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SOC336: Week 10, Lecture 9 Immigration and Identity (1): Assimilation research and debates Think of assimilation and multiculturalism as two sides of the coin. And the coin is immigrant integration How we talk about assimilation…  Abstract defn: increasing similarity or likeness… to assimilate means to become similar, to make similar or to treat as similar (between things/entities)  “Organic” defn: “To assimilate something is to ‘convert {it} into a substance of its own nature, as the bodily organs convert food into blood, and thence into animal tissue . . . to absorb into the system, {to} incorporate’” (OED)  implies complete absorption  Sociological defn: “the process by which the characteristics of members of immigrant groups and host societies come to resemble one another” (Brown & Bean 2006) o This definition refers to different societies ‘melt’ together to create a unified whole in the host culture. o It’s not two things that melt together as equal but an outside element melting into the host society (so there’s an imbalance) o Also keep in mind that the host society also changes as newcomers come into the country (but this is only referred to in the immigration literature later on in the future)  Debates on assimilation = debates about integration and thus, related to concepts such as membership vs. exclusion, ethnic/racial identity, and the flexibility of (constructed) boundaries o Culture lies at the heart of these debates… how is culture defined? How central is it to individual/group life? To what extent is culture flexible? Is there such thing as a cultural core??? o Multiculturalism and assimilation similar  a lot of multiculturalism says that culture is the core and it’s important to protect one’s culture o What are we integrating into? When we’re talking about assimilation and being absorbed into the dominant culture. Is there really such thing as one unified clear culture? And potentially striving to integrate into.  Propose a different way of understanding it and conceptualizing it.  What is beneficial about moving? Why are some countries willing to let people in?  Notion of incorporation The Melting Pot Metaphor Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot (1908) Video: “The Great American Melting Pot” (3:00) What specific historical period is being referenced? Which defn of assimilation is this video presenting? What is overlooked? -People melted together are from European countries -Pre 1965 only European immigrants (this was a time where there weren’t any visible minorities) -Stigma of melting pot (in Canada) it wasn’t a good thing to strive for -The discourse in Canada is that you don’t have to melt (we’re more of a cultural mosaic) and US  have to melt… -Original poster  in a crucible (the pot) melting down metals to their liquid forms. It’s quite a violent image to produce an American All the swirling is happening around the Statue of Liberty Play showed that it would be impossible to keep alive the old feuds because in America, everyone becomes the same and live in harmony it gets away from the traditional thinking and old ways Two ways of Understanding Assimilation: (1): The Normative Context  State-imposed programs that encourage assimilation, aim is to eradicate minority cultures o These initiatives can be very benign. But other times they can be violent/cruel o “The lamentable instances of harshly homogenizing state projects” (Brubaker 1994: 533) o E.g. Canadian govt’s “aggressive assimilation” of Aboriginals; resettlement into residential schools  Harper Government first apology to Aboriginals a couple years ago  “New Future,” 1955, CBC news archive (2:38)  “For the oldest Canadians, a new future” honouring-a-past-creating-a-future/a-new-future.html  Background (of video): o In the 19 century, Canadian government believed that they had to take care of Aboriginals. Ideally, they thought that it would be passed down to children. o ‘Aggressive assimilation’  Residential schools because government thought that children were more easily to mould than adults o 150 000 children were removed from communities and forced to attend the school o Residential schools ran on assumption that Aboriginals couldn’t adjust o Students were discouraged in practicing native traditions and speaking first language o Reference to Christianity  normative aspect of assimilation. So what is it that we’re trying to get people to assimilate to? Hockey? Christianity?  The normative version of assimilation is absorption (of one dominant culture absorbing a minority) the organic definition  Post 1960 (era of civil rights and rise of identity politics) (2) As social process  Involves interaction between majority and minority groups (should also incl interaction btwn minority groups); refers to outcomes  Can see idea of assimilation does not have to be problematic as a conceptual instrument for studying population of immigrant origins  when we look at assimilation as a social process, can be useful  Assimilation  something for someone else’s well being, we’re talking about it in a more neutral way (as a social process)  To a degree about the interaction between minority groups (as they start to approxi
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