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SOC336H1 Lecture Notes - Visible Minority, Premiership Of Stephen Harper, Brubaker

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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
“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
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)

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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
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
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