Irish Americans and The lamps weren’t lit fam

Kevin Kenny begins by talking about Kerby Millers work on Irish Immigrants. Miller wanted to know why the Irish saw their emigration as more of an involuntary exile than a personal choice. He then brings in Donald Akensen who disagreed with Miller’s thesis. Essentially Kenny is going over the historiography of this topic and keeping us up to date on the state of the field. Many critics of Miller argued that the Irish were not actually exiled at all, discrediting his argument on a false basis. Miller’s argument wasn’t about the reality of the Irish, merely how they interpreted their situation. I’m not saying that Miller is necessarily correct, only that these critics are criticizing something that he didn’t argue. One very reasonable argument against his thesis is that women were quite empowered by their change in lifestyle. After this he discusses theories whiteness and labor. The Irish were by far the most disadvantaged whites, but they clung to whiteness as their last tool for success. There has been a lot of debate over this whiteness thesis, some say it isn’t proven by sources well, others say that it is the only way to explain what happened over time. This sparked more debate over what race, racism, and class meant at the time. The final point is on Irish diaspora. There are two main theories, transnational and cross-national. He uses these two methods and applies Miller’s and other’s works in this new framework.


Roger Daniels begins with a description of how Liberty  Island represents acceptance and Ellis Island rejection. On the west coast, Angel Island served primarily as a detention facility for asians. Its origins were one of the army bases for holding prisoners of war and it seems that in practice its purpose stayed the same. Angel Island was poorly built. They used wood in a damp area causing it to be unsanitary and unsafe. There was no janitorial staff and the water supply became contaminated. This was hardly a new Ellis island created for welcoming in new americans. The chinese men in particular were treated poorest to the point where they had a seperate dining hall with worse food and conditions. The chinese were not the only ones there though, there were also Japanese, Koreans, and south asians. In contrast to popular belief that the chinese were passive victims of oppression, Charles Mccain argued that they were quite active in resisting their oppression. They hated the discriminatory practices put in place to abuse them and put forth many grievances within the courts. They were successful as civil actors to the point that the children of chinese men were given american citizenship. They used this to bring other Chinese into the country, some honestly, others for the right price. These extra sons became known as “paper sons.” It was difficult to get into the country, many chinese had to go through prisonlike interrogations which could last for months. Women, for the most part, were not allowed in because of a statute that restricted the number of immigrants who could not apply for citizenship severely. After this history Daniels goes on to talk about the art and poetry created in the abandoned institution along with the institutionalized racism from that era. Even “progressive scholars” saw asians as lesser beings, or “a horde of alien scabs.” He then switches to the historiography and how it effected ideas of racism. He mentions a few names I recognize such as Handlin in terms of general immigration history, and brings up others when he talks about the emergence of asian american studies.


National Insecurity

This article is mainly about anti-immigrant sentiment in modern day America. People used fear mongering to argue for the deportation of immigrants. Often times these were fueled by economic and racially biased interests, this is where you hear the “they took our jobs” argument . Big business fought against this because they could hire minorities cheaply, as they have done throughout modern history. Recently however, the Republican party, which is the party of business, has changed to a “law and order” policy which is very against immigrants. American civil rights movements have also emphasized the importance of citizenship as a prerequisite for, or at least reason for deserving, equal rights and treatment. Deportation has also become more of an administrative process than a criminal one.

Okay after this introduction they go into the structure and goal of this book. They argue that deportation has served as a social filter for American society. Race and religion were both used to deny people citizenship. Gender also played into citizenship, one example of this was that sexual relations with people across the border was treated very different than if it occurred within the states. At different times different minorities were effected differently, Filipinos were particularly vulnerable during the Great Depression due to their protectorate status. This was another way race was used to discriminate. This discrimination was also used to fulfill different political agendas. During the Cold War there were far more deportation of Russians who were identified as white, which was a change from the norm. The federal government takes a very active role in  deciding who is valued and who is rejected from society.

The difference between deportation and exclusion is very important. Deportation is sending a person to their country of origin on the basis that they have committed a crime by being in the United States while exclusion is when the government does not admit a person into the states. Their argument in this paper is rights based rather than being about the number of deportations that have occurred. She lists deportation as a form of forced migration, which I had not thought of before.

The practice of the federal government controlling migration through policy began after the civil war. By the 1920s it had become a common discourse within politics. It has become a way for the federal government to actively control who is allowed into its population based upon their value. This value is obviously decided by the government. The knights of labor began as front-runners for these immigration policies, they were worried about immigrants effecting their economy as laborers. The author claims that an understanding of the beginnings of deportation and immigration control is vital to understanding our current situation.

After this history they focus on the historiography. They list Daniel T. Rogers, Aristide Zolberg, Desmond King, and Mae Ngai to name a few. They brong in multiple arguments from multiple different angles and perspectives. Some focus on how race was used against different groups, some were more broad about the immigration system as a whole, while others focused on the experiences of women.

Next the focus on the importance of whiteness in immigration. They talk about the creation of the concept of race, and how it is possibly false to assume that people had learned of this and used it to their benefit. I find this part interesting but also see the example of Italian immigrants to contradict this theory. It was definately assumed that white was better than black for years in the beginning of our history, and can be argued that that was not used because of an understanding of race. Italians on the other hand made a conscious effort to be seen as white, to fit into the same group as those with power. They finish the work with how America’s policies effected the world as a whole.

italian american table

Cinotto begins by talking about Italian American life portrayed in the Sapranos. There was a heavy heavy focus on the importance of food. They take pride in sharing their culture with America. Mealtimes are also a time to show their power in their social circles. Eating traditional food became one of the primary acts of self identification. There were three reasons as to why this happened. Food supports a community and a family. The food economy is incredibly important in Italian society. Food was a symbol of idea Italian-ism , it helped them understand who they were.  The family who ate together helped them stay unified and perpetuated strong domestic ties. Food solidifies ethnic groups and subcultures. It can remain a tradition and a sense of identity despite often times requiring to change and adapt to new environments.

When they arrived in America, Italians were not unified behind a certain cuisine. They created a new concept of Italian cooking which became popular in communities other than their own. This gave them pride in their ethnicity and identity. Their dishes were often old recipes that changed to make use of America’s abundance so there was more meat and more valuable ingredients involved. The popularity of their food became a status symbol for their people as a whole. Good food was classy, and they were the ones who knew how to make good food.

There was an internal conflict created in Italian Families in New York because of new dietary ideals taught in schools. They went against what Italian homemakers were used to doing and thus labelled them as  ignorant in terms of raising children. There were further problems within the home caused simply by their financial situations. Only one third of Italian immigrant families owned their homes, and if they did it was only achieved by using all of the resources of the family, including the paychecks of children. This limited the social mobility of their children significantly but the family remained together ebcause f the narrative that these parents fed to their kids about Italy. They told them of these strict rules about the homeland, that kids never disrespected their parents’ authority. Making food also became a very gendered activity. Women specialized in preparing and serving food further cementing their place as in the kitchen according to societal norms.

Even though they were discriminated against and oppressed, the American people consumed their food on a daily basis. This lead to Italians living a better life than other immigrant populations.

History in a New Millenium

This begins with a court case, Neo-Nazis denying the Holocaust. How timely. They used an idea of Hayden White to justify their claims. Absolute knowledge  of the past was impossible to achieve. This sparked what were later called the “history wars”, debates between exaggerated skepticism  about historical truth and indefensible positivism about it. In the end, the compromise of practical realism and quantified objectivity won out. By 2000 most historians agreed that history was too important to throw away simply because not all of it was able to be proven. So much could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and there was much to be learned from the past even if details were not always clear. History was a respected profession which could provide reliable evidence and conclusions.

The internet changed the world, it made it much easier to communicate with people, and that changed the practices of historians. They could now speak with multiple people, in different places, at the same time. The internet also served as a great archive that people around the world could access. People can now access different texts anywhere they want. The internet also brought in new problems, like making it much easier to plagiarize. It also changed how history is taught. Professors can now bring up any source they want onto a projector, and post it online for students to read at their leisure.  Wikipedia also acts as somewhat of a double edged sword providing accessible, but not always reliable information. This is the main problem with the internet as a source of information. It provides an overload of info without discerning what is trustworthy or simply lies. All information has equal value, which makes it hard for users to find what is considered respected in the field.

New ways of teaching history are also emerging, like movies and video games. They can reach a much larger population of people who would otherwise not look into history. The only problem is that they are not often accurate, they misrepresent the past because historical truth is not their primary objective. Movies often times embellish stories to add to the emotional experience of the audience. Documentaries on the other hand have proven to be more reliable, since the audience has gone in expecting the truth and is therefor more accepting of a story filled with less action and drama. Another medium for teaching history are museums. They area also more reliable than say movies because people go there expecting nothing but truth. Lastly they list comics as a new way of teaching history as well.

The digital age has connected the world, and with that connection emerged the concept of “global history.” With new access to information around the world, we have been able to step back and consider the world as a whole rather than just the history of one event, at one time, and one place. People have always been connected, but that is not often shown in history because we have not had access to all of the evidence around the world until now. We also have other scientific advancements which can aide our understanding of the past like DNA. For example it has now been proven that Jefferson had a child with one of his slaves, which completely changes how we look at his writings at the time.

selling the east in the american south

Khati begins by talking about peddlers who came from Bengali and created a network in the american south along with places like Mexico, Cuba, and Belize. She emphasizes the importance of realizing that Indian immigration began much earlier than most people realize. She then says that this history of migrating paddlers is just a glimpse of how southeast Asian migration worked which is the main focus of her writing. She looks at this forgotten period of history and analyzes these peddlers were able to sell American people Indian goods. The reason they were successful was because what they were selling was considered exotic instead of poor quality, which is often how foreign goods were seen. They sold worldliness which the middle class became obsessed with goods from the east, it was somewhat of a status symbol being able to own something from a land so far away. even as anti-eastern sentiment grew, the desire for their goods remained. it even spread to other places such as the middle east. A new foreign commercialism grew, and markets began using middle eastern and Indian names to advertise their products. Hookahs and tobacco products being one of the best examples of this. The american public wanted to live “the good life” which apparently was interpreted as having expensive things that other people could not afford. That often meant foreign linens, teas, maybe spices. The peddlers were able to sell their wares rather cheaply, so the common Americans could finally have a taste of these previously unattainable commodities.

The peddlers themselves often roamed around, or lived in African American communities. Many of them returned to their own country eventually. Some came to New Jersey, most lived deeper south. By 1900 some had tried to start the naturalization process in order to have a more stable foundation for their people. At the only time only whites and blacks were allowed citizenship. Indians tried to claim whiteness. This failed, but lead more trying to do the same. She mentions the Calcutta and how their chikan embroidery was popular with the European ladies. Then she moves on to New Orleans. She talks about storyville, a legal sex district, and all of the trade and tourism in this area. Myths of India flourished in here. The East became a part of the Mardi Gras parades. She even goes on to the change in sexual preferences in pleasure houses. They changed to want exotic women like an “oriental dancing girl.”

These weird fantasies people had for the unknown east created an economic boom for peddlers who could provide trinkets at an affordable price. The history of southeastern asian migration is fragmented and there is not much to work with, but it is clear that there is a difference between bengali peddlers, punjhabi workers, and the professionals from eastern asia. They all hae very different stories. The history of these peddlers is often invisible, or blending into african american history.

nation of migrants/a part apart

Goodman says that the phrase “a nation of immigrants” is an inaccurate stereotype. I like how he mentions Vecoli, Handlin, and Sanchez on the first page and gives them credit for their work in the field. Onto his main points, he says that the original immigrant paradigm gave Europeans a privileged place in American History while excluding others. It also doesn’t touch on how many immigrants return to their country of origin, creating a false sense of American Exceptionalism. Despite these original shortcomings, the field has improved over the years. They started using the word migrant history instead of immigrant. This portrays them more accurately as people moving around rather than simply as people joining a new country. Migration has been a constant, but not often mentioned, part of American History. By looking at American History through this lens, we can more easily see America as a global actor among others rather than some glorious city on a hill. By de-centering the role of the nation state we can more accurately analyze statistics in relation to other areas around the globe. It also lessens the “us vs them” mentality, and helps us step away from the idea that descendants of Europeans as the true Americans.

A part apart

Erika Lee mentions Sanchez and Vecoli in the first page too. Its like they all are in the same club. She mentions the two trains of thought regarding the poor treatment of Asians and Latinos. One being that they are the most recent group of immigrants thus facing the nativism that others faced before them, and the other being that they had a long history of racial oppression. I personally believe in the ladder as the better answer, though nativism surely plays a part as well. She compares Sanches and Vecoli in detail for a while. It was mainly about whether immigration should focus on each race individually, or if it should try to see immigration as a one worldwide phenomenon. She doesn’t go straight into her philosophy, instead she talks about her experience studying in the field for a few pages. She moves to discussing Gjerde’s experience for a while as well. Now shes bringing Gabaccia and Vecoli into this, Is she just summarizing the works of all of the other writers? When she finally starts a new idea saying that Asian american immigration has changed, she goes on to just mention like 7 other authors without elaborating on the point she began. Finally she stars talking about looking at Asian Immigration as a complicated set of interconnected realities and multi-directional orientations. She moves on to mention statistics on Asian immigrants to the United States and other nations like Cuba and Peru. Some moved permanently and others came for work and then returned to their original homes. This was all part of a greater more general wave of migration. One difference between Asian Americans and other migrants is that even though they are a diverse group, they are often lumped together. There is also an east vs west opinion in American society that further divides people. WWII and the cold war added significantly to this. Asians were always grouped together so every individual was guilty of the wrongdoings or simply cultural differences of all asian cultures combined. In conclusion she mentions a lot of things that others have already said. Look at migrants over immigrants because it is a more accurate and inclusive term. Accept that people can live in multiple cultures and communites at the same time. People don’t renounce their old ways to join a new one, they adapt. In general, don’t think of the stereotypes as gospel, analyze why people think those things and how it effects the population.

Transnational and Globalizing Migration Histories

Unsurprisingly in “More Trans-Less National” Jacobson argues that we have lost sight of the trans part of trans-nationalism. The word nationalism is much prettier and easier to think about, so we forget about the rest when describing immigrants. Instead of discussing the difficulties or differences in immigrant life, we say we are a nation of immigrants. That wipes out the hardships of the situation and we get to feel happy about ourselves. Our focus on nationalism as a political tool made us lose sight of reality in history. In history we need to ask the right questions before we can analyze the past, but this change in historiography has made us forget that these questions existed. After explaining this he highlights 3 major things he believes we must do in order to improve our current situation. First we must restore emigration to immigration by dismantling the idea of American exceptionalism. Second we must replace nation with continent as the unit of operation. This means that we should focus on the relationship between people of different lands, without the governments or regulators of those areas being brought into the forefront of that conversation. Finally, we need to accept the importance of the corporation in life. For some reason we don’t like to think of the impact corporations have, but ignoring a fact does not take away the fact that it exists.


Bruno Remirez is worried about the term globalization and how it effects history, specifically migration history. The globalization of migration history has likely emerged due to the historiography process. It began with a Eurocentric view of the world, which turned into a Eurocentric view of migration history. Migration was seen as only a story of people moving from their country of origin to another rather than a world history. This bi-national framework proved to be insufficient when trying to portray or analyse migration history. One main problem was that migration history basically became transatlantic history,  because of the Eurocentric origins of the study. Transnationalism became the new term that historians rallied behind but in reality the idea had already been studied since the birth of the nation state. He finishes off with 2 case studies, one on Italy, the other on Canada.


Irish Women History

Janet Nolan begins with a very strong argument that historians who recorded early Irish immigration did so without included the role that women played. This distorted the history that was created at the time, and therefor also distorts what we know today. Fair enough, Women definitely were not accurately represented throughout history and this time was no exception. I agree with her so far. Apparently, Irish women matched or even outnumbered Irish men after the famine which was atypical of most immigrant populations. This only further supports her earlier statements. Since most of these women were also unmarried while still somehow being able to support themselves, this further separates their populations since they were not reliant on a patriarch for their basic needs. For these reason there has been a change in Irish  historiography and women are playing a much deserved larger role. Their wages contributed to further Irish immigration because they often funded the trips for their siblings. These women were also quite diverse despite  being from the same country, many were there for different reason be they religious, political or otherwise. The overall argument is that they contributed to Irish culture in America and American culture as a whole and need to be recognized for their role in history.


Mathew Jacobson writes about the rise of heritage focus in modern american history. Being spurred on by Kennedy’s return to Ireland, people began to look back on their ancestry because there was a new acceptance in being both American and something else at the same time. There was a change from wanting to prove that you were American, to accepting that your family was originally from somewhere else and that you could be proud of that. With this change in common culture came a rise in multiculturalism in America.

Next on her article came the Ethnic Revival. Disenfranchised minority groups came together and demanded the equal rights that had been promised to all Americans. This appeal to “group rights and protections” was seen as un-american during the Cold War. Despite this the success of the African Americans emboldened the rest of the minority groups. White ethnics in response to this, disassociate themselves from the idea of white privilege and in a way tried to side with other minorities because they had never truly felt that they had been accepted like other whites as the majority.

He then turns to another ethnic revival caused by anti-modernism. People apparently forgot why their families moved there in the first place and began romanticizing the “old country” that they had been taken from. They didnt like the homogenization  of the new world and turned to tribalism. Many people wanted an end to the melting pot that was america, and return to their respective pre-modernized communities. People felt that since they were not succeeding in their current environment, that meant that they were supposed to be elsewhere as if their predestination had been foiled in some way. Since their ancestors did one thing, then they should have been doing that professions s well. I don’t really like how he keeps jumping to different times in history, it is very jarring.

Now he switched back to the 1960, where schools helped teach pluralism to youths all over the country. The idea of ethnicity became more based on their outlook or preferred affiliation than a set biological feature of the person like the term “race did.” Race caused so many problems and unnecissary divisions, ethnicity was more inclusive somehow. Then she switches, yet again, to WWII and the Cold War. Ethnicity became predominantly an American Virtue. This was most shown through war movies of people from different ethnicities working together. America became so split up into different minorities that people became to question that term because there was no longer a “majority” to be compared to. He keeps jumping between the cold war and WW II and it is infuriating.

By the 1990s there was another shift in common culture. Ethnicity stopped being race’s replacement and instead just it’s inseparable sibling.after the 1990s she jumps back to the 1950s. What is wrong with this person, he has no concept of structure.

He then spends quite a lot of time on the works of Rudolph Voceli who talked about the change in immigrant historiography. Ethnic History was American History, the past of immigrants influenced how they acted as new Americans.

His next focus was on the heritage project. Like adopted children, Americans suddenly desired to know their heritage. They wanted a sentimental journey to learn where they had come from after watching Roots. Americans began stalking their ancestors and searching for their “homeland” as if their family had not lived in America for generations. These people were trying to rediscover and understand themselves, but to me it seems quite unpatriotic and unamerican. Being unpatriotic isn’t evil in and of itself, I just thought it was an odd observation after so many years of intense patriotism following the world wars.

well he circled back to Kennedy, but this time with a focus on Ellis Island and how it had become a shell of its former self as an immigrant station. It was soon restored to its former glory because of this rise in ethnic self discovery and focus on immigrant ancestors.

Reading this was difficult. It had some interesting points which I enjoyed, but the structure of it was abysmal. It seemed more like some strange amalgamation of ideas than an actual essay.  He jumped to a different part of history every paragraph or two. There was no sense of cohesion.

An Experience of Uprootedness

Oscar Handlin argues that what caused the waves of immigration was an unforeseen instability throughout Europe. This was made all the more startling because there had been such a long period of stability for so many years that people didn’t know what to do with themselves without it. They had grown so accustomed to being a part of “their village” and suddenly their world broke apart. These Peasants left their lives in the villages, and began life in America. They clung to tradition and desired more than anything to get back to some sort of stability. They  accepted authority and low social status, so long as they could finally know their place in the world, at least they could say they had one. They stayed at the bottom of the totem poll and struggled every day, but at least they survived.

Immigration portrayed as an experience of transplantation

John Bodnar has a different approach to what it meant to be an immigrant. He says there are really two different immigrant Americas, one middle class and one lower. Some immigrants were able to do much more than just menial labor. They were entrepreneurs, “middle class supporters of capitalism.” They were there not just to escape, but succeed and make it big. They were substantially more powerful and confident than their counterparts. They controlled their own destiny and became the shining examples of what it meant to live the American Dream. These communities of immigrants, both upper and lower, converged together creating an enclave of common cultures. Some succeeded, others had to focus simply on lasting another day. Both accepted their role in society as a way of life. They did not have full control over their own lives but they did the best with what they had.