Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian and Vietnamese Immigrants

Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian and Vietnamese Immigrants

Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian and Vietnamese Immigrants

Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian and Vietnamese Immigrants

Synopsis

For refugees and immigrants in the United States, expressions of citizenship and belonging emerge not only during the naturalization process, but also during more informal, everyday activities in the community. Based on research in the Dallas- Arlington- Fort Worth area of Texas, this book examines the sociocultural spaces in which Vietnamese and Indian immigrants are engaging with the wider civic sphere.

As Civic Engagements reveals, religious and ethnic organizations provide arenas in which immigrants develop their own ways of being and becoming "American." Skills honed at a meeting, festival, or banquet have resounding implications for the future political potential of these immigrant populations, both locally and nationally. Employing Lave and Wenger's concept of "communities of practice" as a framework, this book emphasizes the variety of processes by which new citizens acquire the civic and leadership skills that help them to move from peripheral positions to more central roles in American society.

Excerpt

On Sunday, January 2, 2005, two stories relevant to the topic of this book appeared in the Dallas Morning News. One, titled “From Saigon to the Texas House,” reported on the election of the first Vietnamese American legislator in Texas, Hubert Vo (Graszyk 2005). Vo was elected to the Texas House by a slim margin of only thirty-three votes to represent District 149 in Houston. He had arrived in the United States in 1975 as a refugee and moved from being a busboy, a cook, an assembly-line worker, and a goldsmith to being a computer company owner and real estate developer. the other story, titled “India Group Rallies to Help Its Devastated Homeland,” reported on a candlelight vigil sponsored by the India Association of North Texas for the victims of the December 26, 2004, tsunami (Langton 2005). At the event, $20,000 was raised, and plans were laid to collect much more within the coming months. But the story, with its subheading of “charity, culture at core of association aiming to raise $500,000,” also reported on a host of other service and cultural activities sponsored by this organization. “Our goal,” one official was quoted as saying, “is to keep the community from India involved.” These two stories, both of which appeared in the early stages of our research, illustrate the growing presence of new Asian immigrants in the public sphere. This presence is particularly noteworthy in Texas, a state associated most often with Latino immigration.

How do newcomers to the United States learn to become civically engaged? How is this process related to their understandings of what it means to be an American citizen? and where are the sociocultural spaces in which immigrants and their children can begin to participate in the wider public sphere? These . . .

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