Community, Immigration, and the Construction of Citizenship I
Funded by National Science Foundation (2002-2005)
Grant holder: Lynn Staeheli (University of Colorado at Boulder) (with Caroline Nagel)
Does citizenship matter in an era of globalization? With the rise of identity politics, do people think of themselves as citizens and as members of an inclusive political community or public? Do complex patterns of mobility and new technologies shape ideas of community and citizenship? Do they create new geographies of community and citizenship? Citizenship is commonly conceived as the formal relationship between an individual and a state that delineates the rights and responsibilities of each to the other. The rights and responsibilities of citizenship are likely to vary between states and to reflect an accumulation of constitutional provisions, legislation, court rulings, and political practices that may not be codified in law. In this sense, citizenship is neither fixed nor static; it is the focus of continuous negotiation.
Central to many of the negotiations over citizenship are questions of who can be a citizen and under what conditions an individual should be granted citizenship. These questions may involve legal matters such as those involved in naturalization procedures, but they often speak to more profound – in ideological and emotional senses – questions of integration, incorporation, and membership in a political community. In short, citizenship rests not simply on a set of legal institutions, but also on a sense of membership rooted in notions of shared identity and common purpose that are recognized individually and collectively (Turner, 1990; Shklar, 1991; Baechler, 1993). Sometimes the differences between these ideas are framed in terms of de jure and de facto or in terms of formal and substantive citizenship. The tension between these meanings of citizenship is one reason for the political conflicts over immigration seen in the US and UK.
A second element of the debate over citizenship and membership addresses the role of the nation-state in structuring citizenship. Practically speaking, the nation-state stands for the community in which membership is evaluated (Bauböck, 1994; Lister, 1997). For example, citizenship laws often assess membership based on length of time that a person has lived in a nation-state (not a locality) or on birth within the territory governed by the nation-state. But the intensification of transnational flows of capital and people, as well as the creation of international regimes of governance, has destabilized the assumed congruence between citizenship and membership in the community delimited by the nation-state. Specifically, these flows challenge the conceptualization of citizenship as a status conferred through membership in a single polity formalized in the nation-state. These trends include:
Compounding the issue are other trends that also seem to indicate a reduced importance for the nation-state as the community on which citizenship claims are based. These trends include:
Such trends have been the impetus for new debates about the connection between membership and citizenship. For some theorists and cultural commentators, these trends indicate that the relationship between citizenship, membership, and territory has been disrupted by globalization and transnational forces (Soysal, 1994; Spinner, 1994; Held, 1995; Jacobson, 1996; Barber, 1998; Ong, 1999). The diverse arguments put forward by such scholars are often normative, and are not based on systematic empirical analysis.
The research proposed here is an investigation of the ways in which individuals who are members of multiple communities understand and practice citizenship. Through this investigation, we hope to move away from abstract debates to consider citizenship and membership as practices, experiences, and meanings articulated and acted upon by individuals and social groups. Our strategy involves intensive interviews and focus groups with people who actively negotiate their citizenship and membership. Given the current emphasis on globalization, transnationalism, and migration in re-shaping communities and citizenship, we will focus on immigrants1 and their adult offspring.
Questions of incorporation and integration are particularly salient for immigrants. One could easily anticipate that some of these issues would take on less importance for the second generation, implying that it is the simple fact of migration and dislocation that calls into question the connections between identity, membership and citizenship. Rather than assume this is the case, we explore whether the experience of being an ‘outsider’ changes the meaning of citizenship across the generations, especially when legal status has been regularized. And while attending to questions of citizenship and membership, we recognize that institutions and contexts are important, particularly as they relate to the conditions under which immigrants enter and are incorporated into a receiving society. We therefore propose case studies within the US and the UK, which will allow us to evaluate the role of institutions and context in shaping citizenship and membership.
We anticipate important theoretical and tangible advances from this research. First, if membership is decoupled from citizenship, then a radical rethinking of citizenship becomes necessary—one that does not overlook structural inequalities in the effort to imagine an ideal citizenship. Second, rather than assuming citizenship is vested at a single scale (e.g. the nation-state, the ‘transnational’, or the local), we examine the ways in which economic, political and social processes operating at different scales re-create the opportunity structure provided by citizenship. This has implications for the lives of immigrants and non-immigrants. Finally, we seek to build a theoretical framework that moves beyond legal structures and that considers the agency of individuals and social groups in constructing citizenship.
Citizenship: Institutions, Communities, and Membership
As we have argued, the most basic definitions of citizenship conceptualize it as a formal relationship between an individual and a state. But beneath that formal relationship are complex interactions between communities and institutions that give rise to the particular practices of citizenship found in places, that shape an individual’s ability to act as a citizen, and that give meaning to citizenship.
Institutions, Structures, and the Experience of Citizenship
If citizenship delineates the rights and responsibilities of individuals and states, then it is the institutions of states that regulate citizenship. These regulations address issues as to who is a citizen, the conditions under which citizenship may be extended, the ways in which individuals should act as citizens, and the state procedures under which rights and mutual responsibilities are met. Many of these rules operate at the national level, particularly as the rules apply to the formal, or procedural aspects of citizenship, and so liberal theories of citizenship tend to an emphasis on the rights of citizenship as defined and defended by nation-states. These rights and procedures, however, are not fixed, but are continuously changing in response to new laws, judicial rulings, and societal conditions (Clark & Dear, 1984; Clark, 1985; Mitchell, 1997). Three changes are particularly important in the context of globalization; these changes both challenge the assumption of the primacy of the nation-state with regard to the regulation of citizenship and draw attention to institutions that operate at different scales as they may shape the experience of citizenship.
First, the discourse of human rights challenges the idea that rights are somehow national or should be contingently defined on the basis of discrete national origins. The rise of international human rights regimes and supranational governance structures hold signatory states responsible for upholding internationally-defined norms, even when they may be in conflict with laws of the signatory states (Falk, 1995; Lister, 1997; Meyer et al., 1997; Prügl & Meyer, 1999). Second, transnational migration has created a situation in which noncitizens constitute a large portion of the population of many countries. In some countries, noncitizens may apply for citizenship, but in others, obtaining citizenship is difficult (Hammar, 1990; Layton-Henry, 1990; Soysal, 1994; Leitner, 1997). The challenge posed by this situation is practical and normative. The nation-state constructs a citizenship that is exclusive at its very core (Shklar, 1991; Held, 1995; McGrew, 1997), but transnational migration exacerbates this issue. It is a fundamental problem when democracies include large numbers of residents who either cannot or will not become citizens, raising questions of representation, participation and legitimacy (Brubaker, 1989) and leading some to call for a transnational regime to regulate citizenship (Bauböck, 1994). Third, new technologies allow migrants to participate as citizens in the countries from which they moved (Wright, 1997; Calhoun, 1998; Staeheli, et al., 2000). Some states actively encourage the participation of expatriates in their political system as a way of fostering linkages that may extend to other acts – such as the sending of remittances (Basch, et al., 1994; Wright, 1997; Glick Schiller & Fouron, 1998). But to the extent that these technologies decouple citizenship from the territory in which individuals live, they also reconfigure the relationship between individuals, states, and institutions in the regulation of citizenship. This is perhaps most clear in the rise of dual citizenship. Castles & Davidson (2000) argue that this a pragmatic response to the difficulties faced by immigrants who seek to maintain ties with their country of origin, even as they build lives and become incorporated into their new country. It is also a response that calls into question the assumption of most procedural theories of citizenship that either overlook the territorial basis of national citizenship or that assume that the institutions that regulate citizenship for individuals are those of the territorial state within which an individual lives (Bauböck, 1994).
These trends associated with globalization challenge the idea that citizenship is constructed through a single nation-state by highlighting changes that occur beyond, or perhaps above, the bounds of the state. But there are also changes associated with globalization that increase the significance of institutions at the sub-national scale as these shape the experience of citizenship. Holston & Appadurai (1999) argue that globalization has driven a wedge between cities and nation-states that bypass structures and institutions of nation-states in important ways (see also Swyngedouw, 1989; Preteceille, 1990; Cox, 1997; Clarke & Gaile, 1998; Sassen, 1999). In particular, cities take on an increasingly important role in terms of the substantive elements of citizenship – the material and ideological conditions in a society that enable people to function with some degree of autonomy, to formulate political ideas, and to act on those ideas (Magnusson, 1996). These conditions are shaped at a variety of scales, but may be experienced most directly at the local level. Recent moves toward state devolution in the United States and United Kingdom contribute to the rescaling of citizenship (see contributions in Staeheli, Kodras, & Flint, 1997). It is at the local scale, for example, that the social capital that enables individuals to act as citizens is said to be generated (Putnam, 1993; Sandel, 1996). In response to these changes, social movements in many cities attempt to redefine citizenship in new terms that draw on both the local and the global (Guarnizo & Smith, 1998). This is precisely the sort of interaction between globalization processes and territorially rooted institutions that creates a new, scalar political opportunity structure for citizenship (Staeheli, 1999).
Community, Membership and Citizenship
Citizenship depends centrally on ideas of community and membership. It is hard to imagine the very impassioned responses to proposals that would extend citizenship if citizenship were simply about voting, paying taxes, and jury duty. Citizenship is also about the position of individuals with respect to community (Shklar, 1991; Sandel, 1996; Staeheli, 1997; Barber, 1998). In its basic form, community is held to link individuals to a social collectivity. In this sense, community is a social ordering, but an ordering without substantive content, meaning or space. As Post (1993, p. 167) argues, it is "…a form of social organization that strives to establish an essential reciprocity between individual and social identity." When the social collectivity takes a political content, the form of community is the polity and the social identity is that of citizen (Baechler, 1993). Because community plays a central role in creating social identities as citizens and as members, it is also held to be central in the formation of the polity, of nations, and democratic states.
The community of citizens, however, is not necessarily, or ideally, based on shared characteristics, such as identity. Baechler (1993), for example, argues that communities are collections of individuals who are linked in order to attain a common goal. Individuality may be destabilized through community or, as in some communitarian arguments, may even dissolve (Etzioni, 1993; Sandel, 1996). Individuals, then, often face dilemmas as they attempt to balance or weigh individual and community goals (Lichterman, 1996). But against that destabilization is a collectivity based on shared understanding, history, and goals that are critical to the functioning of a democratic polity and state (Goulding, 1993; Post, 1993).
If a community of citizens is not based on common characteristics, then how do these shared understandings and history develop? Many commentators have argued that it is based on place. Benjamin Barber (1998, p. 6), for example, argues that place is where "you and me as we gather into active we’s." Similarly, Kemmis (1990) argues that place-based community is where we learn the habit of living together to develop a sense of being one. And Miller (1992) writes of the "locally routinized practices" that build community and shared understandings. Together, these authors imply that place is important in providing a stage or setting in which identities as citizens can be developed. There is something about living together, working together, becoming integrated that helps to shape a common identity that moves away from particularized identities based on ethnicity, class, or gender. The result is ideally a pluralistic community in which individuals are situated. It is, Van Den Abbuli (1991) writes, as though individuals are situated within a network of loose ends, but with something in common.
These notions of community, membership, and citizenship are widely criticized. First, these ideas seem to ignore the power relations that position individuals and social groups in ways that violate norms of equality. The reliance on idealized notions of community – even on a non-totalizing form of community such as that suggested by a "community of loose ends" – serves to mask the power relations that deny citizenship to certain social groups or that sustain inequality (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985; Shklar, 1991; Fraser, 1990; Benhabib, 1996; Brown, 1997; Staeheli, 1999). These power relations also limit the access of groups to the very institutions of daily life in which sharing is likely to occur and in which understanding might be developed (Pateman, 1989; Marston, 1990; Fraser, 1990; Staeheli & Clarke, 1994; Staeheli & Cope, 1994).
Second, there is a tension between the idealized notion of community that underlies citizenship and the institutional processes by which citizenship is extended. Liberal and republican theories of citizenship hold that rights and responsibilities are borne by individuals, but the political reality is that citizenship is extended to social groups. When nation-states set the rules of entry to citizenship, for example as with women’s suffrage, the debate is about the characteristics of the group, not about individuals. As such, perceptions about group members as potential members of a community of citizens are important (e.g., Pateman, 1989; Marston, 1990; Mouffe, 1992; Brown, 1997). These issues are compounded for immigrants who may not share the cultural, racial or social characteristics of the societies into which they have moved. Further, institutions that are intended to facilitate integration often continue to mark immigrants as outsiders. In Bradford, UK, for example, a recent report on race relations talked explicitly about racial and ethnic communities in the context of citizenship. The report recommended "citizenship education" that would create pride in the diverse communities present in the city (Dodd, 2001). There is not an attempt to build a British citizenship, as that was implicated as part of the cause of recent racial tensions in the city, including the rise of nationalist and xenophobic groups. Rather, the authors believed that ideas of national citizenship would reinforce the racist attitudes that permeated the city. Their idea of citizenship through diverse communities in the city would ultimately be more inclusive than a notion of citizenship based on a single community in which it would not be possible for all residents of the city to be members.
The example above points to the final debate about citizenship and community membership, a debate that is focused on the connections between place and community. The Bradford report called for an urban citizenship and invoked ideas of community that can be built in place, through locally lived lives. But at the same time, daily life seems increasingly detached from place – or at least it has the potential to be. Ideas of a "cosmopolitan citizenship" are based on recognition of the heightened mobility of individuals and on the ability to build and sustain communities that are not territorially rooted (Held, 1993). Cosmopolitan citizenship would recognize the rights of citizenship regardless of where people live, and in so doing, would divorce citizenship from the nation-state or any territorially-based institution (Held, 1995; Drainville, 1998). The difficulty, of course, is in imagining the institutions that would regulate such citizenship and would guarantee rights, leading to what Balibar (1999) has termed a "logical enigma".
Communications and information technologies (CITs) offer an ability to sustain cosmopolitanism and communities without propinquity beyond that imagined by Webber (1963); this, in turn, has implications for the connections between citizenship, community, and territory. While some commentators have celebrated the potential proffered by CITs to reinvigorate community (Rheingold, 1993; Schuler, 1996) and democracy (Elkins, 1995; Sclove, 1995), others have been more skeptical about the kinds of communities and democracies they may foster (Loader, 1997; Calhoun, 1998; Vandenberg, 2000; see also Graham & Martin, 1996; Dodge & Kitchin, 2001). For example, Robins (1995) and Morely and Robins (1995) argue that these new communities are in some ways divorced from place and from broader social contexts in which the community may be challenged. Their argument is supported by the kinds of listings or postings of political information tracked by Warf and Grimes (1997), in which there appears to have been a proliferation of claims based on identity politics. Missing from their counts are the broad appeals and efforts at community construction that technology enthusiasts anticipated. Similarly, the identity claims are those of "categorical political identities" rather than identities as citizens (Calhoun, 1998). And some of the uses of community building on the Internet are outright exclusionary, as seen with militia and hate groups that use the Internet in organizing (Zook, 1996; Warf & Grimes, 1997). Further complicating the debate are those who argue that CITs may allow greater connection to place, but that they simultaneously allow connections to more than one place (e.g., Vandenberg, 2000). Thus, it becomes easier for immigrants to maintain connections with their hometowns and to participate as members of two communities in two locations (Smith, 1998). Taken together, these debates suggest that identification as a community member may be enhanced, but in ways that disrupt the assumed linkages between community membership, territory, and citizenship through the recognition of the scales at which community and citizenship operate.
To briefly summarize, common conceptualizations of citizenship are challenged in different ways. Empirical trends, including the intensification of transnational flows of people and the growing presence of denizens, dual citizens, and non-citizens in many national contexts, call into question the ideal of the nation-state as a ‘container’ of citizenship. Relatedly, the emergence of an international human rights regime on the one hand, and the devolution of state power to localities on the other, emphasizes that citizenship may be structured, practiced, and experienced at multiple scales. And finally, the varying social positions of groups and individuals belie idealized notions of community and challenge the presumed one-to-one relationship between community and citizenship. These arguments raise the possibility of new forms (and ideals) of citizenship that disrupt the assumed linkages between community membership, territory, and citizenship.
Migration, Integration, and Community
While the disjunctures between citizenship, community and territory are relevant to all individuals in a given society, they are perhaps most salient, as suggested above, with respect to immigrants. First, debates surrounding immigration highlight the tensions between citizenship and membership and reveal the exclusionary character of community (Anthias & Yuval-Davis, 1992; Blackstone, et al., 1998; Piper, 1998). Immigrants are incorporated collectively and individually into a host society – they are inserted into an local context that is mediated and regulated by the institutional structures, legal systems, labor markets, social service networks (Layton-Henry, 1990; Soysal, 1994; Castles & Miller, 1999). Incorporation, in turn, is shaped and mediated by the prevailing models and discourses of membership and integration that circulate in the host society (Zolberg & Woon, 1999). In the United States, for instance, the dominant discourse of integration has been ‘assimilation’: immigrants have been deemed acceptable or unacceptable to the polity by virtue of their alleged similarity vis-à-vis the ‘mainstream’ and their willingness or ability to shed markers of difference (Portes & Zhou, 1993; M. Jacobson, 1998; Waldinger & Perlmann, 1998). Yet some immigrants are viewed as being more capable of assimilation on the basis of ‘race’, religion, or other signifiers (Kim, 1999). Consequently, the experience and practice of citizenship in a substantive sense becomes highly uneven, with some groups more advantaged than others in the institutions and social systems of the host society.
The multicultural discourses in the US and UK have changed the relationship between community membership and incorporation by affirming, to varying degrees, cultural differences. But because some manifestations of cultural difference are viewed as more or less appropriate than others, the experience of citizenship remains uneven (Modood, 1994). Multiculturalism has not eliminated the exclusionary basis of citizenship despite its best intentions, but rather has altered the discursive and institutional contexts in which inclusion and exclusion are negotiated (Anthias & Yuval-Davis, 1992). Discourses of integration, such as multiculturalism and assimilation, and the practices attached to them, are an important means by which to understand the relationship between membership and citizenship (M. Jacobson, 1998; Kobayashi, 2000).
Second, as recent discussions of transnationalism indicate, migrants and migration are at the center of the global processes that appear to alter the basis of citizenship. Many empirical studies point to the maintenance of linkages between immigrants and their sending societies, facilitated by communication and transportation technologies (Lessinger, 1992; Rouse, 1992; Smith, 1998). At a basic level, migrants’ membership in multiple communities challenges traditional conceptions of citizenship as rooted in single, territorially-bound political community (Appadurai, 1991; Basch et al, 1994; Mandaville, 1999). Many migrants, for instance, enjoy full or partial legal and political rights or even formal citizenship in one state while identifying with and cultivating political, economic, and social links with another (Brubaker, 1989; Hammar, 1990). Others, in contrast, remain so marginalized within the receiving context as to have little opportunity to exercise legal rights, much less to socially integrate (O’Loughlin & Friedrichs, 1996; Castles & Davidson, 2000). While transnational practices are often pointed to as evidence of rootlessness or a deterritorialized existence (Appadurai, 1991), we argue these practices are evidence of the complicated geographies of community and citizenship. In these geographies, it is possible that more than one place and more than one community may structure the opportunities of individuals to attain citizenship in both de jure and de facto senses.
Contemporary immigration, then, highlights the complex relationship between citizenship, community membership, and territory. In building this argument, we have focused on three conditions that shape identities as citizens and community members.
The combination of these three conditions highlights the tension that may exist between citizenship, community, and place. They suggest the possibility that citizenship and membership may be multiple and thereby, not necessarily congruent with the places in which people live. This also suggests that identity and the experience of citizenship are not simply regulated by the country in which an individual holds legal citizenship.
We have also argued that the issues of identity and the ways in which individuals understand citizenship and community membership have not been subject to sustained empirical analysis from the perspective of immigrants. The research proposed here intends to fill this void. Our exploration of these questions will be focused on immigrants who are involved with Arab-American and British-Arab organizations. The logic we follow in focusing on these groups is described in the Research Design. Our exploration will be organized around 5 sets of questions that are raised by these issues:
In preparation for this proposal, we conducted two pilot studies. The first was a survey of web-sites located in the US that addressed immigration issues and political activism. This study analyzed the web-sites in terms of their content, sponsoring organization, intended audience, issues addressed and goals to be advanced (see Staeheli, et al., 2000). The second pilot study involved in-depth interviews with leaders of seven Arab-identified organizations in the San Francisco area. This study was used to pre-test some of our questions and to evaluate the best ways to identify Arab-identified residents who were not leaders of organizations.
Based on the pilot studies, we anticipate that Arab immigrants want to maintain connections with communities in the places from which they moved, but that they also seek incorporation into communities in the United States and United Kingdom. Immigrants are attached to both the homes and places from which they moved and the homes and places in which they currently live. Their identification is neither national, nor transnational, but a blended, hybrid identification. CITs were important in creating and sustaining these attachments and identities, but perhaps not in the way anticipated by some technology enthusiasts. The Internet in particular was useful in maintaining contact with people in the country from which our respondents had moved, but its primary importance seemed to be in reaching a local, US or UK based community of Arab immigrants. More generally, the Internet was used in mobilizing action and in building community in the host country far more often than in the sending country. None of this is very surprising, perhaps, but as we indicated, it suggests something quite different than the utopian thinking of technology enthusiasts and the less empirical writing on immigration and diasporic communities.
We also asked about the conditions in the localities in which immigrants lived and the ways these shaped identities. Here the answers are even more complex, pointing to the multiple conditions in the receiving context that shaped their activism, their identification as Americans, as Arabs, and as members of the society from which they moved. Our respondents wanted to be incorporated into both social and political communities in the host society, even as they retained their identification with their Arab origins. The implications of this for the conceptualization of citizenship and membership is profound, because much of the political theory surrounding citizenship implies that identification with a single political community is a prerequisite of citizenship.
The relationship between community and citizenship is often conceptualized in a way that is consistent with Figure 1. Cells 1 and 4 are "understandable" in common ways of thinking about the relationship between citizenship and community; one is either a citizen and a member of the community or one is neither.
Figure 1: "Conventional" matrix of community and citizenship
Figure 2 expands the matrix in ways that are more reflective of the experiences and perceptions of the people in our pilot study.2 Focusing on their perceptions, rather than just their legal standing, respondents could be "placed" in any of the cells. Respondents we would locate in Cells 1 –3 express alienation from the legal aspects of citizenship, but may still attach meaning to community (Cells 2 and 3). Respondents in Cells 4 and 7 identify citizenship as a legal category, but feel alienated from community. To some degree, these attitudes are consistent with variants of republican and liberal theories of citizenship that prioritize either the importance of community or procedures in guaranteeing rights.
Figure 2: Expanded matrix of community and citizenship
From our perspective, the most interesting – and theoretically challenging – respondents are those whose answers are consistent with Cells 8 and 9. These respondents did not conform to conventional ways of thinking about community membership and citizenship; further, they expressed a different spatiality in their comments. The respondent who held and felt multiple citizenships but identified as a member of one community maintained some element of a "transnational" life, in that he lived in the US, but felt Palestinian. His identification was not as American or as a member of his local community; citizenship to him was largely a matter of a passport and some measure of political rights. It would be easy to argue that his response degrades the concept of citizenship (Schuck, 1989), but that normative argument denies the discrimination this man felt and the exclusion from American society that he experienced. Understanding that exclusion is a necessary step in enriching both citizenship and community life. Furthermore, as a citizen of the US, his voice and experiences must contribute to the way we understand citizenship.
More common were those respondents whose answers indicated a feeling of membership in multiple communities and multiple citizenships. Again, these were people who maintained transnational ties, but in contrast to the man discussed above, felt firmly grounded in the US and US society. Acknowledging our small sample, it was significant that these people talked about the importance of community and belonging, and indicated that this was important to citizenship. Yet they did not feel a "problem" with multiple communities and multiple citizenships. They noted that community and citizenship were shaped in many places and by many governments (N.B., this is as close to a comment about scale as one would expect a non-academic to make). To the extent that immigrants imagine a citizenship that does not involve a renunciation of other identifications or communities, it is a conceptualization of citizenship that diverges dramatically from the conceptualization of citizenship in the mainstream of political theory and of US and British society.
Empirical Focus: Arab-American and British Arab Activists
This research focuses empirically on leaders of and participants in Arab-American and British Arab organizations. Arab-Americans and British Arabs refer to individuals who trace their origins to the Arabic-speaking countries of Southwest Asia and North Africa. Arab settlement in both the US and the UK dates from the mid-19th century (Orfalea, 1988; Halliday, 1992; Nielsen, 1995). Since the 1960s the US and the UK have experienced significant growth of their Arab-origin populations as a result both of changing immigration policies and of political-economic crises in Arab states. Although Arabs are not recognized as an official ethnic or ‘racial’ category in either the US or the UK, population estimates from the census and other sources suggest there are about 3 million people of Arab origin in the US and approximately 200,000 in the UK (Bureau of the Census, 2001; AAI, 2001; Al Rasheed, 1996). The majority of contemporary Arab immigrants are Muslim, although in the US, the Arab-origin population overall is about two-thirds Christian due to early waves of Lebanese immigrants (AAI, 2001).
Most of the growth of Arab immigrant populations has resulted from in-flows of skilled professionals and post-graduate students, especially in computer science, engineering, and medicine. In Britain, as well, an important draw for skilled migrants has been London’s sizeable sector of Arab banks and businesses and Arabic-language newspapers and satellite broadcasters (Alterman, 1998). Estimates from the 1991 British census suggest that the proportion of the Arab population with university qualifications is double that for the population as a whole (26 per cent versus 13.4 per cent); and the proportion of those qualified who hold advanced degrees is more than double that of the total population (16.6 per cent versus 7 per cent). Both Arab men and women have over three times the representation in white-collar jobs as the ‘white’ population (Al Rasheed 1996). Likewise, in the US, 1990 census data show that Arab-Americans are more highly educated than the population at large, with 36 percent holding bachelor degrees (compared with 20 percent in US population as a whole), and about 15 percent with post-graduate degrees. High levels of education translate into higher incomes: mean income of Arab-Americans is about 23 percent higher than the population at large. Arab-Americans also claim the highest per capita ownership of business of any ethnic group in America (AAI, 2001).
There are, however, disadvantaged segments in Arab immigrant populations. Britain’s Moroccan and Yemeni communities, for instance, are mainly working class and are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods of London and Sheffield. Recent flows of refugees have added to lower-income populations of British Arabs and Arab-Americans. Overall, almost 11 percent of Arab-Americans live under the poverty line, and in parts of Detroit and Los Angeles, Arab-Americans earn significantly under the median income (US Census, 1990).
Arab-Americans and British Arabs embody the tension between formal citizenship and membership. Arab immigrants are able to secure formal citizenship with relative ease, but Arabness has been consistently marginal to notions of community and membership in both British and US societies (Nagel, 2001; S. Joseph, 1999; Moore, 1999). More generally, Arabness (and Islam) has been constructed as inimical to the West and to Anglo-American ideals of community (Said, 1978). And because many Arab immigrants come from countries that have had strained relationships with the US and the UK, they are often targeted by anti-terrorist laws and by ‘profiling’ measures (Zogby, 1998). Arab-Americans have gained some recognition in recent years as a legitimate ‘ethnic voting bloc’ (Economist, 2000; Paulson, 2000; Cho, 2001). But the nascent Arab lobby has been hindered in part by negative meanings attached to Arabness and the perception of Arabs as anti-American. Because of the negative stereotypes associated with Arabness, however, many Arab-Americans and British Arabs of both Christian and Muslim backgrounds pursue organizational efforts that revolve around Arab identities.
Our proposed study of Arab-Americans and British Arabs focuses on Arab-identified organizations operating from the US and UK. We intend to target a wide range of organizations, including those that may not consider themselves ‘political’ or ‘activist’. The study will cover national-level lobbying groups, foreign policy activist groups, social service providers in Arab-origin communities, social-cultural clubs, village societies, and Arab student associations. The reason for targeting organizations is, first, that they provide an easily identifiable pool of people who claim Arab origins. It is not feasible to locate individuals of Arab origins through random sampling techniques, because many Arabic (and especially Islamic-Arabic) surnames are found among many non-Arab groups, and because some Arab-origins families ‘Americanize’ or ‘Anglicize’ surnames. Moreover, given that many Arab-Americans have voiced their displeasure at being targeted and profiled, we feel that attempts to randomly identify potential study participants would be insensitive and counter-productive. Meeting with organizations gives us more opportunity to explain our goals and interests and to develop relationships of trust. A second reason for focusing on organizations is that leaders and members of such groups are often actively negotiating issues of community, membership, and citizenship. These issues, of course, are important to people outside of organizations, but they are perhaps more salient and more explicitly discussed in organizations. The questions we intend to ask are difficult, and not questions that most people think of on a daily basis. By intentionally selecting people who we suspect do think about them, we hope to obtain a rich set of responses.
We recognize that in limiting our study to organizations, we will be excluding many voices in the Arab-American and British Arab populations—especially those who do not wish to identify themselves as Arab. While we cannot eliminate this bias, we will attempt to counteract it by interviewing rank-and-file members as well as organizational leaders. By identifying people with a range of involvement in organizations, we will be able to capture some of the diversity of viewpoints that exist in the population. Moreover, as we will be examining many different types of organizations with different membership bases, we will further vary the range of viewpoints among study participants.
In order to evaluate the significance of institutional structures and local contexts, we propose fieldwork in six cities and in two countries. By conducting case studies in two national contexts, it is our aim to understand the different ways in which institutions and discourses of community and integration interact to shape the experiences and practices of citizenship and membership on the part of immigrants. Britain and the US are comparable in many respects. Both have long-standing and often tense relationships with the Arab World that color current perceptions and understandings of Arabness in the media, political institutions, and the popular imagination. Further, they have similar incorporation regimes, in that immigrant policy is concerned more with enacting anti-discrimination codes than with implementing aggressive integration programs, and local authorities and voluntary associations, rather than the central state, are most directly responsible for immigrant welfare (Soysal, 1994). But there are important differences in the articulation of community in the US and the UK. The US has traditionally viewed itself as a country of immigrants. And even as immigration history reveals the discriminatory basis of American conceptions of societal membership, the myth of the ‘melting pot’ and notions of assimilation remain important public narratives (Gordon, 1964; Goldberg, 1992; M. Jacobson, 1998). Britain, in contrast, has not traditionally viewed itself as an immigrant country despite a long history of immigration (Spencer, 1997). ‘Multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity’ have only recently entered into the social lexicon of Britain, and these fit uneasily with conceptions of nationhood developed largely during the age of imperialism (Lunn, 1996; Gilroy, 1987). It is by examining these differences that we will gain a better understanding of the ways in which contrasting narratives and models of integration shape both the regulation of citizenship and the practice and perception of citizenship among immigrants.
The six cities we have selected will allow us to explore a range of Arab immigrant communities and their interactions with locally-based institutional structures. These cities and the key features of their Arab-origin populations are summarized below:
* Sources: AAI, 2001; Bureau of the Census, 2001, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, 1991.
Data Collection and Preparation
Our assessment of the ways in which citizenship is constructed and experienced by immigrants relies on five types of information: 1) contextual information for the US, UK, and the six cities related to the institutional structures that regulate citizenship and the integration of immigrants and the non-institutional structures that shape immigrant incorporation; 2) a census of Arab-identified organizations in the US and UK; 3) information from web-sites of Arab organizations located in our 6 field cities; 4) in-depth interviews with leaders of Arab organizations in each of the cities (which intentionally includes the national capitals); 5) focus groups with regular members of the organizations. The analysis strategy is to layer our understanding of the spatiality and experience of citizenship and community as we progress through each form of data collected.
Step 1: We will compile contextual information as this information relates to citizenship and immigrant incorporation. Specifically, we collect information related to:
This information will be collected from governmental sources (INS, Census, local governments), national organizations related to Arab immigrants, and searches of public documents and newspapers. Because it is possible that incorporation in the host country will be affected by conditions the source country, we will also collect documentary information about the rights of emigrants in the source countries, efforts of the source state to maintain ties, and the patterns of interaction between migrants and their source countries.
Step 2: We will compile a census of Arab-American and British Arab organizations and their web-sites. This will be conducted using organizational lists (such as the Arab-American Almanac, 2000), Internet searches, and other data services. Organizations will be characterized according to their mission, the services and activities provided, membership rules, communication tools, and location. Organizations will be mapped to confirm our initial findings that there are concentrations of Arab-identified organizations in our six field sites. This step of the research is in progress.
Step 3: Taking the list compiled in Step 2 as a base, we will construct a database of web-sites associated with Arab immigrant organizations. Information in this database includes:
Work on this step is also in progress.
Step 4: Again taking the list compiled in Step 2 as a base, we will conduct in-depth interviews with leaders of organizations located in each of our field cities. By including the national capitals of the US and UK as field sites, we will also be able to include branch chapters and national offices of organizations that have a federated structure, such as the Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee. Particular care will be taken to ensure that we have a wide variety of types of groups so that we do not inadvertently introduce a class and/or gender bias that would not be reflective of Arab immigrant populations within each city. The interview addresses information related to:
Interviews will be taped, transcribed, and coded for key phrases and themes. The questions for this part of the study have been pretested. Across the six cities, we anticipate 100 interviews.
As the interviews are completed, we will return to our coding of web-sites in the database to check our records against the information provided by group leaders. When inconsistencies are identified, we will check with leaders or the web-manager of the organization to attempt a resolution.
Step 5: With permission of organizational leaders, focus groups will be conducted with rank and file members of organizations. Participants will be recruited at meetings of the organizations or through their regular mailings to members. The people we interviewed in the pilot study suggested this would be the most effective way to identify members and to encourage participation, because as ‘outsiders’ we are likely to be viewed with some suspicion. In addition, the leaders felt that people would be reluctant to complete a survey. Focus groups will be composed of members from as many organizations as possible and with a balance across immigration status, socio-economic status, and gender. We anticipate three focus groups with ten participants in each of the 6 cities, for a total of 180 participants. A short questionnaire to obtain demographic information will be administered prior to each focus group; these will be used to ensure that we have balance across the groups. The focus groups will address issues of identification, attachment to place(s), ideas about citizenship and community and community membership. Focus groups will be taped, transcribed, and individual responses will be coded for key phrases and themes.
With the information collected above, we will be able to reconstruct the complex relations between identity, community membership, and citizenship as understood by Arab immigrants to the US and UK. Our analysis is qualitative in nature. The large number of interviews and focus groups, however, allows us to avoid some of the problems of small n’s (Lieberson, 1991) in that a small number of hand-picked individuals are not used to represent an entire immigrant group. The fact that we will involve a large number of respondents in the study does not, however, mean that we expect the sample to be representative of immigrants or even of Arab immigrants to the US or UK. What the sample will allow us to do, however, is to examine a range of responses and ideas about the relationships between identity, community, citizenship and place. Because these are difficult issues to discuss, we have deliberately selected people who have already indicated through their participation in Arab-identified organizations and their willingness to participate in the study that they believe these issues to be important. They may be best positioned to describe their thoughts and experiences related to citizenship, community membership, and identity.
Question 1: What roles do ideas of citizenship and community play in activism? In this portion of the analysis, we seek to understand what motivates activists and participants in Arab-identified organizations. In particular, we want to understand how activists in US and UK interpret community and citizenship and whether ideas of community and citizenship are important to their activities and goals.
Answers to this question will draw largely from the interviews with leaders and the focus groups; the contextual information collected in Step 1 will also be used to help interpret the respondents’ comments. Our analysis will follow the logic of text analysis packages, such as NUDIST. Our experience in past research projects suggests that these packages are most useful when there is a common language or set of expressions in talking about concepts; this can be expected when respondents are drawn from a tightly defined set or when a common set of terms or "jargon" is used. Given this is not likely to be the case with our respondents, we draw on our extensive experience of those packages to use their logic in our analysis. Specifically, we search for key concepts and identify the common themes, phrases, and logics that suggest the array of ways in which people build those connections. This strategy will be followed in answering the questions that rely on interviews and focus groups. Our analysis of Question 1 will be structured around the following themes and issues:
1a. How do respondents define community? How do they position themselves with respect to the communities that may structure their daily lives?
1b. How do the respondents define citizenship? We are concerned here with the formal institutions of citizenship as they shape the conditions that allow immigrants to act or to participate as citizens.
1c. Is there a difference in the ways in which the second generation answers these questions as compared to the first generation of immigrants? We also consider cohort, legal status, socio-economic status.
1d. Is there a difference between the leaders of organizations and the focus group participants in the way they conceptualize citizenship and community?
Analysis of Question 1 will be based on respondents’ statements regarding the following:
Question 2: What roles do communications and information technologies play in the efforts of activists to attain their goals? As noted previously, many have argued that CITs help to organize communities across great distances and that they may help to create a deterrorialized sense of community. We focus on the use of CITs as a tool in creating and mobilizing community, asking:
2a. How specifically are CITs used to achieve activists’ goals related to community and citizenship? 2b. Are there differences in the ways that particular types of organizations use CITs?
2c. What sorts of community networks are being facilitated by CITs, and what are the geographies of these community networks?
The data comes primarily from the web-sites and from the interviews with leaders. We focus on these two data sources for several reasons: i) the leaders can explain how they envision CITs, and the Internet in particular, as fitting into their overall strategy; ii) we can evaluate the extent to which the web-site is regularly updated, involves interactive capabilities; iii) we can provide a different evaluation of how the web-site appears to non-participants than the leaders can. If time permits, we would ask the participants in the focus groups about CITs, and we may include some questions on the short survey.
Question 3: How are identities as community members formed through experiences in and attachments to particular sites, and how are these identities connected? This question will be addressed through analysis of the interviews and focus groups; contextual information collected in Step 1 will also be used. Here the analysis focuses on three key sub-questions or themes:
3a. Do respondents feel that they face barriers to integration or incorporation where they live? Does their sense of integration and incorporation correspond with the more "objective" indicators of incorporation as provided by the contextual information gathered in Step 1 of the data collection?
3b. Do respondents feel incorporated into the cities and countries from which they or their parents moved? How do those perceptions match with the information we collected about the source countries gathered in Step 1 of the data collection?
3b. Is there a difference in the ways that the second generation answers these questions as compared to the first generation of immigrants?
3c. Is there a difference between the leaders of organizations and the focus group participants in the way they conceptualize citizenship and community?
Analysis of Question 3 will be based on the following:
Question 4: What are the relationships between identity, community membership and citizenship? Answers to this question will draw largely from the interviews with leaders and the focus groups; information from the background analyses will also be used.
Our analysis will be structured around the following issues or sub-questions:
4a. How do respondents link ideas of community and citizenship?
4b. Is there a difference in the ways in which the second generation answers these questions as compared to the first generation of migrants?
4c. Is there a difference between the leaders of organizations and the focus group participants in the way they conceptualize citizenship and community?
4d. Are the different discourses of community and citizenship in the US and UK important in these relationships? Do they make a difference in the ways in which immigrants are incorporated?
Analysis of Question 4 will be based on the following:
Question 5: What are the locations of community and citizenship? Here our concern is with the extent to which ideas of citizenship and community are local, national, binational or transnational. We address this question in two ways that may produce answers that seem contradictory.
First, we analyze the web-sites to identify the locations of community and citizenship. Analysis will focus both on the informational content of the site and on the external linkages that are built into the site. This follows a method employed by Longan (2000) in his analysis of Internet community-networks. Mapping the linkages allows us to evaluate the structure of community, the extent to which it is tightly bounded in terms of linkages with other Arab groups, and the geography of the community in terms of linkages with people or groups in other places (particularly with groups in other cities, countries, and the on international scale). As Huckfeldt, et al, (1995) and Huckfeldt and Sprague (1995) have argued in the case of political information and community, the network of communications can be used to evaluate the cohesiveness of groups or communities and to indicate the extent to which the group’s interactions are incorporated within the environment of public opinion. Thus we examine the structure of the networks and the kinds of communities that are indicated and the locations of the other sites to which immigrant sites are linked. This examination will pay attention to differences between groups and forums for interaction on the web-sites that might suggest a diversity of ideas about community and the locations of community. We are currently exploring the use of computer network analysis packages for this analysis. At this point, however, it appears that SPSS may provide both the graphic and analytical capabilities we require.
5b: We analyze the responses from the interviews and focus groups to this question. Again, this will primarily be a textual analysis. Since both sets of respondents will be asked the questions about the locations of community and citizenship, we will be positioned to address the questions of transnationalism and multiple community membership that have been so prominent in academic debate. Several aspects of our research design allow us to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of this issue than has been typical of recent writing: i) we have a wide range of respondents in terms of their immigration status, class, and national backgrounds; ii) we include people who are very active as well as those who may be only moderately or slightly active in Arab-identified groups; iii) we ask people these questions directly, rather than draw out interpretations from secondary sources, such as literature, music, or movies.
We fully anticipate that the geography of community and citizenship that are drawn from these two analyses may be different; products, such as web-sites, are only partly reflective of people’s intentions or ideas, and the structure and function of the Internet shapes the abilities to communicate ideas (Lessig, 1999). Yet those products are important to other people as they attempt to understand the goals of an organization (Staeheli, et al. 2000). The networks play important roles in the construction of community, as they themselves become part of the political opportunity structure (Longan, 2000). Understanding the different geographies of community and citizenship from both perspectives is important to understanding contemporary academic and political debates.
Significance of the Research
We have several goals that speak to contemporary issues in university-based education and in academic and political debates. First, this research provides an opportunity for student training in issues surrounding immigration, community and citizenship. Both researchers teach courses in immigration and race relations in cities, and through this engage students in research (see Synergistic Activities). The research design also incorporates student training in the form of research assistance and co-authorship of research. We have requested funds to bring the research assistants to the field sites to participate in interviews and focus groups. This will provide training in two methods that have become important in human geography, but in which students are often ill-prepared as they undertake their own research. Second, this research bring grounding and systematic analysis to the debates about citizenship and community in the context of globalization. These debates have been characterized by high levels of theory, abstraction, and hyperbole. This research provides a corrective by centering the analysis of citizenship and community on the experiences of people who negotiate these issues daily. Finally, transnational migration shows no signs of receding. As such, it is important for those societies who receive large numbers of immigrants to understand the ways in which immigrants understand the roles of community and citizenship in relation to place. Some politicians and theoreticians may want to cling to an isolationist or ethno-centric understanding of citizenship in "their" countries, but the recent growth in xenophobic political movements shows how dangerous those views – in their most extreme forms – can be. Attending to the differing conceptualizations of citizenship, community, and place that may be held by immigrants can help to create a situation in which the politics of each can be understood – if not resolved.
Qualifications of Researchers and Institutional Arrangements
This project involves collaboration between two scholars who bring different specializations to the project. Staeheli’s work has examined globalization and democratization, particularly as these affect citizenship and community-based political activism. Nagel’s work has addressed issues of identity and nationalism amongst Arab immigrants in London. Nagel also has Arabic language training.
Because Staeheli and Nagel are employed by universities in two countries, the proposal is submitted to both the NSF and ESRC. If both proposals are funded, the expenses for Nagel included in the budget for this proposal will be cut. It is important, however, for both researchers to be involved in the fieldwork to ensure consistency. As such, if the ESRC does not fund the proposal, the full amount will be requested from NSF.
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1. Some researchers have discarded the term ‘immigrant’, implying as it does a norm of permanent settlement, integration, and eventual full citizenship. These commentators advocate terms, such as ‘transmigrant’ to signify that lives, identities, political practices, and allegiances span multiple territorial boundaries and are not fixed in one place. (e.g. Basch et al, 1994; Wright, 1997; M. Joseph, 1999; Ong, 1999). We, however, focus our research on those people who have settled in one place and who conceive of themselves as permanent residents; to differentiate these people from migrants - who one could reasonably argue should not be the focus of citizenship struggles - we use the term ‘immigrant.’
2. The use of the matrix here is an effort to simplify the complex interactions between citizenship and community. This guides the way we think about the possible relationships, but we recognize people do not fit in such neat and tidy boxes.