Hierarchy Transformed: Intergenerational Change in Chicago

Author: 
Bacon, Jean Leslie
Year: 
1993

     What is missing from both popular and scholarly thinking about ethnic communities, particularly newer ethnic communities, is an appreciation that the very existence of 'a community' is an issue which itself merits exploration. . . . How do people come to think of themselves as part of, or not part of, a community? What role do community leaders and the ethnic media play in refining this idea of community and convincing others (those who are assumed to be part of the community as well as outsiders) that there is something 'out there' that corresponds to the idea? How does an individual's acceptance or rejection of this idea of community effect the totality of his/her experiences? What happens to putative community members when they don't buy the community idea? In the final analysis, I think we must recognize that the idea of community is sustained by an interactive process in which community leaders, the ethnic media, and individuals who could potentially identify themselves with this idea all play a part.
     This study is an effort to understand this process as it is taking place among Chicago's Indian-origin population. Looking at Chicago's Indian immigrants and their America-raised children, I . . . unravel what they are up to, individually and collectively. I . . . convey something about how this 'community' is constructed and the way 'the community' contributes to the processes of assimilation or adjustment which are experienced by individuals as they lead lives as members of families and voluntary organizations, building the social relationships which are ultimately at the core of their social lives."
     The first part of this study "is an analysis of the organizational life of the Indian immigrant community. For those involved in voluntary organizational life of the Indian immigrant community. For those involved in voluntary organizations, the interactions which take place provide one avenue in which world views and collective identities are worked out in social practice. However, the community life also provides a backdrop to the lives of Indian immigrants who are not directly or extensively involved in organizations. This second indirect function of community organizations is explored in the second part of this study, which focuses on family life" and "includes a detailed account of the lives of six immigrant families. These chapters focus on the way particular individuals see the world and maintain a sense of themselves in relation to other family members, the Indian 'community,' and the larger society. In addition, and perhaps more important, the portraits of these six families reveal the ways in which family dynamics have shaped the experiences of the second generation.

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