Tomás Jiménez – When White is Just Alright: How Immigrants Redefine Achievement and Reconfigure the Ethnoracial Hierarchy
Seminar to be held on Wednesday, April 17th in ERC 115 at 12:00 pm.
Research on immigration, educational achievement, and ethnoraciality has followed the lead of racialization and assimilation theories by focusing empirical attention on the immigrant-origin population (immigrants and their children) and effectively ignoring the third-plus generation (those who are US-born of US-born parents). We depart from this orthodox approach by placing third-plus-generation individuals at center stage to examine how they adjust to norms that the immigrant-origin population defines. We draw on fieldwork in Cupertino, California, a high-skilled immigrant gateway, where an Asian immigrant-origin population has established and enforces an amplified version of high-achievement norms. The resulting ethnoracial encoding of academic achievement constructs whiteness as having “lesser-than” status. Whiteness has come to represent low-achievement, laziness, and academic mediocrity; Asianness, by comparison, stands for high-achievement, hard work, and success. We argue that immigrants can serve as a foil against which the meaning and status of an ethnoracial category become recast, upending how the category is normally deployed in daily life. Our findings call into question the largely taken-for-granted analytical position that treats the third-plus generation, and especially whites, as the benchmark population that sets achievement norms and to which all other populations must adjust.
Tomás Jiménez is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University. His research and writing focus on immigration, assimilation, social mobility, and ethnic and racial identity. His book, Replenished Ethnicity: Mexican Americans, Immigration, and Identity (University of California Press, 2010) was recently awarded the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Latinos/as Section 2011 Distinguished Book Award. He is currently working on three projects. The first examines how host-society individuals (US-born of US-born parents) participate in the assimilation process by drawing on in-depth interviews with host-society individuals and observations in three distinct sub-regions in the Silicon Valley: East Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Berryessa. A second project (with Stanford PhD Candidate, Lorena Castro) looks at how immigration becomes part of American national identity. A third project (with social psychologist John Dovidio (Yale), political scientist Deborah Schildkraut (Tufts), and social psychologist Yuen Ho (UCLA), examines how contextual factors shape the sense of belonging and related intergroup attitudes, behaviors, and support for immigration policies among immigrants and host-society members in the United States. Professor Jiménez has taught at the University of California, San Diego. He has also been an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation. Before that, he was the American Sociological Association Congressional Fellow in the office of Rep. Michael Honda (CA-15). His writing on policy has appeared in reports for the Immigration Policy Center, and he has written opinion-editorials on the topic of immigrant assimilation in several major news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, CNN.com, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. He holds a B.S. in sociology from Santa Clara University and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Harvard University.