Reflecting on Goodman, Ramirez, & Lee

The three essays reviewed were “Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration” by Adam Goodman, “Globalizing Migration Histories? Learning from Two Case Studies” by Bruno Ramirez, and “A Part and Apart: Asian American and Immigration History” by Erika Lee. The three works could be bridged by the topics of migration, transnationalism, and field study framework. However, they share different views and focuses.

In Goodman’s essay, there was a heavy focus on his opinion of the United States as a “Nation of Immigrants” instead of a “Nation of Transit”. He calls the former a myth and cliché, perpetuated by media and non-historians to push an agenda of assimilation and the “Melting Pot” theory. Goodman gives an array of examples of studies that are needed to shift the conversation; sociology, geography, legal studies, political science, and anthropology. With this, he suggests that a shift to focusing on a “Nation of Transit” can result in an understanding of migrants’ experiences, motivations, and decisions. With the decentralization away from race and assimilation to ethnicity and purpose, Goodman believes that this will expose several under-acknowledged factors of the underrepresented communities lives such as; nativism, exclusion, internment, forced internal migration, and deportation.

Ramirez also focuses on the need to accept the many various experiences of migrants but focuses on Canadian Americans and Italian Americans specifically. He pushes multiculturalism and diversity as keys to heritage and culture. Meanwhile, he also challenges Anthropologists and Political Scientists belief that transnationalism (globalization) was a new sub-field of immigration when it is arguably, by historians, originating no later than the establishment of the United States as a nation-state. Ramirez presents the history of migration and descent for both Canadian Americans and Italian Americans to conclude that Italians changed bi-national framework and that French-Canadians shaped regional migration and chain migration in the United States. While Ramirez conceded that his argument could possibly be used in other theories, migration fields are undeniably useful to many ethnic communities.

Lee’s piece was far more overlapping though it did, as titled, center on Asian American immigrants and their experiences. Upon presenting two opposing views in the field between George Sanchez and Rudi Vecoli, Lee explains her experiences in college with Sanchez-centric courses, limited resources on oppressed ethnic groups in America, and departments that could not be bridge and cooperate because they were in competition. This piece seemed to explain a shift from assimilation and uprootedness to transplantation and ethnicity; furthermore, she discusses the need to favor ethnicity-centric models without discrediting race. While spending a significant amount of time detailing and explaining complementary identities in which it is debated that immigrants and their families could simultaneously be loyal to both the United States and their identities outside the borders, she seems to discredit the theory. Her reasoning is that it came out of a diverse California school. It was the part of the essay I found most interesting as it is completely relatable to myself and my family- even though we are not Euro-centric. Like the other writers, Lee seems to implore scholars to further explore to transnationalism, globalization, diaspora, dual-citizenship, migrant workers, incarceration, and deportation. In terms of Asian Americans, she praises the multi-factor and complex frameworks of their studies. Lee closes with stepping away from domesticated, successful, assimilated narratives; questioning homelands, diasporic policies, citizenship, and the formation of transnational identities; and explaining migration in terms of it being multi-directional, both temporary or long-term, and voluntary or forced.

There were definitely aspects in each essay that I understood and could support, particularly the push for a more complex framework of study to the field of immigration. As a person hoping to teach in a low-income public school system where I will work with diverse students I would hope that a shift in the discussion of immigration will change the narratives being taught to include the many diverse peoples in America. Unfortunately, as a realist, I pessimistically doubt that this will change. The fact that some historians still use assimilation or that there is still mention of people believing the “Melting Pot” theory, solidifies my belief that the change, if it reaches public grade schools in America, is unlikely to change the status quo. The acknowledgement of a need to understand the “grassroots” and “bottom-up” history of immigrants from both our continent and others before and after they come- while also acknowledging that many leave, was also a vital takeaway from these essays. However, I believe that terminology is not as overly analyzed as some would have suggested.

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