A part & Apart and Nation of Migrants

For History 297, we had to read Erika Lee’s A part and Apart. In this paper, Lee describes the differences in the ideas of two giants in the Immigration Studies field: George Sanchez and Rudy Vecoli. Sanchez made the argument that there existed a divide between the studies on immigration in terms of race. His argument stated that the experiences of the different groups of immigrants changes over the years. Specifically, he was referring to the different challenges faced when comparing the groups of immigrants that had come here before the 20th century and those who came after. He believed that the challenges faced by those who came during the 20th century, predominantly Asians and Hispanics, faced challenges that were all-together different than the European and African immigrants who came before them. Vecoli believed this to be “a caricature” of the entire department. Vecoli himself was more invested in the ideas of ethnicity than race when it came to Immigration Studies.  This, Lee wrote, constituted a divide over the ideas on whether the department should use the older ideas on immigration or to incorporate the ideas held by other disciplines. Such ideas are further indicated throughout the paper and are characterized as a divide between Ethnic Studies and the general History department that make the history of Immigration that much more conflicted.

We also had to read Adam Goodman’s Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration. In this paper, Goodman describes how Immigration Historians have been dismantling the Kennedy theory that America is a “nation of immigrants”, in specific reference to the perceived protagonism of the European immigrants. They have also been taking down the theory that everybody who came to the US did so to escape something and to become American. Many came here just so they could work, then returned to their country of origin.  The field of immigration history has been reforming to become a migration history department, one that analyses not only those who came to stay, but those who left as they were only here to work or those left to find work. They are working to replace the idea that America is a nation of immigrants to the idea that it is the nation migrants.  The problem with this is trying to determine the various motives for each migrant, which can change depending on social group, ethnicity, and from then from person to person.

One Reply to “A part & Apart and Nation of Migrants”

  1. Good summaries. Make sure you understand the difference between the forced migration of Africans tied to the slave trade and African immigration, which begins after WWII.

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