Creating and Defining Multi-cultural American Identities
As a nation of settlers and immigrants, Americans often confront the possibility of claiming a mixed heritage, whether their ancestors have resided in the country for generations or they themselves are the first generation who have come from another country. Translating Rosemary Serra's study, Sense of Origins: Studies on the young Italian Americans of New York, I have confronted numerous interpretations of how the relationship between two countries (in this case Italy and America) constitutes an essential element of individual identity. Perhaps the most significant aspect is the extremely varied nature regarding how the individuals assign meaning to the term "Italian American."
Italian Americans are not be the only group to associate such an array of meanings with their mixed identity. Serra identifies four groups in her study: "the contemporaries," "the integrated," "the disinherited," and "the traditionals." While there are some characteristic overlaps among these four distinctions, each group offers a unique combination of, among other things, reactions to media-proposed stereotypes of Italian Americans, personal relationships with Italians and Italian culture, ideas about modern Italy, and membership in the (proposed) Italian American community. These ideas are especially pertinent in reference to the youth of any culture, who are at the forefront of determining cultural identity (or identities) in the modern world.
Today the U.S. presents numerous challenges as well as opportunities for those who take the leap and choose to immigrate to its shores, but do these challenges create similar identity profiles within non-Italian immigrants? This round table seeks to engage with scholars representing multiple cultures in order to address the potentially numerous ways that immigrant identity is formed as a result of culturally specific exchanges with the American milieu and establish whether the immigrant experience of non-Italian cultures maintain the four group distinctions established by Serra. It seeks contributions on the impact of multi-cultural identities as seen in a variety of American ethnic cultures.
Participants are encouraged to think about cultural connections and cultural sharing visible (or otherwise perceived) through literature as well as real experience. Textual/literary and empirical evidence are valuable sources of comparison within this framework.
The perception of trends in a multicultural society are as diverse as the communities themselves, and for their submission, participants may consider the comparison as it exist anywhere on a spectrum ranging from concrete attributes to resonances in literature and beyond. The aim is to exchange ideas and discuss the extent to which we may deem immigration to America either a shared or a culturally unique experience as revealed by the evidence presented from different multicultural groups.
Abstract submissions should be 750 words and accompanied by a short bio.