Severed or Sustained Attachments? Language, Identity, and Imagined Communities in the Post-Immigrant Generation
The Changing Face of Home: The Transnational Lives of the Second Generation, pp. 43-95, Peggy Levitt, Mary C. Waters, eds., Russell Sage Foundation, 2002
28 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2002
The question that this book raises is whether and to what extent “transnational” attachments are sustained by the children of immigrants, particularly those born in the U.S. who lack the memories of their immigrant parents and a birth connection to the parental homeland. Where is home--or perhaps homes--for the second generation? Do they imagine themselves in multiple sites of belonging? Are they able to lead dual lives or to maintain dual frames of reference? Are they even interested? Or will they become merely curious visitors to their ancestral lands, incidental genealogists or accidental ethnics, largely indifferent to the transnational possibilities of the present age? After all, no matter how cheap and fast the travel or how advanced the communications technologies, motivated and resourceful actors are still required to avail themselves of those means of attachment and to pursue a meaningful transnational project of "dual lives." As is the case with the maintenance of a second language in the United States, so too may be the fate of transnationality in the "post-immigrant" new second generation: If you don't use it, you lose it. That is an open empirical question, and it is the question addressed here. The chapter is intended chiefly as an empirical contribution to this volume. It aims to do so in two ways. First, it seeks to specify in detail the size and composition—and definition—of what is loosely called the "second generation" in the United States, nationally and in metropolitan areas of principal settlement. And second, it seeks to assess whether attachments (both subjective and objective) to the parental homeland are severed or sustained into early adulthood among children of immigrant parents. A typology and an index of transnational attitudinal and behavioral attachments is developed, measured by subjective and objective indicators (remittances, visits to the homeland, perceptions of "home"). The analysis focuses on factors that either promote or undermine the maintenance of transnational ties over time in that post-immigrant generation.
Keywords: transnational ties, immigration, first and second generations, language, identity, social networks, meaning of home
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