Justice Studies 350

Dr. Cecilia Menjívar


Questions for the 1st Paper.



The exercise for this paper consists of linking the experiences of your own family with those of the ethnic group to which you belong. To accomplish this, you will need to think of your family as an immigrant family and take the following three steps.


1.     Interview ONE family member, thinking of him or her not as simply your relative, but as a member of an ethnic group. Trace back, as far as you can, his or her history as immigrants or ethnics. Since most people’s backgrounds include two or more ethnic identities, you may select one of those but you need to discuss your selection with your instructor prior to conducting the exercise.


2.     Read ONE ethnic history or any study that has been conducted on your own group (for this you need to do library research) to see to what extent your family history was like the history of the ethnic group to which you belong.


3.      Then you need to link the two, using your family member as an example to illustrate the social history of that group. Therefore, the family interview needs to be linked to the library research at every step. A paper that centers only on the family interview is only half a paper and will be regarded as such.


The central question in this paper is: Was your family’s experience, over the course of generations, typical or atypical of the experiences of that group? (i.e., in terms of ‘typical’ occupations, residence patterns, community organization, modes of migration, etc. of  that particular group) Why or why not? Keep asking yourself this question as you go about conducting this exercise.


The following questions should help you pay attention to what is important, and addressing them should result in an excellent paper. You do not need to obtain answers to all of them, but covering at least half of these will result in a high quality paper. As you write it, please integrate the interview and the library research as much as possible; do not write them separately.


1.     Which was the immigrant generation? When did they first come to the United States?


2.     What events motivated them to migrate (in the US and/or the origin country)?


3.     Did they have family or friends in the US before they arrived? Were they of any help at that time? Was that assistance crucial for their settlement?


4.     Where did they settle in first? Did your family migrate within the United States?


5.     What were the occupations of your family members in the origin country? What did they do in the US? Which occupations were typical of that group? Were they similar to your family member’s? Any differences along gender lines in terms of occupations?


6.     Were there barriers to your family’s social mobility? Were there any name changes or any other forms of “passing”?


7.     Were there any facilitating or constraining factors for social mobility along gender lines within or outside your family? Which, if any, were more significant?


8.     Were there any stereotypes about your family’s group? Did this stereotyping affect their lives? Did the ethnic group experience prejudice directly?


9.     What language was spoken at home? Was the ethnic tradition passed on through the celebration of ethnic holidays, food, customs?


10. To what church did they belong? What role did religion play in their lives? Was the church an important aspect of their lives? Did they receive any assistance from the church?


11. Were there marriages outside of the ethnic group? Did they follow religious lines?


12. On the whole, was the ethnic group “successful” in this country? Why or why not?