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The Immigrant Experience

This set of New York Times articles report on the experience of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, in the United States.  They portray the determination of people to “find a better life,” despite great hardships: discrimination, fear of being caught and deported, difficult working conditions and low wages, missing home and family “back home.” The children of immigrants – both those who came with parents, and those born here – have a particularly difficult experience, as they are often socialized in two cultures.

 

The assignment is to analyze the experience of immigrants from a sociological perspective using theories studied in the second part of this course, particularly theories from the micro or individual level. This includes the theories of Simmel, Mead, Du Bois, and Hill-Collins. While you may also use some of the theory from Marx, Weber or Durkheim, an individualist theoretical perspective must be part of your theoretical framework.

 

Here are some suggestions for orienting questions and theoretical frameworks for your analysis.

 

  1. Immigrants seem to fit Simmel’s conceptualization of “The Stranger.”  As well, Simmel’s theory of interaction, and its forms, provides a foundation for understanding why immigrants have difficulty becoming part of the “host” society. Analyze the immigrant experience according to Simmel’s conceptualization, and discuss the consequences both for the immigrant and the larger society he/she is now a member of.

 

  1. As well as being a “Stranger,” Mexican immigrants in the United States also seem to be separated from the larger host society by a “veil,” as conceptualized by W.E.B Du Bois. What constitutes this veil; why does it exist; what are the consequences for both the immigrants and the larger society they live and work in but which tries to keep them separate?

 

  1. Mead’s symbolic interaction theory of socialization and the development of self seem particularly useful in analyzing the plight of immigrant children. What is the impact of being socialized by two cultures (for example, the Mexican culture of their parents and the wider U.S. culture that they are growing up in), especially when the latter is often hostile to the former? How might a child of immigrants “self” develop when he or she encounters negative responses from the larger society?

 

  1. Feminist Theory contributes to understanding why and how the “host” society deals with and treats immigrants, especially those labeled “unwanted” and “illegal.” For example, feminist theory elaborates on Marx’s concept of “exploitation” to explain why and how dominant groups both take advantage of and mistreat subordinate groups. These perspectives might be particularly helpful in analyzing the contradictory stance on immigrants: relying on the necessary labor of immigrants, while paying them very low wages, affording no benefits, and in general treating them like criminals. Hill-Collins concept of the matrix of domination might also be useful in analyzing the condition of female immigrants.

 

  1. Any of the above theories and/or orienting questions can be combined for a sophisticated analysis.

 

These are suggestions. You may address them “as is,” modify and/or combine them, or come up with your own orienting question and theoretical framework.

 

Paper Organization

 

Introduction 

You should present your research question/problem and thesis statement at the beginning of your paper, in the introduction.  The introduction should also include a brief outline of the paper, including a statement about what theoretical framework you will be using and the analytic argument you will make.

 

Include a brief (no more than 1 page) discussion/description of the immigrant experience, and the social factors shaping it. This may come before or after, or even “mixed in” with the Introduction.

 

Theoretical Framework

There are various possible approaches; two main ones are:

  1. Use one theory for your analysis. Maybe you think Mead’s symbolic interaction theory explains most everything about the experience of immigrants.
  2. Generally, “real life” cannot be explained with one theory. Use various theories, maintaining theoretical logic, to construct your theoretical framework. For example, if you are looking analyzing the mistreatment of immigrants, you might start with a Conflict theory to set the social structural foundation, and then use Simmel’s concept of the Stranger to look at the more specific individual experience of immigrants.

 

Whichever way you put together your theoretical framework, you must present a thorough discussion of it. This includes stating why you think it is appropriate and what specific parts (concepts, processes, dynamics, etc.) of the theories are relevant. You must also define concepts used, and explain the theoretical logic (especially if you are combining theories). For example, Du Bois’ theory of double consciousness builds on Mead’s theory of the development of self through interaction, and helps explain why immigrants feel inferior in the U.S.

 

Analysis

The analysis of the sociological issues of immigration, your specific research question, and the information you use from the articles will be based on applying the theoretical framework you have developed. A strong analysis will not only be based on the theoretical logic in general, but will be conceptually specific. For example: If you are using Simmel’s concept of the Stranger, specify who is the stranger is, and why (difference, not born here, etc.). The analysis will also be specific in terms of both the theory and the information from the articles.

 

  • Avoid vague statements of either theory or evidence.
  • Remember that quotes don’t speak for themselves, they must be interpreted and/or their relevance to your argument must be made explicit.
  • Do not editorialize in your analysis
  • Use and refer (and citation) to at least three NYT articles in your analysis. Remember to cite theory readings.

 

Conclusion

Your conclusion may consists of several things: a summary of your argument; a statement about how the particular theories or concepts are useful for analyzing the problems individuals and communities confront with immigration; your opinion (based on the analysis); or larger social issues that your analysis of immigration implicates. These are only suggestions.

 

Style Guidelines/Mechanics for Paper

  1. Any recognized academic style is fine, as long as consistency is maintained including citations, foot or endnotes, bibliography or reference page.
  2. Font size: 12
  3. Double spaced
  4. Length: 6-10 pages
  5. Bibliography/Reference page required but not included as part of this length.
  6. Citations. Any work or author mentioned must be cited including name, year of publication, page number (especially if quoting, see below #8).

For example (Brown, 1997, pp.23-25)

  1. Websites must be cited (however, use of websites is discouraged and I will check for plagiarism).
  2. Refer to style manuals if unclear about citations, or other style issues
  3. Quotations: you may use quotes from either the newspaper articles or readings. These should be rather short quotes, and must include the appropriate citation. I encourage quotes, as they can be very good support for analysis and argument; however, no more than three or four quotes should be used.
  4. Paper must have either Bibliography (includes full citations of all works used in paper), or Reference page (includes full citations of works/authors mentioned in paper).
  5. Pages must be numbered.
  6. Title page: with paper title, name, course name
  7.  Check for typos, misspellings, incomplete sentences and improper grammar. I will deduct points for these. All word processing programs contain a spelling and grammar check, so there is no excuse
  8.  Edit paper. Do not turn in first draft. Read, edit, and revise as needed.

 

Use of the UHD Writing Center is encouraged. Since it is the end of the semester, an appointment might be necessary. If you staple your WC visit slip to your paper, you will receive extra credit points.

 

Any form of plagiarism will result in course failure (F) and will go on your academic record. Please see below for information on plagiarism. Please refer to Academic Honesty Policy (PS 03.A.19) in the UHD Student Handbook for information on consequences of cheating and plagiarism