The Not So Good Old Days: How the U.S. Became a Multicultural Society
Lecture by Nancy Foner (Graduate Center CUNY), within the framework of the workshop "Giving History its Place in Migration and Refugee Debates and Research", organized by Jan Willem Duyvendak (Paris IAS).
The United States is often characterized as a classic immigration country or settler society, and Americans as long accepting ethnic diversity and celebrating the country as a “nation of immigrants.” The analysis of the relationship between past and present, however, shows that the “good old days” were not as good as Americans often remember in terms of accepting ethnic diversity, and Americans have not always thought of their country as a “nation of immigrants.” How did historical developments over the course of the twentieth century create what we now think of as America’s multicultural or cultural pluralist society? Why is it too simple to attribute this change to the U.S. position as a settler society? And what are the barriers to inclusion that immigrants and their descendants continue to face in the U.S. today?
Nancy Foner is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.