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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Muslims and Jews, Moving with God: Re-thinking the Relationship between Immigration, Religion and Theory


Researchers who study recent shifts in immigration in the United States focus primarily on either how well new immigrants manage to integrate into the American economy or how poorly they integrate into American culture. In general, scholars have tended to ignore the dynamic relationship between immigrants’ cultural belief systems and their integration into the United States’ economy. In this paper, I begin to develop a theoretical map that links these two areas by examining the interrelationship of strongly held cultural beliefs and socioeconomic conditions of immigrants. I consider the experiences of Jewish and Muslim immigrants in the United States and critique the theories of Bourdieu and Wallerstein to argue that culture, and specifically religion, is necessary for understanding social relations inside the immigrant community as well as the ways in which immigrants interact with both individuals and institutions outside of immigrant enclaves. I conclude by suggesting how the theoretical map that I propose might inform future research.

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