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Open Access Publications from the University of California

‘I Am Somebody’: Victory Outreach, Masculinity and Upward Mobility in Low-Income Latino Neighbourhoods


Segmented assimilation theorists posit that second generation immigrants today are at risk of downward acculturation and socio-economic mobility, and that dense co-ethnic communities provide the greatest resistance. Drawing upon data from ethnographic interviews and non-participant observation at a Pentecostal church, this paper will suggest that American-origin religious institutions may provide shelter against downward mobility through ‘religious optimism’. Using a race-gender framework to explain exit from gang lifestyle and acculturation into a group promoting mainstream American values, this paper will suggest that religious optimism may sometimes be infused with traditions from the black Protestant church, as well as inner-city stylistic expressions. Therefore, the first suggestion in this paper is that the segmented assimilation paradigm should not dichotomize the values of immigrant groups against those of native-born blacks and Latinos. The second suggestion in this paper is that segmented assimilation theorists should take into consideration that trajectories may shift in adulthood.

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