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Open Access Debating the viability of ethnicity

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Debating the viability of ethnicity

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]Immigration and the Political Economy of Home: West Indian Brooklyn and American Indian Minneapolis, 1945-1992. RACHEL BUFF. Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 2001. xv + 240 pp. (Paper US$ 18.95)Black Cuban, Black American: A Memoir. EVELIO GRILLO. Houston TX: Arte Püblico Press, 2000. xvi + 134 pp. (Paper US$ 13.95)West Indian in the West: Self Representations in an Immigrant Community. PERCY C. HINTZEN. New York: New York University Press, 2001. x + 200pp. (Paper US$ 18.50)Caribbean Families in Britain and the Transatlantic World. HARRY GOULBOURNE & MARY CHAMBERLAIN (eds.). Oxford UK: Macmillan, 2001. xvi + 270 pp. (Paper £15.50)Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. ALEJANDRO PORTES & RUBÉN G. RUMBAUT. Berkeley: University of Califomia Press/ New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2001. xxiv + 406 pp. (Paper US$ 19.95)"Ethnicity" and its meaning, both as an identity and as a resilient cultural influence, has dominated late twentieth-century social scientific analyses of the process of immigrant incorporation. Perhaps we may mark the crowning of the term with the publication of Glazer and Moynihan's The Melting Pot, one famous tome that "explained" varying "assimilation" outcomes among the "new" (post-1965) newcomers by examining their ethnic culture for flaws or strengths that justified socioeconomic failure or success. Muddying the ensuing policy debate was the use of buzzwords, like mainstream, deviant, assimilated, minority, black matriarch, absent father, and underclass, that were themselves categorizing and hierarchical. The tautology of hierarchically labeling groups and then asking why groups with different labels have different outcomes seems to be perpetually invisible to the parties in the assimilation debate, but the debate itself rages on. Newer scholarship has added a different voice to that debate, arguing that variance in "assimilation" is instead explained by incorporation into social hierarchies (like racially segmented societies). The books reviewed here all speak in some way or another to these themes. They also examine the web of complex relationships migrants construct when defining and creating support institutions like "home," "community," and "family."

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