Abstract

In this essay Henry Yu argues for using migration to re-imagine American studies. He begins by observing how Los Angeles is notable for the atypical way in which it is usually understood as a place of origin, with its most famous inhabitants often having come from somewhere else. This rootless sense of belonging, rather than making Los Angeles an aberration, can serve as a model for understanding how migration defines local places. Using family migration as an illustrative example, Yu charts how movements of human bodies occur along paths that are routed within larger networks and patterns. Yu also argues that national histories of immigration and incorporation have often blinded us to the complex operations of these migration processes. Ideas about national belonging have dominated historical and social scientific scholarship, framing much of the knowledge regarding who counts as an American citizen and why. In particular, he charts how Los Angeles as a site for intersecting migrations provides an interesting model for understanding how regional migration patterns have marked United States history. By sketching regional patterns, Yu embeds the United States within larger processes of migration in both the Pacific and Atlantic worlds. Such migration patterns, and the particular nodes of intersection that they created, have generated ideas about belonging, shaping definitions of race, ethnicity, citizenship, and alien status.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 531-543
Launched on MUSE
2004-09-13
Open Access
No
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