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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Immigrants and the American Dream: Remaking the Middle Class by William A. V. Clark (Guilford Press) Text uses statistical data to evaluate who today's immigrants are, where they live, and what levels of success they are achieving in social, economic, and occupational realms. For scholars and students in geography, sociology, planning, and ethnic studies; and policymakers and professionals interested in changing the face of the American middle class. DLC: Immigrants--United States.

The United States has absorbed nearly 10 million immigrants in the past decade. Like preceding generations, these new-comers made the journey for varied reasons, but nearly all share a desire for greater opportunity and a new life. This book synthesizes a wealth of up-to-date data on who today's immigrants are, where they live, and what levels of success they are achieving in key social, occupational, and economic realms. Examining the complex processes of entry into the middle class, the vol­ume also identifies factors that promote or hin­der the realization of the American dream. In the process, it sheds light on crucial policy questions and challenges that face our diversifying society. 

The book first provides a broad overview of contemporary immigration and the conflicting assumptions and beliefs that shape public per­ception and policy. While many Americans believe that anyone can "move up" through per­sistence and hard work, others fear that growing numbers of immigrants are failing to assimilate and are straining the nation's resources. Staking out a middle ground between these extremes, this volume provides a balanced examination of which immigrants are succeeding and why, as well as the varying opportunities and constraints met by those living in particular regions. Research is presented on primary dimensions of immigrant achievement: income level, profes­sional status, and rates of homeownership and political participation. The book considers the role of country of origin in processes of immigrant incorporation; intergenerational patterns of mobility; and problems posed by discrimina­tion and social inequality. It also provides an analysis of the effects of immigration both on local communities and on nationwide socioeco­nomic, geographic, and political trends.

This compelling work will be of value to an interdisciplinary readership of scholars and stu­dents in geography, sociology, planning, and ethnic studies, as well as policymakers and pro­fessionals interested in the changing face of the American middle class. It is a definitive text for advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in population geography, immigration and migration, and ethnic studies.

Chapter 1. Immigration and the American Dream; Chapter 2. Immigrants in the United States: Numbers, Flows, and Policies; Chapter 3. Making It in America: The Foreign-Born Middle Class; Chapter 4. Entering the Professions; Chapter 5. Reaching for Homeownership; Chapter 6. Voicing Allegiance; Chapter 7. Joining a Divided Society? Chapter 8. Reinventing the Middle Class: Paths to the Future; Appendix. Data and Data Sources 

The Suffering of the Immigrant by Abdelmalek Sayad (Polity Press) This work of outstanding originality is a powerful account of the nature of immigration and the condition of the immigrant in our societies today. It represents the synthesis of twenty years' of research on immigration and emigration, two processes that are, by their nature, as inseparable as the two sides of a coin, yet so different in appearance that we are led to believe that one can be understood without reference to the other. By highlighting the intrinsic relationship between these two phenomena, Abdelmalek Sayad - an Algerian sociologist and close associate of Pierre Bourdieu - succeeds in providing a comprehensive and illuminating account of the nature of immigration and the lives of immigrants in the West.

Through a sensitive and profound analysis, the author reveals the reality of the displaced existence of immigrants and the harrowing contradictions that characterize it. Among these contradictions is the deep collective dishonesty through which immigration perpetuates itself, where immigrants are compelled, out of respect for themselves and the group that allowed them to leave their country of origin, to play down the suffering of emigration and to encourage more of their compatriots to join them. Separated from their families, towns and homelands, and weighed down by the unshakeable guilt of this absence, immigrants are also 'absent' in their country of arrival, where they quickly become victims of exclusion and are seen simply as members of the workforce.

Students in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, politics and geography, as well as the general reader, will find this an invaluable text.

Excerpt: It was a long time ago that Abdelmalek Sayad conceived the project of bringing together in a synthetic work all the analyses he had pre­sented, in lectures or scattered articles, of emigration and immigration — two words which, as he never ceased to recall, refer to two sets of things that are completely different but indissociable, and which must at all costs be considered together. He wished me to be associated with his project from the outset. In one of the most difficult moments of his difficult life — we had lost count of the number of days he had spent in hospital and of the operations he had undergone — and on the eve of a very dangerous surgical intervention, he reminded me of this project in a serious tone we rarely used between ourselves. A few months earlier, he had entrusted me with a set of texts, some already published and some unpublished, together with suggestions — a plan, outline questions and notes — so that I could, as I had already done so many times before, read and revise them with a view to publication. I should have set to work at once — and I often regretted that I did not do so when I found myself having to justify, alone, certain difficult choices. But Abdelmalek Sayad had survived so many ordeals in the past that it seemed to us that he would live for ever. I was, however, able to discuss with him certain basic courses of action, and especially the decision to produce a coherent book centred on the`essential texts, rather than to publish everything as it stood. In the course of our last meetings (and nothing cheered him up more than our working con­versations), I was also able to show him several of the texts I had reworked, and which I had sometimes changed considerably, mainly in order to cut the repetitions involved in bringing them together and integrating them into the logic of the whole, and also to rid them of those stylistic infelicities and complexities which, whilst necessary or tolerable in publications intended for the academic world, were no longer appropriate in a book that had to be made as accessible as possible, especially to those it talked about, for whom it was primarily intended and to whom it was in a sense dedicated.

As I pursued my reading of these texts, some of which I knew well and some of which I was discovering for the first time, I could see the emergence of the exemplary figure of the committed scientist who, although weakened and hindered by illness, could still find the cour­age and strength needed to meet, to the end and in such a difficult domain, all the demands of the sociologist's profession. He was able to do so only because of his absolute commitment to his mission (not that he would have liked that big word) to investigate and bear witness. His commitment was based upon his active solidarity with those he was taking as his object. What may have looked like an obsession with work – even during his stays in hospital, he never stopped investigating and writing – was in fact a humble and total commitment to a career in public service, which he saw as a privilege and a duty (so much so that, in putting the final touches to this book, I had the feeling that I was not only fulfilling a duty to a friend but also making a small contribution to a lifetime's work devoted to the understanding of a tragically difficult and urgent problem).

This commitment, which was much deeper than any profession of political faith, was, I think, rooted in both a personal and an affective involvement in the existence and experience of immigrants. Having himself experienced both emigration and immigration, in which he was still involved thanks to a thousand ties of kinship and friendship, Abdelmalek Sayad was inspired by an impassioned desire to know and to understand. This was no doubt primarily a wish to understand and know himself, to understand where he himself stood, because he was in the impossible position of a foreigner who was both perfectly inte­grated and often completely inassimilable. As a foreigner, or in other words a member of that privileged category to which real immigrants will never have access and which can, in the best of cases, enjoy all the advantages that come from having two nationalities, two languages, two homelands and two cultures, and being driven by both emotional and intellectual concerns, he constantly sought to draw closer to the true immigrants, and to find, in the explanations that science allowed him to discover, the principle of a solidarity of the heart that became ever more complete as the years went by.

This solidarity with the most disadvantaged, which explains his formidable epistemological lucidity, allowed him to demolish and destroy in passing, and without seeming to touch upon them, many discourses and representations – both commonplace and learned –concerning immigrants. It allowed him to enter fully into the most complex of problems: that of the lies orchestrated by a collective bad faith, or that of the real illnesses of patients who have been cured in the medical sense, in the same way that he could enter a family or house he did not know as though he were a regular and considerate visitor who was immediately loved and respected. It allowed him to find the words, and the right tone, to speak of experiences that are as contradictory as the social conditions that produced them, and to analyse them by mobilizing both the theoretical resources of trad­itional Kabyle culture, as redefined by ethnological work (thanks to notions such as elghorba, or the opposition between thaymats and thadjjaddith), and the conceptual resources of an integrated research team from which he was able to obtain the most extraordinary findings about the most unexpected objects.

All these virtues, which the textbooks on methodology never discuss, his incomparable theoretical and technical sophistication, and his intimate knowledge of the Berber tradition and language, proved indispensable when it came to dealing with objects which, like the so-called problems of `immigration', cannot be left to the first person who comes along. Epistemological principles and methodological precepts are, in this case, of little help unless they can be based upon more profound discourses that are, to some extent, bound up with both experience and a social trajectory. And it is clear that there were many reasons why Abdelmalek Sayad could see from the outset what had escaped all other observers before him. Because analysts approach `immigration' – the word says it all – from the point of view of the host society, which looks at the `immigrant' problem only insofar as 'immi­grants' cause it problems, they in effect fail to ask themselves about the diversity of causes and reasons that may have determined the depart­ures and oriented the diversity of the trajectories. As a first step towards breaking with this unconscious ethnocentrism, he restores to 'immi­grants', who are also `emigrants', their origin and all the particularities that are associated with it. It is those particularities that explain many of the differences that can be seen in their later destinies. In an article published in 1975, in other words long before `immigration' became part of the public debate, he tore apart the veil of illusions that con­cealed the `immigrant' condition and dispelled the reassuring myth of the imported worker who, once he has accumulated his nest egg, will go back to his own country to make way for another worker. But above all, by looking closely at the tiniest and most intimate details of the condition of `immigrants', by taking us into the heart of the constituent contradictions of an impossible and inevitable life by evoking the innocent lies that help to reproduce illusions about the land of exile,

he paints with small touches a striking portrait of these `displaced persons' who have no appropriate place in social space and no set place in social classifications. In the hands of such an analyst, the immigrant functions as an extraordinary tool for analysing the most obscure regions of the unconscious.

Like Socrates as described by Plato, the immigrant is atopos, has no place, and is displaced and unclassifiable. The comparison is not simply intended to ennoble the immigrant by virtue of the reference. Neither citizen nor foreigner, not truly on the side of the Same nor really on the side of the Other, he exists within that `bastard' place, of which Plato also speaks, on the frontier between being and social non-being. Displaced, in the sense of being incongruous and inopportune, he is a source of embarrassment. The difficulty we have in thinking about him – even in science, which often reproduces, without realiz­ing it, the presuppositions`and omissions of the official vision – simply recreates the embarrassment created by his burdensome non-existence. Always in the wrong place, and now as out of place in his society of origin as he is in the host society, the immigrant obliges us to rethink completely the question of the legitimate foundations of citizenship and of relations between citizen and state, nation or nationality. Being absent both from his place of origin and his place of arrival, he forces us to rethink not only the instinctive rejection which, because it regards the state as an expression of the nation, justifies itself by claiming to base citizenship on a linguistic and cultural community (if not a racial community), but also the false assimilationist `generosity' which, convinced that the state, armed with education, can produce the nation, may conceal a chauvinism of the universal. The physical and moral sufferings he endures reveal to the attentive observer everything that native insertion into a nation and a state buries in the innermost depths of minds and bodies, in a quasi-natural state, or in other words far beyond the reach of con­sciousness. Thanks to experiences, which,`for those who can observe, describe and decipher them, are like so many experiments, he forces us to discover what Thomas Bernard calls the `state-controlled' thoughts and bodies that a very particular history has bequeathed us and which, despite all the humanist professions of faith, very often continue to prevent us from recognizing and respecting all the forms of the human condition.

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