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The Art of Ethnicity in America
2006 American Book Award, presented by the Before Columbus Foundation
Southern Italian emigration to the United States peaked a full century ago—;descendents are now fourth and fifth generation, dispersed from their old industrial neighborhoods, professionalized, and fully integrated into the “melting pot.” Surely the social historians are right: Italian Americans are fading into the twilight of their ethnicity. So, why is the American imagination enthralled by The Sopranos, and other portraits of Italian-ness?
Italian American identity, now a mix of history and fantasy, flesh-and-bone people and all-too-familiar caricature, still has something to teach us, including why each of us, as citizens of the U.S. twentieth century and its persisting cultures, are to some extent already Italian. Contending that the media has become the primary vehicle of Italian sensibilities, Ferraro explores a series of books, movies, paintings, and records in ten dramatic vignettes. Featured cultural artifacts run the gamut, from the paintings of Joseph Stella and the music of Frank Sinatra to The Godfather’s enduring popularity and Madonna’s Italian background. In a prose style as vivid as his subjects, Ferraro fashions a sardonic love song to the art and iconography of Italian America.
Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Migration
Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification – policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration – is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In Fictive Kinship, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country. Drawing from a rich set of archival sources, Fictive Kinship shows that even the most draconian anti-immigrant laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, contained provisions for family unity, albeit for a limited class of immigrants. Arguments for uniting families separated by World War II and the Korean War also shaped immigration debates and the policies that led to the landmark 1965 Immigration Act. Lee argues that debating the contours of family offers a ready set of symbols and meanings to frame national identity and to define who counts as “one of us.” Talk about family, however, does not inevitably lead to more liberal immigration policies. Welfare reform in the 1990s, for example, placed limits on benefits for immigrant families, and recent debates over the children of undocumented immigrants fanned petitions to rescind birthright citizenship. Fictive Kinship shows that the centrality of family unity in the immigration discourse often limits the discussion about the goals, functions and roles of immigration and prevents a broader definition of American identity.
Who are the Finland-Swedes? Defined as citizens of Finland with a Swedish mother tongue, many know these people as “Swede- Finns” or simply “Swedes.” This book, the first ever to focus on this ethnolinguistic minority living in Michigan, examines the origins of the Finland-Swedes and traces their immigration patterns, beginning with the arrival of hundreds in the United States in the 1860s. A growing population until the 1920s, when immigration restrictions were put in place, the Finland-Swedes brought with them unique economic, social, cultural, religious, and political institutions, explored here in groundbreaking detail. Drawing on archival, church, and congregational records, interviews, and correspondence, this book paints a vivid portrait of Finland-Swedish life in photographs and text, and also includes detailed maps that show the movement of this group over time. The latest title in the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series even includes a sampling of traditional Finland-Swedish recipes.
A History of Settlement, Dissent, and Integration
Religion and Adaptation among Ghanaian Immigrants in New York
Upon arrival in the United States, most African immigrants are immediately subsumed under the category “black.” In the eyes of most Americans—and more so to American legal and social systems—African immigrants are indistinguishable from all others, such as those from the Caribbean whose skin color they share. Despite their growing presence in many cities and their active involvement in sectors of American economic, social, and cultural life, we know little about them.In From Africa to America, Moses O. Biney offers a rare full-scale look at an African immigrant congregation, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York (PCGNY). Through personal stories, notes from participant observation, and interviews, Biney explores the complexities of the social, economic, and cultural adaptation of this group, the difficult moral choices they have to make in order to survive, and the tensions that exist within their faith community. Most notably, through his compelling research Biney shows that such congregations are more than mere “ethnic enclaves,” or safe havens from American social and cultural values. Rather, they help maintain the essential balance between cultural acclimation and ethnic preservation needed for these new citizens to flourish.
Explaining Xenophobia in Post-apartheid South Africa
The events of May 2008 in which 62 people were killed simply for being ëforeigní and thousands were turned overnight into refugees shook the South African nation. This book is the first to attempt a comprehensive and rigorous explanation for those horrific events. It argues that xenophobia should be understood as a political discourse and practice. As such its historical development as well as the conditions of its existence must be elucidated in terms of the practices and prescriptions which structure the field of politics. In South Africa, the history of xenophobia is intimately connected to the manner in which citizenship has been conceived and fought over during the past fifty years at least. Migrant labour was de-nationalised by the apartheid state, while African nationalism saw the same migrant labour as the foundation of that oppressive system. Only those who could show a family connection with the colonial and apartheid formation of South Africa could claim citizenship at liberation. Others were excluded and seen as unjustified claimants to national resources. Xenophobiaís conditions of existence, the book argues, are to be found in the politics of post-apartheid nationalism where state prescriptions founded on indigeneity have been allowed to dominate uncontested in conditions of an overwhelmingly passive conception of citizenship. The de-politicisation of an urban population, which had been able to assert its agency during the 1980s through a discourse of human rights in particular, contributed to this passivity. Such state liberal politics have remained largely unchallenged. As in other cases of post-colonial transition in Africa, the hegemony of xenophobic discourse, the book contends, is to be sought in the specific character of the state consensus.
Mexican Experiences of Immigration
The momentous influx of Mexican undocumented workers into the United States over the last decades has spurred new ways of thinking about immigration. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo's incisive book enlarges our understanding of these recently arrived Americans and uncovers the myriad ways that women and men recreate families and community institutions in a new land.
Hondagneu-Sotelo argues that people do not migrate as a result of concerted household strategies, but as a consequence of negotiations often fraught with conflict in families and social networks. Migration and settlement transform long-held ideals and lifestyles. Traditional patterns are reevaluated, and new relationships—often more egalitarian—emerge. Women gain greater personal autonomy and independence as they participate in public life and gain access to both social and economic influence previously beyond their reach.
Bringing to life the experiences of undocumented immigrants and delineating the key role of women in newly established communities, Gendered Transitions challenges conventional assumptions about gender and migration. It will be essential reading for demographers, historians, sociologists, and policymakers.
"I've opened my eyes. Back there, they say 'no.' You marry, and no, you must stay home. Here, it's different. You marry, and you continue working. Back in Mexico, it's very different. There is very much machismo in those men."—A Mexican woman living in the United States
Mexican-Americans, Assimilation, and Race
When boxes of original files from a 1965 survey of Mexican Americans were discovered behind a dusty bookshelf at UCLA, sociologists Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz recognized a unique opportunity to examine how the Mexican American experience has evolved over the past four decades. Telles and Ortiz located and re-interviewed most of the original respondents and many of their children. Then, they combined the findings of both studies to construct a thirty-five year analysis of Mexican American integration into American society. Generations of Exclusion is the result of this extraordinary project. Generations of Exclusion measures Mexican American integration across a wide number of dimensions: education, English and Spanish language use, socioeconomic status, intermarriage, residential segregation, ethnic identity, and political participation. The study contains some encouraging findings, but many more that are troubling. Linguistically, Mexican Americans assimilate into mainstream America quite well—by the second generation, nearly all Mexican Americans achieve English proficiency. In many domains, however, the Mexican American story doesn’t fit with traditional models of assimilation. The majority of fourth generation Mexican Americans continue to live in Hispanic neighborhoods, marry other Hispanics, and think of themselves as Mexican. And while Mexican Americans make financial strides from the first to the second generation, economic progress halts at the second generation, and poverty rates remain high for later generations. Similarly, educational attainment peaks among second generation children of immigrants, but declines for the third and fourth generations. Telles and Ortiz identify institutional barriers as a major source of Mexican American disadvantage. Chronic under-funding in school systems predominately serving Mexican Americans severely restrains progress. Persistent discrimination, punitive immigration policies, and reliance on cheap Mexican labor in the southwestern states all make integration more difficult. The authors call for providing Mexican American children with the educational opportunities that European immigrants in previous generations enjoyed. The Mexican American trajectory is distinct—but so is the extent to which this group has been excluded from the American mainstream. Most immigration literature today focuses either on the immediate impact of immigration or what is happening to the children of newcomers to this country. Generations of Exclusion shows what has happened to Mexican Americans over four decades. In opening this window onto the past and linking it to recent outcomes, Telles and Ortiz provide a troubling glimpse of what other new immigrant groups may experience in the future.
Identity, Migration, and Loss
Co-published with the Waterloo Centre for German Studies
For centuries, large numbers of German-speaking people have emigrated from settlements in Europe to other countries and continents. In German Diasporic Experiences: Identity, Migration, and Loss, more than forty international contributors describe and discuss aspects of the history, language, and culture of these migrant groups, individuals, and their descendants. Part I focuses on identity, with essays exploring the connections among language, politics, and the construction of histories—national, familial, and personal—in German-speaking diasporic communities around the world. Part II deals with migration, examining such issues as German migrants in postwar Britain, German refugees and forced migration, and the immigrant as a fictional character, among others. Part III examines the idea of loss in diasporic experience with essays on nationalization, language change or loss, and the reshaping of cultural identity.
Essays are revised versions of papers presented at an international conference held at the University of Waterloo in August 2006, organized by the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, and reflect the multidisciplinarity and the global perspective of this field of study.