Americanization now and then: the 'nation of immigrants' in the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries

Lauret, Maria (2016) Americanization now and then: the 'nation of immigrants' in the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Journal of American Studies, 50 (02). pp. 419-447. ISSN 0021-8758

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In an analysis of contemporary attempts at US immigration reform in the context of its legal history (especially John F. Kennedy's 1964 Immigration and Nationality Act) this article explores a fundamental paradox in American political thought and practice as regards immigration. It examines the tension between the US's insistence, on one hand, upon immigrants' swift and wholesale integration into American life (as exemplified in the early 20th C Americanization programme, echoed in a 2007 call for a renewed Americanization initiative under President George W. Bush) and its self- definition as a proud 'nation of immigrants' on the other. In so doing, the essay critiques the 'nation of immigrants' shibboleth for its implicit racist bias and introduces the concept of 'ethnic shame,' prevalent for most of the 20th C, to complement today's much more familiar (but also much more recent) notion of Americans' ethnic pride in their immigrant roots. The article concludes that the ostensible paradox of a 'nation of immigrants' insisting on Americanization is best understood within the framework of what is theorised here for the first time as the 'gratitude paradigm,' which governs the granting and the possession of American citizenship to immigrants not just of the first, but of many generations thereafter.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication (August 2015) and is 13.959 words long
Keywords: Americanization; US immigration law; nation of immigrants; ethnic shame; gratitude paradigm; President Obama; John F. Kennedy
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
Depositing User: Maria Lauret
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2015 14:51
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 01:50

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