years each in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Immigration & Citizenship
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Gender and Politics
Health Politics and Policy
Religion & Politics
Gender And Politics
Countries of Interest
Broadly speaking, my research focuses on the interplay between public policy and identity politics in the U.S., with a focus on the influence of race, class, and gender. My research focuses largely on immigration politics and policy in the U.S., though I am also engaged in a second line of research focusing on reproductive health, and in particular, Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Other ongoing research includes press coverage of immigrants and immigration in the U.S., the intersection of religion and gender in influencing Latino political behavior and abortion attitudes, and a variety of other projects
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that the way the press frames policy issues can foster fear, particularly with respect to portrayals of immigrants. Building on this research, we examine images of immigrants, borders, and legality in the media’s coverage of immigration. To do so, we collect a unique dataset of images appearing in three major national news magazines’ articles about immigration or immigrants in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. We code the images based on whether they include visual representations of the border and immigration enforcement, whether illegality and/or criminal behavior is shown or implied, and the activities in which the immigrants are engaged. We find that the press frequently portrays immigrants as undocumented, presenting images of the border as well as immigrant arrests and detentions. Moreover, when immigrants are working, they are disproportionately engaged in low-skilled activities. Our analysis demonstrates a general tendency to frame immigrants in a negative light, consistent with a “threat” narrative but inconsistent with actual immigrant demographics. Our findings are particularly important in light of research establishing that such portrayals contribute to more hostile attitudes about immigration in the U.S. as well as greater support for punitive immigration policy among Whites.
Efforts by anti-abortion advocates to introduce “personhood” initiatives, which state that human life begins at fertilization, have prompted concern among infertility specialists that these initiatives would hinder access to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Yet, our understanding of public opinion about IVF is limited. It remains unclear whether attitudes about this technology are consistent with opinions about other issues related to human embryos, particularly abortion and embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. Using data from a nationally representative survey, I fill this gap by exploring the role that religion plays in shaping attitudes about a range of embryonic politics issues. I find that religiosity, income, and ideology strongly influence whether individuals view these issues in moral terms. Respondents who are most devout and Evangelical Protestants are most likely to consistently oppose all three embryonic politics issues. Yet, the relationship between religion and attitudes about the morality of each procedure is also influenced by the procedure's outcome, with religion most influential with respect to abortion attitudes and least influential in the case of IVF. Additionally, women are less likely than men to describe IVF as morally wrong, while, in comparison to non-Hispanic whites, Latino respondents are more likely to do so.
Existing literature demonstrates that Hispanic men and women incorporate into the USA differently. Research also finds that Latinas participate politically in greater numbers than Latino men on a range of indicators, including voting, naturalization, and citizenship acquisition. Using data from the 2006 Latino National Survey, I extend this line of scholarship to study gendered differences in Latino self-perception. My results demonstrate that despite higher levels of participation in the USA, Latinas are less likely to identify as American than Latino men. Moreover, while these ideas are not mutually exclusive, Latino men express a greater desire to blend into the USA, while Latinas are more likely to want to maintain a distinct Hispanic culture. However, consistent with intersectionality theory, which emphasizes the interaction between race/ethnicity, gender, and class, these differences disappear once a certain socioeconomic status is reached. I also demonstrate a stronger relationship between an American identity and political participation for Latino men than for Latinas. Overall, these findings underscore the importance of including gender as both a dependent and an independent variable in future studies of identity.
This article takes advantage of a quasi-experiment in the 2006 Latino National Survey (LNS) to examine the effects of exogenous events on identity. Roughly halfway through the survey’s data collection, millions of Latinos mobilized to protest HR 4437, an immigration bill advancing in the U.S. Congress. This event provides the opportunity to examine differences in self-identification among comparable populations. I divide the LNS into a control group interviewed prior to these demonstrations and a treatment group interviewed after. My analysis shows respondents in the latter group were more likely to identify as American, with effects concentrated among Spanish speakers, and particularly Mexicans and Dominicans. I find no difference in identification as Latino or with one’s ancestral subgroup. These findings run contrary to the expectations of much existing literature, which assumes an increased sense of group threat results in heightened pan-ethnic sentiment across the Latino population.
My book, The New Americans? Immigration, Protest, and the Politics of Latino Identity (University Press of Kansas, 2017), analyzes how protest and the immigration debate influence Latinos’ sense of belonging in the U.S. The book focuses primarily on the unprecedented protests of 2006, in which millions of Hispanics mobilized in opposition to a far-reaching immigration proposal. Using an innovative natural experiment, I find that the distinct frames (messages) advanced during the 2006 protests – that Latinos are American – led group members to think differently about what it means to be American. Additionally, Latinos surveyed after the protests were more likely to see themselves as American than those interviewed before. These findings counter existing research, which assumes that in contexts of political threat, minority groups will embrace an alternative identity, rejecting that of the majority group (ie, American).
As part of the Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science series (Sandy Maisel, ed.), this piece describes more than 100 classic and contemporary scholarly sources on immigration politics and policy, divided into 16 different categories. We highlight key literature and situate this scholarship within ongoing debates about immigration. in the U.S.
Here, I am interviewed by Lily Goren (Carroll University) about my 2017 book, The New Americans?: Immigration, Protest, and the Politics of Latino Identity (University Press of Kansas) for the New Books Network podcast.
I'm quoted in this article about women presidential candidates and abortion policy proposals.
In a story discussing DACA students at my institution, I was interviewed about the DACA program and public opinion on immigration. The news story followed a campus event on DACA that I helped to coordinate.
The Boston Globe described findings from my 2012 paper that formed part of the foundation for my book manuscript: “WHAT MAKES IMMIGRANTS start to think of themselves as American? A new study suggests that, oddly, pushing back against American policies is one way that groups cement their identity as belonging to the country. A political scientist from Brown University analyzed the responses of Latinos to a survey that was in progress around the time of the 2006 immigration reform protests. She found that Latinos—particularly Spanish-speakers, Mexicans, and Dominicans for whom the immigration debate was most relevant—were more likely to identify as American after the protests."
This piece (with Emily Farris, TCU) describes the results of a comprehensive analysis of ten years of magazine images of immigrants running in 3 major national news magazines.
This post (co-authored with Erin Heidt-Forsythe, Penn State University) discusses our research on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, including IVF.
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