Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beyond Ethnicity: Book Review

Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture
By Werner Solors

Sollors uses American literature/culture to explain the continuous process of revitalization of the concept of Americanism” as new ethnic groups are assimilated into the existing mainstream. As new groups are assimilated they simultaneously modify the very nature of Americanism.

Sollors argues that there are two legitimizing strains in the formation of “Americanism”, one being descent and the other being consent. There is (and always has been) a tension between Americans who feel that they are legitimate Americans by right of birth and descent and those who feel that they are equally legitimate because they have chosen (consented) to be Americans. This tension is reflected in literature and culture. Sollors argues that it is cultural medium that provide a place for mediation between group norms and the socialization of new groups into the codes of American-ness. Sollors argues that the sense of national kinship between Americans is created by a process of cultural mediation. Forms, symbols and language do much to forge national identity. Out of a shared symbolic language ( the acceptance of the symbolic meaning for events) emerges a middle ground for the immigrant between assimilation (complete surrender to the new culture) and ossification (refusal to abandon Old World identification).

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