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To Be an Immigrant

To Be an Immigrant

Kay Deaux
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    To Be an Immigrant
    Book Description:

    Immigration is often discussed in broad, statistical terms, with a focus on how it affects labor markets, schools, and social services. But at its most basic level, immigration is a process that affects people and their identities in deeply personal ways. In To Be an Immigrant, social psychologist Kay Deaux explores the role of both social conditions and individual capacities in determining how well immigrants adapt to life in their new homelands, and makes a strong case for the relevance of social psychology in immigration studies. To Be an Immigrant looks at how immigrants are defined, shaped, and challenged by the cultural environment they encounter in their new country and offers an integrated psychological framework for studying the immigrant experience. Deaux argues that in addition to looking at macro-level factors like public policies and social conditions and micro-level issues like individual choices, immigration scholars should also study influences that occur on an intermediate level, such as interpersonal encounters. Each of these three levels of analysis is essential to understanding how immigrants adapt to a new homeland and form distinct identities. As a case study for her framework, Deaux examines West Indians, exploring their perceptions of the stereotypes they face in the United States and their feelings of connection to their new home. Though race plays a limited role in the West Indies, it becomes more relevant to migrants once they arrive in the United States, where they are primarily identified by others as black, rather than Guyanese or Jamaican. Deaux’s research adds to a growing literature in social psychology on stereotype threat, which suggests that negative stereotypes about one’s group can hinder an individual’s performance. She finds that immigrants who have been in the United States longer and identify themselves as African American suffer from the negative effects of stereotype threat more than recent immigrants. More than a discrete event, immigration can be understood as a life-long process that continues to affect people well after they have migrated. To Be an Immigrant takes a novel approach to the study of immigration, looking at how societal influences help shape immigrants and their understanding of who they are.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-153-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Kay Deaux
  5. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    From each of these voices of immigration–the dispassionate statistical accounts of aggregated movement of people from one country to another, the distilled summaries of attitude surveyors, and the often fervent statements from immigrants themselves–we learn something about the phenomenon of integration, but from none do we grasp a full picture. The story of immigration is one of tremendous scope, spanning centuries, continents, and diverse ethnic origins. In its magnitude, immigration raises questions that run the gamut from individual motives to international policies. Over the years many social scientists have devoted their energies to understanding parts of the picture,...

  6. Chapter Two Setting the Stage: Policies, Demography, and Social Representations
    (pp. 12-39)

    The context for immigrants–the stage set, as I metaphorically refer to it–could be considered in terms of the immediate, interpersonal situations that immigrants encounter when they arrive in their new country. That is the level of analysis most familiar to social psychologists, who often focus intently on the micro-level aspects of interpersonal interaction, and it is a level of analysis that I will use in later chapters. Here, however, I begin with a wider lens, one that looks both at broader currents in the contemporary scene as well as historical events that have shaped immigration in the United...

  7. Chapter Three Rendering the Social Context: Attitudes Toward Immigration and Immigrants
    (pp. 40-65)

    Social representations serve as a broad framework for defining a country’s views of immigration and of itself, setting up an iconic structure in which events can be played out. Yet the melting pot (or more recent derivatives, such as salad bowl) provides only vague outlines for the more specified attitudes that prevail in a society. Social representations, often evocative in their imagery and readily communicated as succinct phrases, can be inconsistently applied in their particulars; they can subsume a range of different, and sometimes conflicting, views on the phenomena of immigration. More specified beliefs about immigration policies and immigrant groups...

  8. Chapter Four Images and Actions: Contending with Stereotypes and Discrimination
    (pp. 66-90)

    The concept of immigrant, like immigrants themselves, comes with baggage. At the conceptual level, this additional weight consists of meanings associated with the targeted group. Some of these meanings are obvious and literal, as in thinking about an immigrant as someone who is new to the country, whose first language may be something other than English, who probably has relatives living in another country, and so forth. Other meanings, as we have seen, involve beliefs about the motivations and intentions of immigrants or the perceived impact it is thought they will have on the country of destination. More sharply focused...

  9. Chapter Five Who Am I? The Construction of Ethnic Identity
    (pp. 91-128)

    The tragedy of the World Trade Center destruction that prompted Anika Rahman to feel that she had lost the power to define herself is certainly a more dramatic confrontation with one’s identity than many immigrants experience. Semou Diouf’s similar doubts arose from a less tragic but no less political episode, a period when young French residents of African and Arab descent set fire to cars and buildings in the immigrant suburbs of Paris and other major cities throughout France. The statements of both Rahman and Diouf might be considered unique in their explicit linkage to national events in the United...

  10. Chapter Six Negotiating Identity: Beyond Assimilation Models
    (pp. 129-167)

    The debate that surrounds assimilation has nearly a hundred years of U.S. history to support its assertions. Woodrow Wilson states the creed of the melting pot, contending that all should give up their particular origins to become a part of the homogenized American identity. Oscar Handlin, by contrast, speaks from the view of the immigrant who is either not prepared or not able to erase the distinctions that separate foreign-born from native. Attempting to encompass these positions, from the perspective of the social sciences, is the broadly conceived model of assimilation. First associated with Robert Park and the Chicago school...

  11. Chapter Seven Putting It All Together: West Indian Immigrants
    (pp. 168-202)

    I have offered a framework for the psychological analysis of immigration. Beginning with the broad stage of policies and demography and then moving to the more focused interpersonal conditions of stereotypes and discrimination, I have tried to depict the social-political space in which immigrants move. Throughout, I have drawn examples from a variety of ethnic and national groups, circumstances and histories, to exemplify the processes that are at work.

    Here I sharpen the focus to a particular group of immigrants, namely black immigrants from the Caribbean, using the previously introduced framework to describe various levels of analysis (see figure 7.1)....

  12. Chapter Eight Envisioning an Agenda for a Social Psychology of Immigration
    (pp. 203-216)

    In the opening chapter, I recalled Oscar Handlin’s classic workThe Uprooted—an account of the immigrant experience that focused on the immigrants. Although his perspective was a welcome shift from discussions that looked only at the impact of immigrants on the societies they entered, the picture he painted was bleak. Handlin focused his analysis on first-generation immigrants, typically those who came from villages in Europe and moved to the cities of the eastern United States. “Always, the start was in the village,” he began (1951, 8), tracing a course from the agricultural fields of their homeland to the cold...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 217-221)
  14. References
    (pp. 222-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-260)