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Islands in the City

Islands in the City: West Indian Migration to New York

EDITED BY Nancy Foner
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Islands in the City
    Book Description:

    This collection of original essays draws on a variety of theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and empirical data to explore the effects of West Indian migration and to develop analytic frameworks to examine it.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93580-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION. West Indian Migration to New York: An Overview
    (pp. 1-22)
    Nancy Foner

    The past four decades have witnessed a massive West Indian migration to New York. The influx—the largest emigration flow in West Indian history—has had enormous consequences for the lives of individual migrants as well as for the societies they have left behind and the city they have entered. This collection of original essays explores the effects of West Indian migration, puts forward analytic frameworks to aid in understanding it, and points to areas for further research.

    The focus of the book is on migrants from the nations of the former British Caribbean, who share a heritage of British...


    • ONE Early-Twentieth-Century Caribbean Women: Migration and Social Networks in New York City
      (pp. 25-51)
      Irma Watkins-Owens

      Around 1900, African Caribbean women began migrating in increasing numbers to the United States, settling mainly in clusters of compatriots in African American communities of New York City.¹ The migration of women—which increased steadily for the next two and one-half decades—was a key factor in making possible the formation of culturally distinct Caribbean communities for the first time in New York City. The history of African Caribbean women migrants, however, remains absent from the growing body of literature on women and U.S. immigration during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Cordasco 1985; Gabaccia 1989). Recent historical work...

    • TWO Where New York’s West Indians Work
      (pp. 52-80)
      Suzanne Model

      Where do New York’s West Indians work? This question can be answered in many ways: geographically, occupationally, even organizationally. The present chapter offers an industry-centered answer and pays particular attention to a phenomenon known as theethnic niche.Simply put, an ethnic niche is an industry in which members of an immigrant or minority group are overrepresented (Model 1993, 1997b; Waldinger 1996; Wilson 1998). The tendency to concentrate in some industries—and to eschew others—is typical of ethnic minorities. Equally important, industrial location affects minority earnings. Two effects have been identified. First, there are often systematic pay differentials across...

    • THREE West Indians and the Residential Landscape of New York
      (pp. 81-114)
      Kyle D. Crowder and Lucky M. Tedrow

      It is nearly impossible to sensibly compare the plight of West Indians in New York City to that of any other racial or ethnic minority group. West Indians face a unique constellation of barriers, challenges, and advantages in their efforts to cultivate a sustainable niche in the complex mosaic of the city. They share with the massive numbers of Asian and Latino immigrants the challenge of acquiring equal access to the opportunities available in the United States. But unlike most other immigrant groups, West Indians bring with them a phenotype that results in their classification as black under the country's...


    • FOUR Transnational Social Relations and the Politics of National Identity: An Eastern Caribbean Case Study
      (pp. 117-141)
      Linda Basch

      Over the past eighteen years I have continued to attend—and be dazzled by—vibrant political meetings in Brooklyn at which political leaders from the small, eastern Caribbean nation-states of St. Vincent and Grenada, visiting New York, meet with immigrants from their countries.¹ The political leaders generally inform the migrants in detail of affairs “at home” and identify numerous ways migrants can—and need to—remain involved “at home” by participating in elections, investing in local undertakings, sponsoring projects for the good of “the nation,” and informing their relatives of world affairs. The most dramatic meeting, despite its uncharacteristically somber...

    • FIVE New York as a Locality in a Global Family Network
      (pp. 142-160)
      Karen Fog Olwig

      Throughout the history of the United States, New York has served as the most important migrant destination and port of entry into the country. One result of New York’s central role in the making of the United States is that migration research has viewed the city as a place of incorporation into American society, where newcomers are turned into new citizens. This, in turn, is compatible with the stereotype of migration as a process by which poor, honest folk, fleeing poverty and oppression in the home country, become free and upwardly mobile Americans. In recent years, however, a number of...


    • SIX “Black Like Who?” Afro-Caribbean Immigrants, African Americans, and the Politics of Group Identity
      (pp. 163-192)
      Reuel Rogers

      Together these two vignettes provide a snapshot of an increasingly diverse group of black New Yorkers. Within the past three decades the cleavages within the city’s black population have multiplied almost exponentially, a pattern reflected among blacks throughout the country. The divisions among blacks nationwide are many: economic, regional, generational, and so on. The most pronounced sign of diversification among black New Yorkers, however, is the division between the native-and the foreign-born. Native-born African Americans predominate, but their numbers are in relative decline. The number of black immigrants from the Caribbean, in contrast, has increased rapidly over the last few...

    • SEVEN Growing Up West Indian and African American: Gender and Class Differences in the Second Generation
      (pp. 193-215)
      Mary C. Waters

      In the early 1990s I began a study of West Indian immigrants and their teenage children in New York City. I was interested in exploring how they developed a racial and ethnic identity, given the overwhelming attention to race in American society. I was also interested in whether the first and second generations would follow the same patterns of assimilation as did immigrants of European origin at the beginning of the twentieth century. I conducted in depth interviews and participant observation in order to examine the ways in which first- and second-generation West Indian immigrants balance their identities as West...

    • EIGHT Experiencing Success: Structuring the Perception of Opportunities for West Indians
      (pp. 216-236)
      Vilna F. Bashi Bobb and Averil Y. Clarke

      The question of social mobility is a critical one for West Indian migrants in the United States and for the lives of their children. Much of the literature on this question focuses on the success or lack of success of black immigrants relative to native-born blacks. In this chapter we explore the way first- and second-generation West Indian immigrants perceive the possibilities and opportunities for social mobility, and we analyze these perceptions as a function of immigrants’ social experience in global and local stratification systems. We use the words of our sample group and the resulting ethnographic insights to understand...

    • NINE Tweaking a Monolith: The West Indian Immigrant Encounter with “Blackness”
      (pp. 237-256)
      Milton Vickerman

      Although “blackness” has long been an issue in American society, this fact has not always been self-evident. American racism has created and thrived on a uniform—almost monolithic—view of people of African ancestry.¹ Until recent times this view has effectively disguised the complex variations that are inherent in conceptions of race. However, as racism has become less monolithic, the contested nature of “blackness” has slowly become more apparent. Though racism is still crucially important in the lives of individuals of African ancestry, its relative decline in the decades following the civil rights revolution has led to a multiplicity of...

  8. CONCLUSION. Invisible No More? West Indian Americans in the Social Scientific Imagination
    (pp. 257-276)
    Philip Kasinitz

    In his 1972 landmark essay on West Indian Americans, Roy Bryce-Laporte described the group as the “invisible” immigrants. It’s a telling image. The essays collected in this volume and the larger body of research on which they draw show clearly that West Indian Americans have become a good deal more visible in the last quarter century—both in the social scientific literature and in the popular imagination. Yet the confluence of race and ethnicity that may have rendered West Indians invisible at earlier times is still very much with us, as the essays by Waters, Vickerman, Rogers, and Bashi Bobb...

    (pp. 277-296)
    (pp. 297-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-304)