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The Enigma of Ethnicity

Another American Dilemma

Wilbur Zelinsky

Publication Year: 2001

In The Enigma of Ethnicity Wilbur Zelinsky draws upon more than half a century of exploring the cultural and social geography of an ever-changing North America to become both biographer and critic of the recent concept of ethnicity. In this ambitious and encyclopedic work, he examines ethnicity's definition, evolution, significance, implications, and entanglements with other phenomena as well as the mysteries of ethnic identity and performance.
Zelinsky begins by examining the ways in which “ethnic groups” and “ethnicity” have been defined; his own definitions then become the basis for the rest of his study. He next focuses on the concepts of heterolocalism—the possibility that an ethnic community can exist without being physically merged—and personal identity—the relatively recent idea that one can concoct one's own identity. In his final chapter, which is also his most provocative, he concentrates on the multifaceted phenomenon of multiculturalism and its relationship to ethnicity. Throughout he includes a close look at African Americans, Hispanics, and Jews as well as such less-studied groups as suburbanized Japanese, Cubans in Washington, Koreans, Lithuanian immigrants in Chicago, Estonians in New Jersey, Danish Americans in Seattle, and Finns.
Reasonable, nonpolemical, and straightforward, Zelinsky's text is invaluable for readers wanting an in-depth overview of the literature on ethnicity in the United States as well as a well-thought-out understanding of the meanings and dynamics of ethnic groups, ethnicity, and multiculturalism.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Front Matter

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvii

In recent years ethnic issues have commanded an inordinate amount of interest in both scholarly and public discourse in the United States and many other parts of the world. The result has been a vast outpouring of literature—more, it seems, than any single individual...

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1. Coming to Terms

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pp. 1-53

What exactly is ethnicity? And just what do we mean when we talk about ethnic groups? Basic questions? Obviously. But we find the answers are far from obvious when we give these questions the hard look they deserve. The most productive strategy is to begin with the...

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2. Expressions

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pp. 54-123

We have seen that ethnic identity is a time-dependent phenomenon with multiple meanings, that it exists in various forms between countries and over quite a range of spatial and social scales, and that, for many flexible individuals, there may be two or more choices as to...

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3. Heterolocalism

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pp. 124-154

If we cannot adequately appraise the contemporary ethnic scene without taking into account its spatial aspects, it is also true that there is no direct connection between such matters and our central theme of Ethnicity. However, we do encounter the intriguing phenomenon...

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4. Thinking About Identity

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pp. 155-184

Deciphering the puzzlements of ethnic phenomena—and, specifically, the meaning and implications of Ethnicity—is a project beyond our capabilities if we ignore the grander challenge of exploring the overarching general question of personal, group, and place identity...

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5. Explicating the Age of Ethnicity

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pp. 185-230

In this concluding chapter I take stock, as best I can, of the current ethnic scene in the United States, and I peer, most hesitantly, into a decidedly undecided future. If asked for a single term that best captures the present-day situation, the uncontested choice would...


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pp. 231-258


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pp. 259-306


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pp. 307-315

E-ISBN-13: 9781587293399
E-ISBN-10: 1587293390
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457503
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457506

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2001

Edition: 1