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Encountering American Faultlines

Race, Class, and the Dominican Experience in Providence

Jose Itzigsohn

Publication Year: 2011

The descendents of twentieth-century southern and central European immigrants successfully assimilated into mainstream American culture and generally achieved economic parity with other Americans within several generations. So far, that is not the case with recent immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. A compelling case study of first- and second-generation Dominicans in Providence, Rhode Island, Encountering American Faultlines suggests that even as immigrants and their children increasingly participate in American life and culture, racialization and social polarization remain key obstacles to further progress. Encountering American Faultlines uses occupational and socioeconomic data and in-depth interviews to address key questions about the challenges Dominicans encounter in American society. What is their position in the American socioeconomic structure? What occupations do first- and second-generation Dominicans hold as they enter the workforce? How do Dominican families fare economically? How do Dominicans identify themselves in the American racial and ethnic landscape? The first generation works largely in what is left of Providence’s declining manufacturing industry. Second-generation Dominicans do better than their parents economically, but even as some are able to enter middle-class occupations, the majority remains in the service-sector working class. José Itzigsohn suggests that the third generation will likely continue this pattern of stratification, and he worries that the chances for further economic advancement in the next generation may be seriously in doubt. While transnational involvement is important to first-generation Dominicans, the second generation concentrates more on life in the United States and empowering their local communities. Itzigsohn ties this to the second generation’s tendency to embrace panethnic identities. Panethnic identity provides Dominicans with choices that defy strict American racial categories and enables them to build political coalitions across multiple ethnicities. This intimate study of the Dominican immigrant experience proposes an innovative theoretical approach to look at the contemporary forms and meanings of becoming American. José Itzigsohn acknowledges the social exclusion and racialization encountered by the Dominican population, but he observes that, by developing their own group identities and engaging in collective action and institution building at the local level, Dominicans can distinguish themselves and make inroads into American society. But Encountering American Faultlines also finds that hard work and hope have less to do with their social mobility than the existing economic and racial structures of U.S. society.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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p. 3-3


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p. 4-4


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pp. v-vi

About the Author

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book is the result of many years of work, during which I acquired numerous debts of gratitude. To begin, I would like to thank the Russell Sage Foundation for its contribution to all the phases of the project, from funding my research to publishing this volume. ...

Part I. Introduction

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pp. 1-2

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1. Immigration and American Society

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pp. 3-21

What does it mean for immigrants to become American? This is an old question in American social science and public discourse that has acquired new importance as immigration has again become a central element of life in the United States. As immigrants incorporate into American society, they undergo social and cultural change. ...

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2. Dominican Providence

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pp. 22-42

Providence has been historically an immigrant city. Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, French Canadians, Portuguese, and Cape Verdeans built it and populated its mills during the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century (Conley and Campbell 2006). ...

Part II. Class, Race, and Mobility

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pp. 43-44

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3. In a Land of Opportunities?

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pp. 45-69

Dominicans come to the United States in search of economic opportunities denied them in the Dominican Republic. Dominican immigrants share the mainstream vision of America as a land of opportunity. This chapter examines whether the Dominican experience of socioeconomic incorporation corresponds to this vision of American society. ...

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4. Entering the Mainstream?

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pp. 70-89

The path of incorporation leads through the institutions of mainstream society. One of the key institutions for mobility is the education system. Education is central to high-paying jobs in the American economy. Education provides skills, certifications, and social networks that channel people into different sets of occupations and positions in the class structure. ...

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5. Upward Mobility?

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pp. 90-114

In addressing two questions, this chapter deepens the analysis of the ways in which class and race shape the Dominican experience of incorporation. The first question concerns the patterns of intergenerational class mobility among second-generation Dominicans. ...

Part III. Incorporation and Identity Formation

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pp. 115-116

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6. American Identities

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pp. 117-138

The identities of Dominican immigrants and their children tell us how they see their place in American society and what solidarities they forge in the process of incorporation. Moreover, as the new migration reopens old debates on national identity, cultural diversity, pluralism, and transnationalism, ...

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7. Transnational Identities

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pp. 139-165

Self-identification as Dominican is one of the main identity choices of first- and second-generation Dominicans in Providence. Embracing a strong ethnic identity is one of the elements in the process of incorporation into the American racialized society—a process I call stratified ethnoracial incorporation. ...

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8. Panethnic Identities

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pp. 166-190

Dominicans embrace a panethnic identity. When they are asked in surveys to define their identity, their main answers are variations of panethnicity: Hispanic, Hispano, Hispana, Latino, Latina. These identities, however, are quintessentially American. They are not part of the repertoire of identity choices that immigrants bring with them. ...

Part IV. Conclusion

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pp. 191-192

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9. Becoming American

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pp. 193-204

It is a Sunday afternoon in August and thousands of people are gathered in Roger Williams Park. On the stage, youth groups perform Dominican music and dances as well as contemporary youth music such as reggaeton and hip-hop. Thousands of people sit on the park’s rolling lawn watching the performances. Many wave Dominican flags. ...


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pp. 205-218


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pp. 219-228


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pp. 229-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781610447591
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871544629

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011