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ERIC Number: ED491675
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Apr
Pages: 25
Abstractor: Author
Chronicles of Change: Models of Mexican Immigrant Identity in Suburban Community Narratives
Wortham, Stanton; Allard, Elaine; Mortimer, Katherine
Online Submission, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) (San Francisco, CA, Apr 2006)
In the past fifteen years, the town of New Marshall has experienced major changes that have influenced the ways its residents view each other. Mexican immigration to New Marshall, a suburb of 30,000 located outside a large Eastern city, grew dramatically between 1990 and 2000. Where once Mexicans comprised less than 0.5% of the population, they now make up over 6%. But Mexican immigration has not been the only radical change the town has seen this century. Some fifty years ago, New Marshall was a prosperous middle-class suburb. It was a target for European immigrants, especially Italians, who came to work in local industry. Waves of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and South Asians followed, and a sizable African American population remains. New Marshall also experienced an economic decline, and now faces pressing economic and social concerns including poverty, crime, and lower educational achievement than surrounding suburbs. New Marshall residents understand the transformation of their town by using various models to make sense of the characteristics and prospects of diverse groups of New Marshall residents. This paper explores the models of personhood applied to and used by Mexicans and other demographic groups in New Marshall, by examining narratives of the town's history. "Models of personhood" are characterizations of the dispositions, moral strengths and weaknesses, typical behaviors, and life prospects of a person or group. This study focuses on the models of personhood that circulate in this community, and the mechanisms, social domains, and timescales of their circulation. Narrative data are triangulated with observational data and analyses of documents such as media reports, minutes from town governance meetings, and community newsletters and bulletins. The data show that some residents identify Mexican immigrants as a strain on the already declining resources of the town, while others hail the immigrants as hard workers who will reverse the decline brought on by earlier groups. Our data reveal several contradictory models of personhood that are applied to Mexican immigrants in New Marshall. We claim that these models are important for young people, especially Mexican immigrant youth, because adolescents are attuned to questions of identity. An understanding of the models of personhood circulating in New Marshall brings us closer to an understanding of the ways in which these models may influence the experiences and aspirations of Mexican immigrant adolescents and come to bear upon their future paths.
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A