The Ideal Immigrant: Deconstructing Immigrant Success Stories in Ontario Immigrant Settlement Agencies
A common narrative of “successful” immigrants often depicts individuals who are hard working, resilient in adverse situations, and have a positive can-do attitude. Such characterization of newcomers attributes immigrant success to individualistic qualities and ultimately fails to acknowledge systemic barriers that immigrants encounter in their efforts to settle and integrate in Canada. Using immigrant success stories published by immigrant settlement service provider organizations (SPOs) in Ontario, this study is informed by Foucault’s concepts and other theories of race and racialization as a framework to examine the discourses and practices mobilized within immigrant settlement sector. Neo-liberalism is analyzed from the perspective of governmentality as a multitude of rationalities, practices, and techniques linked to governing mechanisms that (re)produce responsibilized citizen-subjects. I examine the ways in which the shift towards a more unstable and competitive funding regime since the 1990s have resulted in the marketization and de-politicization of settlement support for newcomers. Inscription devices are thus essential neo-liberal techniques through which the state funders can govern the settlement service agencies and their clients “at a distance.” Furthermore, I discuss a “triangulated” racial framework and various citizen and non-citizen subjects to consider the racializing effects of constructing a figure of an ideal immigrant. I argue that the stories suggest ideal immigrants are enterprising subjects who make “rational” and “reasonable” choices to think and behave in particular ways. Structural barriers that immigrants encounter in their efforts to settle in Canada are thus de-politicized as personal issues and immigrants are responsibilized for their own settlement and integration. I particularly problematize “Canadian experience” as a discourse to deconstruct the racializing effects for immigrants who are de-skilled and forced to participate in precarious and unpaid work. The findings of this study suggest that, within neo-liberal governmentality, particular practices, techniques, and discourses are mobilized by state funders and settlement service providers to reproduce certain subjectivities and realities for new immigrants in Canada that ultimately have racializing, responsibilizing, de-politicizing effects.
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