Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Odem and Lacy's Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South

I read Mary E. Odem and Elaine Lacy's edited volume Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the New South (2009) and put it on the sidebar.

The book provides an excellent descriptive account of Latino immigration to the U.S. South. In an introduction that provides a very useful overview, Odem and Lacy lay out the book’s purpose: to “present in-depth analyses of how immigration from Latin America is changing the U.S. South and how immigrants adapting to the southern context” (p. ix). It focuses on five very broad themes: immigrant transnationalism, economic incorporation and impact, place-making and community building, changing racial dynamics, and southern responses to Latino immigration.

One of the book’s strengths is that seven of the nine chapters are state-specific, thus providing geographic nuance. Combined they contain a rich collection of information that should prove valuable for researchers. At the same time, the chapters address a wide range of issue, including religious expression, refugee politics, union organizing, economic impact, which at times reduces the coherency of the collection.

One of the critical questions that arises—though not always explicitly—in the chapters is the degree to which the southern experience with Latino immigration is different from other regions of the country.

In his chapter on Alabama, Raymond Mohl concludes that “Dixie appears to be on the cusp of a long-term process of Latinization, mirroring what has already happened in other parts of the United States” (p. 65). Similarly, James H. Johnson Jr. and John D. Kasarda argue that changes in North Carolina are “[p]aralleling national trends” (p. 70). But is it necessarily a mirror?

Angela C. Steusse, for example, notes the importance of progressive churches for organizing social movements in the South, something far less common in traditional gateways. Even here, though, the comparison may need to delve into the differences between different religions. For example, Mary E. Odem shows how the Catholic church in Atlanta did not necessarily embrace the Latino population, whose style of worship was quite different from the suburban middle class.

Further, virtually all of the chapters note the importance of race, which takes a unique form in the South. Race has always been viewed in Black-White terms, and desegregation is still very much in recent memory. It is worth exploring whether the racialized discourse in the South takes a different form than, say, in Los Angeles.

Overall, then, the volume offers much to ponder. It would work very well in a classroom, as it raises a number of interesting and important questions that scholars have only begun to explore.


Defensores de Democracia 1:32 PM  

Thanks to you Mr Weeks for very interesting, serious and informed Blog on Latin America and Latinos.

I thank God that there are Scientists and Studious People in American Universities that want to analyze things from a Rational Point of View without low passions.

There will be many political events in Latin America and inside the United States of extreme interest.

And numbers, statistics, demography, analysis, science, polls, etc .... are better than passions ( even If I sometimes fail to follow my own advice )


Vicente Duque

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