Sep 30, 2010

Special Event Celebrates 'Creative State' by NYU Wagner's Natasha Iskander

Craig Calhoun, Jorge Casteneda, Natasha Iskander and Ruth Milkman

About 100 people attended an informative discussion of NYU Wagner Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natasha Iskander's fascinating new book, Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico. The presentation was held September 27, marking the launch of the book.

As the evening's lively dialogue reflected, Prof. Iskander's work constitutes an essential resource for scholars and students interested in public policy, government and international development. Her account reveals the unexpected process of contestation and agreement that gave rise to successful policies by which national governments bring migrants into their banking systems, capture remittances for national development projects, and foster partnerships for the design and provision of infrastructure.

Wagner Dean Ellen Schall offered introductory remarks, noting that Professor Iskander's book "draws our attention to the murky, unruly ambiguity that is the prologue to policy innovation."

The author also greeted the standing-room-only audience, describing her wide-ranging, three-year journey of research, which included extensive interviews with migrants, policy planners, and government officials in several countries. She outlined her findings and potential areas for future research.

Craig Calhoun, a sociology professor at NYU and president of the Social Science Research Council, hailed the book as a significant achievement, terming it an inspiring "account of innovation in which the state is unpacked and opened up," and the evolution of what have come to be called best practices are compellingly portrayed.

Jorge Casteneda, global distinguished professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, weighed the book's implications against his experience as former Foreign Minister of Mexico and the Mexican government's attempts to gain a path to a legal foothold for millions of undocumented migrants in the U.S. Ruth Milkman, associate director of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies at CUNY, described the active role of immigrants in pushing for decent pay and working conditions in construction sites and factories here.

"Natasha's book shows how migrant workers are shaped by both the desire to get ahead economically, but also by political situations in the countries from which they are migrating," she said.

Suitably, the event concluded with a buffet of Mexican and Moroccan foods, and Professor Iskander inscribing copies of her book for the mingling guests.

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