Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Encountering American Faultlines

Encountering American Faultlines: Race, Class, and the Dominican Experience in Providence

José Itzigsohn
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Encountering American Faultlines
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-759-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    • CHAPTER 1 Immigration and American Society
      (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. At the same time, they change the fabric of American social structure and cultural dynamics. They also have a great influence on the everyday life of the place in which they live. This book looks at the ways in which Dominican immigrants in Providence become part of American...

    • CHAPTER 2 Dominican Providence
      (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). Dominicans, together with other Latino, East Asian, and West African immigrants, are settling in the places vacated by previous waves of immigration. These new immigrants, however, do not find employment in the mills but in service occupations. They are janitors, hotel workers, municipal employees, teachers, nurses, and social workers. Some are lawyers, doctors, engineers, and business managers....


    • CHAPTER 3 In a Land of Opportunities?
      (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. To assess the opportunities available for immigrants, I compare the positions of first- and second-generation Dominicans in the Providence and American socioeconomic structures. First-generation immigrants are hindered by their lack of knowledge of English, their low levels of job skills, their inability to make their educational credentials count, and in many cases, by...

    • CHAPTER 4 Entering the Mainstream?
      (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. The previous chapter showed that there is a marked improvement in the education profile of the second generation over their parents—a clear sign of success and mobility. At the same time, important segments of the second generation are being left behind. One-third of the second generation...

    • CHAPTER 5 Upward Mobility?
      (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. The second focuses on Dominican views of American society, whether and how different class strata vary in their understanding of the Dominican experience in the United States. The two questions illuminate the ways in which structural ethnoracial incorporation affect the opportunities and views of Dominicans in Providence.

      Most Americans—with the exception of the very rich and the very poor—think of themselves as...


    • CHAPTER 6 American Identities
      (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, the study of immigrants’ identities also brings to the forefront the terms in which American society thinks and speaks about itself (Foner 2005; Glazer 1993; Hattam 2004; Higham 1955; Huntington 2004).¹ The investigation of these identities is then, on the one hand, an investigation of their incorporation in American society and how they make sense of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Transnational Identities
      (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. That Dominicans choose a Dominican ethnic identity may seem rather obvious, but in itself does not tell us much about group formation. The construction of ethnicity in the context of migration always makes reference to a place of origin, but as Vivian Louie showed in her comparison of second-generation Chinese and Dominicans, the symbolic frame of...

    • CHAPTER 8 Panethnic Identities
      (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. Latino or Hispanic panethnicity is an identity that emerges from social life and social practices in the United States. As they incorporate into American society, Dominican immigrants and their children learn that they are categorized as Hispanic or Latino by mainstream society and thus adopt this label to refer to themselves.



    • CHAPTER 9 Becoming American
      (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. Here and there a flag from a different Latin American country can also be seen. On the far edges of the lawn are numerous booths of local eateries, mostly selling Dominican food. The day is the Dominican Festival, a celebration of Dominican identity that marks the...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 205-218)
    (pp. 219-228)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 229-244)