Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship: A Collection of Articles from the Journal of American Ethnic History
Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship: A Collection of Articles from the Journal of American Ethnic History

Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship: A Collection of Articles from the Journal of American Ethnic History

by John J Bukowczyk

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ISBN-13: 9780252082290
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 06/15/2016
Series: Common Threads Series
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 414
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

John J. Bukowczyk is a professor of history at Wayne State University and a coauthor of Permeable Border: The Great Lakes Basin as Transnational Region, 1650-1990.

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Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship

A Collection of Articles from the Journal of American Ethnic History

By John J. Bukowczyk


Copyright © 2016 Board of Trustees
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-252-08229-0




Wayne State University Editor, Journal of American Ethnic History

Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history. — Oscar Handlin

THE MASTER NARRATIVE OF AMERICAN HISTORY of a generation or two ago portrayed America as "a nation of immigrants," a place of refuge where Europe's "wretched refuse" (to quote the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty) melted together to form the American people. The image of the magnetic pull of America as land of opportunity and freedom long since has given way to more pointedly transnational approaches that stress the interconnectedness of the "push" and "pull" factors that caused population movements, that probe migrant subjectivities, and that follow the ongoing connections — and often movements — between and among the migrants and the peoples and places they left behind. In a more recent era of speedy transportation and communications, today's "immigrants," more so than ever before, really are migrants, transient participants in an increasingly global society and economy.

Both of these differently hopeful narratives, and the perspectives from which they derived, may suggest a story of uprooting but also one of mobility and progress, which, taken together, accurately represent two enduringly compelling versions of immigration history. But after the changes that roiled American society — and other so-called "receiver countries" — since the Second World War and, with that, transformed the practice of history, harsh national realities and darker interpretive themes now have intruded on these optimistic narratives. All along, for example, the America that immigrants were entering was, in fact, a society of sharp racial divisions, most graphically illustrated in America's "peculiar institution," the antebellum Southern euphemism for black chattel slavery. Immigrants may have been, as historian Thomas Guglielmo has argued, "white on arrival" when they landed upon these metaphorical shores, but this fact in no way alters the nineteenth-century racial order in which the "races of Europe," as nationality groups were then described, were arranged in a racial hierarchy — with southern, central, and eastern Europeans ranked as racially inferior to persons of putatively superior northwestern European racial stock — and America was divided between "white men and foreigners."

Then there were immigrants of darker hue and what native-born European Americans have regarded as "stranger" and "more exotic" cultures (which is to say, cultures more unfamiliar to them), immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa whom racialist pseudoscience defined as permanent racial Others. Not even the "nonwhite" native-born of these groups could escape from these irreducible racial categories of Otherness. Even as some of these were cast as "model minorities," for their seeming emulation of the values of self-discipline, education, hard work, and upward mobility as extolled by members of the native-born white, Protestant middle class, their ascribed racial identities remained. Meanwhile, in the American racial order, Mexicans and Indians, who had not migrated to the United States, but (via colonial conquest and territorial expansion) America had, so to speak, migrated to them, also were racialized by white Americans who considered them their racial inferiors.

If the central theme of American history, as historian Oscar Handlin wrote, has been immigration, the central problem of American history, since slavery days, arguably has been the problem of race. Although "race" may be a social construct, the concept has been used to order a system of "racial" subordination and domination. Race has molded immigrant identity and structured the politics of citizenship. It has shaped U.S. immigration policy, but it also has informed the ways in which immigrants and their children have been incorporated into American society; how they have related to each other and to the native-born; and how the native-born have reacted to them. As the interplay between immigration and race extends to such topics, it reveals how the study of immigration naturally opens onto, and connects to, the broader study of ethnic history — how immigrants are assimilated, incorporated, and integrated into the society of the country to which they have migrated, how and why they maintain transnational connections to friends and family abroad, and how they build new migrant and ethnic institutions and identities. Historians and sociologists variously have described some of these processes by which immigrants become ethnics as ethnicization or ethnogenesis, but it must be understood that these transformations do not take place in a social vacuum. Rather, immigrants and ethnics are shaped — even sometimes remade — by the societies they enter; and they also interact with, shape, and change these host societies in profound ways. Implicated in these various interactions is a changing discourse on how we understand immigration and migration; how we define race and nation; and how we think about social justice when persons of different cultural backgrounds mingle. No less involved is whether there is a "we" or instead many different and conflicting "we's."

The articles gathered together in Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship take readers through many of these themes. It is perhaps the case that, after historians like Francis Parkman and Frederick Jackson Turner, white Americans have idealized an American identity whose imagined essence derived from the heroic encounter of settlers of Anglo-Saxon stock with the American frontier, but Gunlog Fur's article, "Indians and Immigrants — Entangled Histories," the first in the collection, undermines this triumphalist, racialized narrative of the West. Fur usefully shows that western history was immigrant history and that contact between settlers and Indians on the western frontier often involved an ethnic encounter between Native Americans and the foreign-born. Next, articles by Hidetaka Hirota, "'The Great Entrepot for Mendicants': Foreign Poverty and Immigration Control in New York State to 1882"; Douglas C. Baynton, "Defectives in the Land: Disability and American Immigration Policy, 1882–1924"; and Lara Putnam, "Sentiment and the Restrictionist State: Evidence from the British Caribbean Experience, ca. 1925" examine the development and operation of American immigration policy in the nineteenth century, with its roots in the early regulation of immigration at the state level and then, in the federal government, of the ways immigrants came to be defined as desirable or undesirable and their entry into the United Sates controlled and policed. From there, James R. Barrett and David Roediger's now classic article, "Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality and the 'New Immigrant' Working Class," and Mark Overmyer-Velazquez's article, "Good Neighbors and White Mexicans: Constructing Race and Nation on the Mexico-U.S. Border," examine some of the ways that immigrants from Europe and both foreign-born and native-born Mexicans variously were racialized in the United States, showing race to have been both a formative and a malleable identity. Robert Fleegler's article, "'Forget All Differences until the Forces of Freedom Are Triumphant': The World War II-Era Quest for Ethnic and Religious Tolerance," meanwhile shows how the exigencies of World War II and America's fight against racialist ideology abroad laid the groundwork for a more inclusive American civic identity and citizenship, while Allison Varzally's article, "Romantic Crossings: Making Love, Family, and Non-Whiteness in California, 1925–1950," examines the evolution of nonwhiteness as an American social category.

It is here in the collection that we come to David Reimers's pivotal essay, "An Unintended Reform: The 1965 Immigration Act and Third World Immigration to the United States," which investigates the great turning point in post-World War II American immigration policy, when many of the racialist restrictions on entry fell away and whose unintended consequence was the sweeping demographic — and racial — remaking of the American people. Putnam, Varzally, Julio Capó, Jr., and Vibha Bhalla explore ways that, as part of that remaking, sexuality and gender have complicated immigration and ethnic history themes. Capó's article, "Queering Mariel: Mediating Cold War Foreign Policy and U.S. Citizenship among Cuba's Homosexual Exile Community, 1978–1994," examines homosexuality as a category of immigrant undesirability, which now has fallen away, while Bhalla's article, "'Couch Potatoes and Super-Women': Gender, Migration and the Emerging Discourse on Housework among Asian Indian Immigrants," looks at how integration into American society affected gender and household relations between Asian Indian women and Asian Indian men. Immigrant integration into American society also entailed newcomers finding — or building — a place in the American economy. Willow Lung-Amam's article, "Malls of Meaning: Building Asian America in Silicon Valley Suburbia," explores how Asian immigrant entrepreneurs in California developed ethnic business establishments that anchored the burgeoning Asian communities in that Pacific state. The late Raymond A. Mohl's article, "The Politics of Expulsion: A Short History of Alabama's Anti-Immigrant Law, HB 56," recounts the resurgence of a racialist anti-immigrant policy in Alabama in response to what Mohl elsewhere described as the Latinization of the South in recent decades. The final article in this collection, Karen Leonard's "American Muslims and Authority: Competing Discourses in a Non-Muslim State," broaches a subject of much current interest, the integration of Muslim immigrants into the American polity, in which Leonard dispels the notion that the Muslim community in America is a monolith.

The rich sampling of content from the Journal of American Ethnic History should prompt lively discussion of contemporary issues involving immigrant and ethnic identity and the politics of the citizenship and incorporation of the foreign-born into an ever-changing American society. Ironically, although the immigration and ethnic history field and, with it, the JAEH focus on cultural differences and the mixing and mingling of diverse peoples, the subtext throughout involves, so to speak, the other side of the coin. On the flip side of American coins reads the inscription E Pluribus Unum — "From Many, One." In our own times, as in the past, this motto raises questions that still beg for answers today. What is an America? What should it be? Ultimately, it is these two questions that have inspired the publication of the JAEH and that continue to animate scholarship in the immigration and ethnic history field.


Indians and Immigrants — Entangled Histories


FROM THE MIDDLE of the nineteenth century until the end of the 1920s, almost 2.5 million people from the three Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway, and Sweden migrated to North America. Fredrika Bremer, on her visit to America in 1849–1851, wrote about Minnesota that it was "rightly a country for Nordic emigrants, rightly a country for a New Scandinavia." But for centuries this country had been home to several different Indian nations, and in the mid-nineteenth century, they dominated this territory. Very rarely does this fact enter into descriptions of Scandinavian emigration to, and settlement in, North America. Countless books and articles have been written on the topic of Scandinavian emigration, yet not even a handful deal with interactions — voluntary or not — between Scandinavian immigrants and American Indians. Instead, the history of the "peopling of America" by immigrants coming from across the oceans, and the history of indigenous peoples of America have been, and largely remain, discussed in two different fields: immigration and migration history, and American Indian history.

This article examines the theme of concurrent Indian and immigrant histories in the American Midwest, to argue that a separation of the two is detrimental to an understanding of the processes of migration, ethnicity, and colonialism. It suggests possible reasons for this lack of convergence, identifies consequences of such separate histories, and discusses ways in which these histories may be brought together. With the aim of inspiring new research, this article alludes both to early colonial encounters and to the more sustained interaction in the regions of heavy Scandinavian immigration from the second half of the nineteenth century.

When Scandinavians arrived from across the ocean, Indians were forced to vacate lands that became conveniently empty for occupation. Beginning in the 1840s and at least continuing until the 1930s, Scandinavian immigrants settled on Indian land or near Indian reservations. That Scandinavian immigrants and American Indians met and that Scandinavian settlement in America depended upon appropriation of Indian land is obvious, but settlement and removal are rarely discussed in the same context, and in most immigration history, these processes remain unconnected. Most often when the question is raised, the response is that by the time Scandinavians settled in the Midwest, the Indians had already left. However, a cursory glance at the existing research on American Indian history demonstrates clearly that this was not the case.

It is not just immigrants who seemed oblivious to the existence of some of their neighbors — histories written concerning different American Indian peoples perform a similar feat of excision. Immigrants are rarely part of accounts of Indian experiences, whether they are tribal histories or interpretations of relations with colonists. Instead, in histories of American Indians, the preferred counterpart is the representatives of American or Canadian governments, even though immigrant settlers constituted the vehicle for colonial westward expansion. When immigrants enter into the picture, they are most often lumped together as "white settlers."

For good reasons, specialization has been necessary, yet the two fields often concern themselves with the same territory at the same time, but move in unconnected categories, each field with its own sources, methods, theoretical and ideological underpinnings, and traditions. The separation of American Indian and immigrant histories depends on their relation to the dominant construction of national history and on the fictive notion that indigenous Americans and newcomers inhabited different times and different places. Paul Spickard suggests that American Indians have been treated as an issue apart from all other ethnic relations, obscuring that "immigration (by Europeans, Asians, and Latin Americans) to the newly colonized territories was partly a colonial story as well as a migrant story. Immigration and ethnic identity in U.S. history have been intimately tied to race and slavery, on the one hand, and to colonial expansion across the continent on the other." He argues that the colonial period has not ended and that this has profound consequences for the fields of migration and ethnic studies. "The first fact of the history of American immigration is genocide: the displacement and destruction of the Native peoples of North America. That is part of the story of immigration; it is not some other, parallel history."

American Indian history was long dominated by the history of "Indian policy," and this led to a predominant focus on Indian-U.S. (or Indian-colonist) relations. Much more rarely, and recently, have studies emerged on Indian-immigrant, Indian-African, or Indian-Hispanic interaction. As a historian working outside the United States with colonial cultural encounters and gender, I have noticed at least two recent trends in American Indian history. The first is a move toward indigenous perspectives on distinct ethnic communities, and toward more modern, even contemporary, history. The second trend is toward internationalization of indigenous histories. While breaking away from the clutches of an earlier focus on colonial and federal "Indian policy," these moves still neglect encounters between indigenous peoples and non-Anglo American settlers. Instead of studying contacts between Indians and immigrants, the histories of both go through the federal government and its authorized bodies, naturalizing Anglo-normativity, as Spickard suggests.


Excerpted from Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship by John J. Bukowczyk. Copyright © 2016 Board of Trustees. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


1 Introduction John J. Bukowczyk, 5,
2 Indians and Immigrants-Entangled Histories • Issue 33:3, Spring 2014 Gunlög Fur, 10,
3 "The Great Entrepot for Mendicants": Foreign Poverty and Immigration Control in New York State to 1882 • Issue 33:2, Winter 2014 Hidetaka Hirota, 32,
4 Defectives in the Land: Disability and American Immigration Policy, 1882–1924 • Issue 24:3, Spring 2005 Douglas C. Baynton, 60,
5 Sentiment and the Restrictionist State: Evidence from the British Caribbean Experience, ca. 1925 • Issue 35:2, Winter 2016 Lara Putnam, 74,
6 Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality and the "New Immigrant"' Working Class • Issue 16:3, Spring 1997 James R. Barrett and David Roediger, 101,
7 Good Neighbors and White Mexicans: Constructing Race and Nation on the Mexico-U.S. Border • Issue 33:1, Fall 2013 Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, 141,
8 "Forget All Differences until the Forces of Freedom Are Triumphant": The World War II-Era Quest for Ethnic and Religious Tolerance • Issue 27:2, Winter 2008 Robert L. Fleegler, 171,
9 Romantic Crossings: Making Love, Family, and Non-Whiteness in California, 1925–1950 • Issue 23:1, Fall 2003 Allison Varzally, 197,
10 An Unintended Reform: The 1965 Immigration Act and Third World Immigration to the United States • Issue 3:1, Fall 1983 David M. Reimers, 248,
11 Queering Mariel: Mediating Cold War Foreign Policy and U.S. Citizenship among Cuba's Homosexual Exile Community, 1978–1994 • Issue 29:4, Summer 2010 Julio Capó Jr., 268,
12 "Couch Potatoes and Super-Women": Gender, Migration, and the Emerging Discourse on Housework among Asian Indian Immigrants • Issue 27:4, Summer 2008 Vibha Bhalla, 297,
13 Malls of Meaning: Building Asian America in Silicon Valley Suburbia • Issue 34:2, Winter 2015 Willow Lung-Amam, 326,
14 The Politics of Expulsion: A Short History of Alabama's Anti-Immigrant Law, HB 56 • Issue 35:3, Spring 2016 Raymond A. Mohl, 362,
15 American Muslims and Authority: Competing Discourses in a Non-Muslim State • Issue 25:1, Fall 2005 Karen Leonard, 388,

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