Immigration Essays

“Immigration Portrayed as an Experience of Uprootedness” discusses the extreme and even traumatic change in lifestyle for immigrants coming to the US from the European peasantry. It mentions how the change in lifestyle coming to America was completely unprecedented for them, and how many would latch on to romantic notions of the past in order to deal with their new surroundings. These immigrants were “uprooted” from their ancestral villages and ways of life and naturally came to a sort of hierarchical conservatism in trying to preserve what they understood, as the article puts it “acceptance of tradition and authority,” which also meant accepting an inferior position for themselves within society.
“Immigration Portrayed as an Experience and Transplantation” discusses the relationship and reactions immigrants had with American capitalism. It states that there were two different classes of immigrants, middle and working class. The middle class was smaller and made up largely of entrepreneurs who celebrated their success in their newfound capitalist society, while the working class was much larger and poorer. It talks about how old ways of life were modified as well as the role of immigrants in their communities, including religious institutions and workers’ unions.
“From the Uprooted to the Transplanted” begins by describing a sort of rebellion against the conventional US history that dominated at the author’s time. He states that his chosen subject, Italian immigration to the US, was not in vogue until ten years into his career. He also discusses the shocking fact that Ellis Island was considered an unimportant historical site until very recently.
He goes through the history of historians’ analyses of immigration, and talks a great deal about recovery and memory against a societal “amnesia” when it comes to immigration history. He discusses economic factors, but says immigration historians are skeptical of trying to explain migration patterns solely through economics. He also discusses women in immigration history and states that their presence in history was “invisible” until recently. He brings up the increased tendency towards intersectionality, noting that in the past historians of worker movements hadn’t taken ethnicity into account, and immigration historians had been ignoring class consciousness. He also brings up the topic of assimilation, and notes that this is distinct from “Americanization,” with assimilation being described as a negotiation and “selective adaptation,” rather than a total cultural overhaul. He concludes by describing a process of “syncretism,” wherein “they did not just become Americans; rather they became ethnic Americans.”
It doesn’t surprise me that examining immigrant history in terms of intersecting factors such as class, gender, etc. has become more prominent since that seems to be an overall academic trend. Probably the most interesting part of the essay for me was learning about the great gap in attitude towards whether Ellis Island was an important place or not between the 1970s and the 1990s.

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