Week 1 Readings

“A Part and Apart: Asian American Immigration History” by Erika Lee was the start of my dive into immigration history readings this week.

A Part and Apart describes the initial fork in the field of immigration history, where its definition is foggy and debated whether to solely investigate European Immigrants from the past nineteenth and twentieth century, or the perspective that immigration history should look into the continuous life of those foreign, colored immigrants, mixing the past and present. Lee is most definitely a progressivist in studying immigration history and with a more extensive framework, reaching into the immigrants’ experience with racial prejudice, founding extensive outside motives and needs for migration throughout history, up to our contemporary migration. 

This gives us “world history with a migrational perspective” (31), enabling us to not only to see how ethnic, social, and transnational relationship impacted peoples’ conceptualization of migrants and their race, but we can use common patterns we can observe to, expectantly, apply and construct predictions about immigration construct with ethnic traces up to 50 years in the future! 

As sociology and history often go hand in hand, this text provided numerous examples throughout our chronological history which forced emigration for asylum and other received, welcomed immigration , barred immigration, built international allies and enemies because of migration all due to our ethnic and racial prejudices, discrimination, and conceptualizations of migrant origins- highlighting how closely ethnicity, race, and migration co-exist and are becoming more widely accepted among panels of immigration historians. 

For example, colonialism led to forced African immigration as they were enslaved; similarly, Asian indentured laborers were transported to Latin America; the increased trade between Asia and the U.S. led to Asian immigration, but was seen as a burden before WWII; after WWII, ethnic traits of Asians were welcomed with a constructivist view in mind; the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor led Americans to capture and restrain a majority of the Japanese population in the U.S.; in the Cold War, Asians were considered allies if they shared and exercised the same values of anti-communism and nuclear families; our country aids and welcomes refugees of countries in conflict, leading to high immigration up to today and a common growth of transnationalism. 

As ethnic and racial conceptualizations played a hand in ways migrants moved, continuous characters of migrants, and their outside reasons for migrating, immigrational historians have expanded their old notion about the immigrant paradigm to intersect with ethnic journeys and transnational experiences of contemporary migrants. We bridged the gap between two perspectives apart to be essentially interconnected. 

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“Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration” by Adam Goodman concerned me up to the middle of page nine because it reflected the same ideas as “A Part and Apart…,” the previous text I read. These texts were similar in sharing the greater concept that European immigration is the model of historical immigration for U.S. immigration history.  Lee, author of “A Part and Apart…,” fought for immigration to include ethnic community formation and its journey, expanding the framework. Goodman, the author of this text, “Nations of Migrants, Historians of Migration,” agrees with that new, more contemporary framework of what historical immigration studies should encompass in the first two pages. Then, Goodman shifts his text’s argument that immigrational studies of U.S. history do not tell the complete history of the U.S. or its migrant make up. In fact, constricting U.S. history to only immigration rather than migration as a whole lead to false conceptualizations and stereotypes of U.S. history and excludes significant stories of our migrants as immigration only allows a piece of their journey to be showcased. 

A migration paradigm breaks down preconceived notions of geographically barriers and instead redraws the map of transnational connections, the roles in migrants play in their journey internationally and intranational, includes African Americans, Indians, and non-European history, and in all, paints a larger, connective narrative of U.S. history. 

To truly understand the narrative of peoples’ historical journey, we have to include all parts of it as Goodman suggests: the origins where the emigrate, the macro and micro reasons they move, where the pass through, if they move again or back to their originating place. The journey can only be fully studied in terms of migration, not just a piece as immigration as their arrival to a (maybe) permanent destination in the U.S.

 Immigration studies are one-way, while in reality, world history is not. The American place as a “immigrant country” and “melting pot is one way,” while our ethnic migrants’ agencies were and still are not. 

It shocked me when Goodman proposed the issue that the majority of public academic institutions and our society still limits historical analyses on U.S. immigration rather than migration. Strangely, some concepts of migration are still largely shared in these institutions, but the initial focus on immigration is a problem because it fosters the sense of European exclusivity in the U.S. ethnic narrative and contributes to the false idea of America being the platform for immigration for them. 

After reading this article, that issues trouble me because his point reflects directly to our class’ objectives! However, I am really grateful that even though sharing this could undermine or create doubt in our courses’ deserved credibility and efforts to share wholesome perspective on history with macro-importance like migrational studies would otherwise provide, it was enlightening to become aware of this issue early on. 

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“Globalizing Migration Histories? Learning From Two Case Studies,” by Bruno Ramirez was by far the most obscure, hard-to-follow text for my readings personally! I am confident that the objectives of this comparison of case studies was to define globalization in migrational history and what factors are necessary for it to be accounted for and confirmed in essential history of states. This text reflection that same foundational understanding that “Nations of Migrants, Historians of Migration” presented: migration ranges from a micro-level of mobility to a larger scale and they go hand in hand. This awareness, step by step mobility leads us to historiographical process. Historiographical lens denoted bi-national spatial framework and instead took on transnational framework, expanding beyond the donor and receiver of migration, also including in between pass-throughs, beyond nation-states. Ramirez concluded that transnational framework was applied with the new migration theory. 

I believe the author’s purpose was to demonstrate transnationalism is present even if not reaching a full globalized level. 

Ramirez proposed that transnationalism carried focus in “cultural, political, and identity dynamics,” which we will see with migration in both case studies (19). 

In the Italian case study, historiographical and spatial globalization are obvious as valleymen migrants literally moved throughout the world, contributing to all kinds of population cultures. 

In the Canadian case study, we see a literal spatial migration, but the scale of the migration was so small, only regionally, that neither U.S. historians or Canadian historians recognize the small-scale transnational exchange as significant because it did not reach a global scale. A process in transnationalism took place as there was spatial movement from different origins among different cultures, but the scale was too small to significantly impact either nation-states cultural and institutional landscape. 

2 thoughts on “Week 1 Readings

  1. I found Erika Lee’s article very interesting. I as well, felt that a large part of her argument was that in America we have put the label of “model minority” on Asians and if they don’t comply to those standards we have found ways to exclude them and strip them of an American identity.

  2. I like how your blog post is set up. It is very descriptive and clear in terms of you analyzing what you read. It is evident that you are able to make connections within the readings. Good job. Your post allowed me to view the readings differently, for when I misunderstood something.

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