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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Here, There, and Elsewhere: A Multicentered Relational Framework for Immigrant Identity Formation Based on Global Geopolitical Contexts

  • Author(s): Shams, Tahseen
  • Advisor(s): Waldinger, Roger
  • Hernandez-Leon, Ruben
  • et al.
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The scholarship on international migration has long theorized how immigrants form new identities and build communities in the hostland. However, largely limited to studying the dyadic ties between the immigrant-sending and -receiving countries, research thus far has overlooked how sociopolitics in places beyond, but in relation to, the homeland and hostland can also shape immigrants’ identities. This dissertation addresses this gap by introducing a more comprehensive analytical design—the multicentered relational framework—that encompasses global political contexts in the immigrants’ homeland, hostland, and “elsewhere.” Based primarily on sixty interviews and a year’s worth of ethnographic data on Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian Muslims in California, I trace how different dimensions of the immigrants’ “Muslim” identity category tie them to different “elsewhere” contexts. As self-identifying Muslims, the immigrants are religiously and politically oriented towards the histories, conflicts, and people in “elsewhere” places of the Middle East that sustain the “Muslim” identity, sometimes even prioritizing these connections over those towards their homelands in South Asia. Yet, it is the Muslim-related conflicts in “elsewhere” Europe that determine how the immigrants are identified by others in America, thus reflecting the different ways in which global politics shapes both how Muslims view themselves and how they are viewed by others.

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This item is under embargo until May 23, 2020.