The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.
Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
This is the first week of classes for many colleges and universities around the country, including here at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This semester I am teaching a new course: “The Sociology of Immigration” (in case you’re curious, you can download a PDF of the syllabus). It’s a topic that is central and directly relevant to many issues that I cover in this blog, and a course that I have always wanted to teach but haven’t had the opportunity to do so until now.
President Obama has also recently suggested that immigration reform is one of the next major policy issues that he and his administration want to address next (although he said this before the upset victory of Republican Scott Brown in MA). Presuming that he follows through on this promise, immigration is set to again move to the front burner of American discussion and controversy.
With these things in mind, I plan on writing a more detailed post about immigration reform soon but in the meantime, I would like to highlight some new books on different aspects of the immigration issue that I will be using as source material for my “Sociology of Immigration” course and that will hopefully provide some sociological data and analysis to help us tackle the question of immigration reform.
The first book, Reinventing the Melting Pot, is the textbook that I have assigned to my students in my “Sociology of Immigration” course.
In Reinventing the Melting Pot, twenty-one of the writers who have thought longest and hardest about immigration come together around a surprising consensus: yes, immigrant absorption still works-and given the number of newcomers arriving today, the nation’s future depends on it. But it need not be incompatible with ethnic identity-and we as a nation need to find new ways to talk about and encourage becoming American.
In the wake of 9/11 it couldn’t be more important to help these newcomers find a way to fit in. Running through these essays is a single common theme: Although ethnicity plays a more important role now than ever before, today’s newcomers can and will become Americans and enrich our national life-reinventing the melting pot and reminding us all what we have in common.
African Americans grappled with Jim Crow segregation until it was legally overturned in the 1960s. In subsequent decades, the country witnessed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America—forever changing the face of American society. In The Diversity Paradox, Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean take these two poles of American collective identity—the legacy of slavery and immigration—and ask if today’s immigrants are destined to become racialized minorities akin to African Americans or if their incorporation into U.S. society will more closely resemble that of their European predecessors.
The Diversity Paradox uses population-based analyses and in-depth interviews to examine patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. Lee and Bean . . . show that Asians and Latinos with mixed ancestry are not constrained by strict racial categories. Racial status often shifts according to situation. Individuals can choose to identify along ethnic lines or as white, and their decisions are rarely questioned by outsiders or institutions. These groups also intermarry at higher rates, which is viewed as part of the process of becoming “American” and a form of upward social mobility.
African Americans, in contrast, intermarry at significantly lower rates than Asians and Latinos. Further, multiracial blacks often choose not to identify as such and are typically perceived as being black only—underscoring the stigma attached to being African American and the entrenchment of the “one-drop” rule. Asians and Latinos are successfully disengaging their national origins from the concept of race—like European immigrants before them.
The Diversity Paradox is an extensive and eloquent examination of how contemporary immigration and the country’s new diversity are redefining the boundaries of race. The book also lays bare the powerful reality that as the old black/white color line fades a new one may well be emerging—with many African Americans still on the other side.
As the authors state in Chapter 1, “[T]he movement of people across national borders represents one of the most vivid dramas of social reality in the contemporary world.” This comparative text examines contemporary immigration across the globe, focusing on 20 major nations.
Noted scholars Peter Kivisto and Thomas Faist introduce students to important topics of inquiry at the heart of the field, including: (a) Movement: explores the theories of migration using a historical perspective of the modern world; (b) Settlement: provides clarity concerning the controversial matter of immigrant incorporation and refers to the varied ways immigrants come to be a part of a new society; and (c) Control: focuses on the politics of immigration and examines the role of states in shaping how people choose to migrate.
Immigrants and their children comprise nearly three-fifths of New York City’s population and even more of Miami and Los Angeles. But the United States is also a nation with entrenched racial divisions that are being complicated by the arrival of newcomers. While immigrant parents may often fear that their children will “disappear” into American mainstream society, leaving behind their ethnic ties, many experts fear that they won’t—evolving instead into a permanent unassimilated and underemployed underclass.
Inheriting the City confronts these fears with evidence, reporting the results of a major study examining the social, cultural, political, and economic lives of today’s second generation in metropolitan New York, and showing how they fare relative to their first-generation parents and native-stock counterparts. The authors studied the young adult offspring of West Indian, Chinese, Dominican, South American, and Russian Jewish immigrants and compared them to blacks, whites, and Puerto Ricans with native-born parents.
They find that today’s second generation is generally faring better than their parents, with Chinese and Russian Jewish young adults achieving the greatest education and economic advancement, beyond their first-generation parents and even beyond their native-white peers. Every second-generation group is doing at least marginally—and, in many cases, significantly—better than natives of the same racial group across several domains of life. Economically, each second-generation group earns as much or more than its native-born comparison group, especially African Americans and Puerto Ricans, who experience the most persistent disadvantage.
Inheriting the City shows the children of immigrants can often take advantage of policies and programs that were designed for native-born minorities in the wake of the civil rights era. Indeed, the ability to choose elements from both immigrant and native-born cultures has produced, the authors argue, a second-generation advantage that catalyzes both upward mobility and an evolution of mainstream American culture. . . . Adapting elements from their parents’ cultures as well as from their native-born peers, the children of immigrants are not only transforming the American city but also what it means to be American.
Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents.
My name is Reimar Macaranas and I am the Community Program Manager at Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP). I wanted to ask for your help in outreaching to your Asian and Pacific Islander students in regards to the paid summer internship we have offered each year for the past 13 years.
This is a two-month summer internship where we put interns in Asian and Pacific Islander community-based organizations (a full list of past
organizations we have worked with is on the website link provided) for 4 days of the week, where they would be working hands-on with communities on specific projects the organizations have proposed to us. The other day of the week, they would be at LEAP, going through workshops, community dialogues and panels to not only increase personal development, but community development as well.
Call for Applications: “Settling Into Motion“ – The Bucerius Ph.D. Scholarships in Migration Studies. The ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius Ph.D. scholarship program in migration studies “Settling Into Motion” offers up to eight scholarships for Ph.D. theses addressing migration in changing societies.
For 2010, research applications on “Migration, Diversity and the Future of Modern Societies” are especially welcome. Qualified Ph.D. students of – in a broad sense – social sciences can apply until 25 February 2010. Please find further information as well as the online application on the program’s website.
Migration leads to increasing diversity in many countries all over the world. Sometimes this results in challenges of established institutions as well as cultural practices of modern societies. Current migrant populations are more heterogeneous than ever before: migrants and their descendants have not only different religious, cultural and ethnic roots, but they also differ with regard to their citizenship status, as well as their professional and economic backgrounds.
At the same time, governments in receiving societies frequently react to this phenomenon with integration schemes that implicitly address a non-existent homogeneous “migrant population”. On the other hand, there are examples where diversity and cultural pluralism are seen as strength and advantage. We encourage the following topics, but will also consider other approaches:
Diversity and political order
Migration and cultural, ethnic and religious diversity
Cultural policy and the management of diversity
Concepts and categories in migration and integration debates
Innovative approaches both in terms of subject matter and methodology are highly encouraged.
Re-SEAing SouthEast Asian American Studies. Memories & Visions: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.
San Francisco State University
March 10-11, 2011
The third tri-annual interdisciplinary Southeast Asians in the Diaspora conference will take place at San Francisco State University. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to sizable populations of Burmese, Cambodian, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, and Vietnamese Americans. This conference will foreground the large Southeast Asian American communities of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and the Pacific Northwest, as well as continue to build momentum and grow just as the Southeast Asian American demographics increase in size and visibility here in the U.S. and in particular, on the West Coast.
The main objectives of this conference are:
to encourage the interdisciplinary and comparative study of Southeast Asian
American peoples and their communities
to promote national and international cooperation in the field
to establish partnerships between academia and the community
This two-day conference explores memories (e.g., memories of homeland; memories of war; memories of childhood and growing up American; historical memories; embodied memories; intergenerational memories; technologies of memories; and imagined/created memories) and visions (actual sightings and sites of Southeast Asian Americans and their communities, both real and imaginary). Because this conference takes place after the constitutionally mandated 2010 census, the focus will be on locating/situating Southeast Asian American Studies for the 21st century.
The conference invites proposals for panels, workshops, and individual papers from all disciplines and fields of study that explore the dialectical relationship between memories and visions related to the following topics:
Southeast Asian American health and wellness
Southeast Asian American social justice
Southeast Asian American and critical pedagogy
Southeast Asian American youth cultures
Southeast Asian American folklore, folklife, and religions
Southeast Asian American families, relationships, and communities
Southeast Asian American queer cultures and spaces
Southeast Asian American sexualities
Southeast Asian Americans of mixed heritage/race
Southeast Asian American transnationality, transnationalization, and transnationalism
Sino-Southeast Asian Americans
Explorations of how artists (writers, filmmakers, visual artists) “see” and envision themselves and their communities as Southeast Asian Americans
The location and relationship of Southeast Asia to Southeast Asian America
The shifting demographics of Southeast Asian Americans vis-à-vis (in)visibility
Papers will also be considered on any related topics in Southeast Asian American Studies. 250 word abstracts should be submitted by June 15, 2010 to Dr. Jonathan H. X. Lee at email@example.com with the following information: a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, and d) abstract with title.
All papers will go through an internal review process and decisions regarding acceptance of papers for the conference will be communicated by October 15, 2010. Information on previous conferences:
Do you know of any non-profit organizations which benefit the Asian American community? If so, please encourage their Executive Director to consider spending a week at Harvard to sharpen their leadership skills and make their organizations more effective.
For the 5th consecutive year, the Harvard Business School Asian American Alumni Association (HBS4A) will be sponsoring a full tuition, room, board, and materials scholarship for a non-profit organization executive director to attend the Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program at HBS this July. Alaric Bien, last year’s HBS4A Scholarship recipient and Executive Director of the CISC had this to say after completing the program last year:
“The SPNM experience was truly amazing! Scary and somewhat intimidating at first to be part of a group of such high powered, incredibly sharp and dedicated nonprofit executives from literally all over the world, but what a wonderful privilege to have access to all those resources and knowledge.
The professors were awesome – incredibly expert in their fields, inspiring, great teachers, and they really understand what it’s like to work in the real world of the nonprofit sector. I came back to CISC charged up and eager to put into practice what we learned during that short, but oh so intense week at HBS. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
Previous organizations which have benefited from the HBS4A scholarship include the New York Asian Women’s Center in 2006, the Chinese Community Center in Houston in 2007, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association of Philadelphia in 2008, and the Chinese Information and Service Center of Seattle in 2009.
If you know of an Executive Director at a non profit organization which benefits the Asian American community, please direct them to the scholarship website for more information! Thanks to all the HBS4A dues-paying members for helping make this empowering program possible!
In case you were not already familiar, the term “White Flight” refers to the phenomenon of White residents leaving central urban areas of major cities and moving into suburbs or even farther. This process began after World War II and coincided with the birth of suburbanization.
Unfortunately, White flight is also associated with the systematic segregation and “ghettoization” of people of color in these same central urban areas. That is, a combination of unequal government policies, discriminatory lending practices, and unethical real estate agents led to a vast majority of the Black population being prevented from joining the suburbanization movement and instead, were left behind isolated in neglected and marginalized central cities.
However, things apparently are changing. As the Wall Street Journal reports, in recent years, demographers and city planners have noticed that in many metropolitan areas, White flight has slowed considerably and in many of these cities, has actually been reversed. That is, because of increased investment and development (some would call it gentrification) of downtown areas, many Whites are returning to the central cities. However, this slow reversal of White flight has led to some unanticipated consequences for people of color:
Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases.
The changing racial mix is stirring up quarrels over class and culture. Beloved institutions in traditionally black communities — minority-owned restaurants, book stores — are losing the customers who supported them for decades. As neighborhoods grow more multicultural, conflicts over home prices, taxes and education are opening a new chapter in American race relations. . . .
In recent years, minority middle-class families, particularly African-Americans, have been moving to the suburbs in greater numbers. At the same time, Hispanic immigrants (who poured into cities from the 1970s through the 1990s) are now increasingly bypassing cities for suburbs and rural areas, seeking jobs on farms and in meat-packing plants.
Cities have spent a decade tidying up parks and converting decaying factories into retail and living space. That has attracted young professionals and empty-nesters, many of them white.
The article goes on to mention a few more interesting points. First is that as middle-class Blacks leave the central cities, those who are left are predominantly lower-income and as a result, the tax base gets smaller as well, further reinforcing and perpetuating poverty.
Second is that as White residents slowly return to the central cities, some tensions with residents of color have risen. Such tensions may initially be based on class differences (i.e., most returning Whites are middle class or affluent) while resident of color are more likely to be working class), but inevitably, it leads to racial overtones.
For example, the article mentions that in New York City, a group of White parents proposed creating a new, separate school inside Public School 84. Not surprisingly, a large number of minority parents saw this proposal as blatant racial segregation, since the proposed new school would presumably consist almost entirely of White students.
From a sociological point of view, this trend of reversing White flight is most interesting because it represents an 180 degree turn of a long-established and momentous process that has taken decades to occur, has resulted in significant social changes and inequalities, and has still not ended entirely.
With that in mind and at least on the surface, we should be thankful for its reversal. However, as the article points out, the return of Whites to central cities has led to a different set of problems and tensions, many of them rather unexpected.
It just goes to show that race relations is not a simple equation that can be solved easily. Instead, it is a dynamic and fluid mix of historical and contemporary factors that operates on many levels and can have multiple and contradictory outcomes. In other words, we as sociologists have our work cut out for us here.