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Citizenship and Crisis

Arab Detroit After 9/11

Detroit Arab American Study Group

Publication Year: 2009

Is citizenship simply a legal status or does it describe a sense of belonging to a national community? For Arab Americans, these questions took on new urgency after 9/11, as the cultural prejudices that have often marginalized their community came to a head. Citizenship and Crisis reveals that, despite an ever-shifting definition of citizenship and the ease with which it can be questioned in times of national crisis, the Arab communities of metropolitan Detroit continue to thrive. A groundbreaking study of social life, religious practice, cultural values, and political views among Detroit Arabs after 9/11, Citizenship and Crisis argues that contemporary Arab American citizenship and identity have been shaped by the chronic tension between social inclusion and exclusion that has been central to this population’s experience in America. According to the landmark Detroit Arab American Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 Arab Americans and is the focus of this book, Arabs express pride in being American at rates higher than the general population. In nine wide-ranging essays, the authors of Citizenship and Crisis argue that the 9/11 backlash did not substantially transform the Arab community in Detroit, nor did it alter the identities that prevail there. The city’s Arabs are now receiving more mainstream institutional, educational, and political support than ever before, but they remain a constituency defined as essentially foreign. The authors explore the role of religion in cultural integration and identity formation, showing that Arab Muslims feel more alienated from the mainstream than Arab Christians do. Arab Americans adhere more strongly to traditional values than do other Detroit residents, regardless of religion. Active participants in the religious and cultural life of the Arab American community attain higher levels of education and income, yet assimilation to the American mainstream remains important for achieving enduring social and political gains. The contradictions and dangers of being Arab and American are keenly felt in Detroit, but even when Arab Americans oppose U.S. policies, they express more confidence in U.S. institutions than do non-Arabs in the general population. The Arabs of greater Detroit, whether native-born, naturalized, or permanent residents, are part of a political and historical landscape that limits how, when, and to what extent they can call themselves American. When analyzed against this complex backdrop, the results of The Detroit Arab American Study demonstrate that the pervasive notion in American society that Arabs are not like “us” is simply inaccurate. Citizenship and Crisis makes a rigorous and impassioned argument for putting to rest this exhausted cultural and political stereotype.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

About the Authors

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

We would first like to thank the Russell Sage Foundation for its generous support of the Detroit Arab American Study (DAAS) and the allied Detroit Area Study (DAS). We are grateful to administrators and staff at the Foundation for their patient cultivation...


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pp. 1-32

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1. Citizenship and Crisis

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pp. 3-32

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 have led to radical changes in American society, new laws and governmental agencies, new wars, and new ways of seeing the world. The U.S. military has invaded and now occupies two (formerly) sovereign nation-states; a war on terror....

Part 1: Community in Crisis

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pp. 33-100

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2. Arab American Identities in Question

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pp. 35-68

Detroit’s Arab communities have attracted global attention not only for their size, age, and cultural vibrancy, but also for their symbolically charged location between the West and the Arab Muslim world. As a geopolitical interface, located at the edges of what are widely...

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3. The Aftermath of the 9/11 Attacks

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pp. 69-100

National and international media often turn their attention to Detroit when exploring connections between the United States and the Middle East. So too do federal authorities. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the “special relationship” between Arab...

Part 2: Beliefs and Bonds

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pp. 101-189

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4. Belief and Belonging

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pp. 103-134

“The more the immigrants enter into the religious life of America, the better and quicker they become Americans,” observed historian Philip Hitti in 1924 (121). He intended the statement as a criticism of the early Syrian immigrants to the United States, whose churches—Maronite...

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5. Values and Cultural Membership

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pp. 135-164

Arabs in Detroit take great pride in their traditions, customs, and values. The region is home to Arabs from across the Arab world, including Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, the Gulf, and North Africa. Cultural values and traditions are a unifying force for this heterogeneous...

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6. Local and Global Social Capital

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pp. 165-189

The aspirations of many Arab Americans in the post-9/11 era reflect the tensions inherent in the meaning of citizenship in a diverse society (chapter 1, this volume). Consider, for example, a common theme that emerged from answers to an open-ended question in our survey...

Part 3: Political identity

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pp. 191-262

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7. Civil Liberties

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pp. 193-226

To the founding fathers, civil liberties were central to the way they understood their republic. They wanted to create a restrained government that guaranteed citizens the rights to privacy, individual discretion, and protection from abuse by authority. Not only did the Bill of Rights enshrine...

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8. Foreign Policy

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pp. 227-262

In 2003, as the U.S. army advanced into Iraq, protestors staged an antiwar rally in front of the Dearborn city hall. Hundreds of Arab American demonstrators held signs and cheered speakers. Just across the street was a second rally, also Arab American, where demonstrators announced...


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pp. 263-286

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9. The Limits of Citizenship

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pp. 265-286

In previous chapters of this book, we have shown that Detroit’s Arab and Chaldean communities are suspended precariously between two statuses: “not quite us” and “not quite them.” This predicament is related to all the issues of citizenship and crisis we have explored, and it should...


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pp. 287-299

E-ISBN-13: 9781610446136
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540522

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 821725572
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Citizenship and Crisis

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Subject Headings

  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Arab Americans -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Muslims -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.
  • Citizenship -- Michigan -- Detroit.
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