Melting Bowl or Salad Pot?: Identity Dynamics of Migrants to State/Imperial Heartlands Through the Ages

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 25 (Fall 2019).

The perimiter of a circle is divided into a number of differently colored segments. Colored lines and bands curve across the inner body of the circle, connecting the colored segments on the perimeter. Circular plot of migration flows between and within world regions during 2005 to 2010; Science, Vol 343, Issue 6178, pp. 1520-1522, by Guy J. Abel and Nikola Sander. Copyright 2014 by AAAS. Reprinted with permission of AAAS. Human migration is and has always been an important component of settled life, impacting all sectors of society. Migration often occurs in the context of the exercise of power by large states and empires. While scholars of migration and ethnicity tend to focus on identity dynamics at the peripheries of such polities, the impact of migration on central heartland regions is potentially more ripe for exploration. Though expansionist actions directly impact borderlands, the resultant flow of migrants to heartlands creates an inter-ethnic hotbed. This phenomenon is problematized in the title of this conference via an intentional play on the terms “melting pot” and “salad bowl.” First used to describe social identity dynamics of migrants to the United States of America, the mixing of these metaphors accentuates the multiplicity of possible developments of identity that arise after immigration to the heartlands of powerful polities. Instead of insisting on a binary approach, this conference brings together expert scholars from multiple fields to explore the dynamics of ethnic identity in state and imperial heartlands in a variety of ancient, pre-modern, modern, and contemporary contexts, in order to investigate the gamut of historical and social developments that result from such migrations.

Organized by David Danzig (ISAW).