Mar 072013

To Be An Immigrant - CoverAmerican Robotnik tackles the experience of immigration in a spontaneous, subjective fashion. More systematic treatments of the issue help organize my thinking. In her book To Be an Immigrant Kay Deaux outlines immigrant experience from the perspective of social psychology.

Assuming that “immigration is both a dynamic and a symbolic process rather than a discrete event,” Deaux proposes a multi-level framework for analysis:

  • Macro: political, demographic, and social factors that define the climate of immigration in a society, including policies, legislation, and institutions, as well as social representations (shared images) of immigration such as the melting pot
  • Micro: attitudes, values, motivations, and overall identity of the individual in question, change as they may during the immigration process
  • Meso: social interactions, where society’s macro events reflect in individuals’ psyches and where individual actions influence the larger society, including social attitudes toward immigration policy and immigrants, stereotypes

After getting the macro level factors out of the way, the book gets to its social-psychological core. A review of stereotypes of immigrants reveals differences in how host country citizens view different races and ethnicities and how those perceptions affect the immigration experience. The final part of the book discusses ways immigrants negotiate their identity on the backdrop of the macro and meso-level factors influencing it.

Purely academic in style, To Be an Immigrant lends itself poorly to casual reading (in fact, the dry writing sometimes gets in the way of reading). But for a patient student of immigration it conceptualizes the many dimensions of his personal experience. Its unique perspective will illuminate the issue for scholars and bloggers alike.

Word from the Publisher

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. [I]mmigration can be understood as a lifelong 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.

American Robotnik’s Bookrating

  • Kay Deaux, To Be an Immigrant, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006
  • Lowdown: An academic treatment of the immigration experience from the social-psychological standpoint.
  • Grade: B+

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