Between Two Nations: The Political Predicament of Latinos in New York City

By Michael Jones-Correa | Go to book overview

10
Liminality and Democratic Citizenship

Immigration is often described as if it were a liminal experience, in which immigrants have to go through a kind of rite of passage to get to a goal on the other side.1 This liminality is usually seen from two very different perspectives. From that of the host country, immigration is a liminal condition leading eventually, but inevitably, to becoming American. From the point of view of the sojourner, immigration may be imagined as a rite of passage leading to a return to the home country with status and economic position secured. Both involve successful passage through the middle ground of the immigrant experience -- taking on a nebulous identity, and occupying a marginal position in society. But the immigration experience may in fact be neither of these. What if there is no other side to the liminal? Delayed or delaying, first-generation immigrants may find themselves trapped betwixt and between. Victor Turner, who developed the idea of liminality, foresaw this possibility; he called it a "marginal state," in which there is no assurance of resolving its inherent ambiguity.


Being In-between

This book argues that the lives of first-generation Latin American immigrants are characterized by this sense of marginality: they have ties to two nations, and are unwilling or unable to cut ties fully to either. A Colombian

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1
See Victor Turner ( 1974), particularly the essays "Social Dramas and Ritual Metaphors" and Pilgrimages as Social Progress. See also Turner 1969 and Norton 1988.

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