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The Ambiguities of Political Opportunity: Political claims making of Russian-Jewish Immigrants in New York City


How, and as what are immigrant minorities incorporated into the political process? A set of prominent approaches focus on the political opportunity structure immigrants encounter. Though promising in many aspects, political opportunity approaches fail to consider the internal heterogeneity of both immigrant populations and opportunity structures. This is partly a result of taking ethnic groups rather than political entrepreneurs as the unit of analysis and of not disaggregating the political context properly. This paper shows how Russian-Jewish immigrant political entrepreneurs in New York City used very di�fferent strategies of ethnic mobilization, each emphasizing a di�fferent ethnic cleavage: one was making claims in the name of Russians, the other downplaying the Russianness and highlighting the Jewish identity dimension. Both strategies had good chances at success thus illustrating that political opportunity structures may encourage di�fferent claims making strategies at the same time. Ethno-political entrepreneurs navigate complex and di�fferentiated political landscapes that are ex-ante only partially transparent.

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