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American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)by David A. Gerber
Synopses & Reviews
The United States has experienced voluntary immigration of unprecedented size and diversity throughout its colonial and national history, over the course of almost five centuries. In light of the number of migrants and migrant peoples, it is to be expected that the fundamental character of American society has been conceived in international migrations, for with the exception of the Native American population, everyone resident in America has migration and resettlement in their personal histories or family backgrounds, a fact that has had profound effects on the character of American identities, and the shaping of society, culture and politics. Some of these migrations have been involuntary, as the result of conquest, territorial incorporation, and slave trading, but perhaps as many as 90,000,000 Americans owe their origins to voluntary migration, since the founding of the United States in 1789.
Ethnicity, or the formation of groups and group identities out of common ancestry, is an especially abiding feature of American life, around which, in diverse and broadly ramifying ways, such fundamental aspects of societal life as electoral politics, patterns of residence, and religious affiliation have been formed. Just as abiding and fundamental a feature of American life as ethnicity, has been race, which has shaped and been shaped by ethnicity. Within immigration itself, race has played a key role in differentiating immigrant experiences of resettlement and assimilation, such that white Europeans, Asians, and darker-skinned Latinos have experienced different trajectories in their access to opportunities and to social acceptance. But race has always been a complicated matter in its impact on immigrants, because in the past, before the rise of strictly color-based determinations of race, culture also helped to define race, and such European peoples as Jews, Italians, Greeks, and diverse Slavic peoples were also racialized peoples.
American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction examines this complicated story, combining analysis of race and ethnicity with attention to the rise and development of American social pluralism out of both.
Americans have come from every corner of the globe, and they have been brought together by a variety of historical processes--conquest, colonialism, the slave trade, territorial acquisition, and voluntary immigration. A thoughtful look at immigration, anti-immigration sentiments, and the motivations and experiences of the migrants themselves, this book offers a compact but wide-ranging look at one of America's persistent hot-button issues.
Historian David Gerber begins by examining the many legal efforts to curb immigration and to define who is and is not an American, ranging from the Naturalization Law of 1795 (which applied only to "free-born white persons") to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the reform-minded Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door to millions of newcomers, the vast majority from Asia and Latin America. The book also looks at immigration from the perspective of the migrant--farmers and industrial workers, mechanics and domestics, highly trained professionals and small-business owners--who willingly pulled up stakes for the promise of a better life. Throughout, the book sheds light on the relationships between race and ethnicity in the life of these groups and in the formation of American society, and it stresses the marked continuities across waves of immigration and across different racial and ethnic groups.
A fascinating and even-handed historical account, this book puts into perspective the longer history of calls for stronger immigration laws and the on-going debates over the place of immigrants in American society.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
About the Author
David A. Gerber is Distinguished Professor of History at the University at Buffalo. He is the author of The Making of an American Pluralism and Authors of Their Lives.
Table of Contents
Section One The Law of Immigration and the Legal Construction of Citizenship
Chapter One Unregulated Immigration and Its Opponents: from Colonial America to the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Chapter Two Regulation and Exclusion
Chapter Three Reform in the Mid- Twentieth Century: Removing Barriers, Debating Consequences
Section Two Emigration and Immigration: From the International Migrants' Perspective
Chapter Four Mass Population Movements and Resettlement, 1820-1924
Chapter Five Mass Population Movements and Resettlement, 1970 to the Present: Continuity and Change
Section Three The Dialogue of Ethnicity and Assimilation
Chapter Six The Widening Mainstream
Chapter Seven The Future of Assimilation
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