After Ellis Island
Headquartered in USC College, American Quarterly's journal on migration has won the Council of Editors of Learned Journals 2009 Award for Best Special Issue.By Pamela J. Johnson
January 11, 2010
Mexicans seeking U.S. citizenship often view the interview process as arbitrary, and say Latino officers who administer the tests are usually the toughest, USC College Ph.D. student Adrian Felix wrote in an essay. Felix's essay was among 13 included in American Quarterly's September 2008 volume, which has won the Council of Editors of Learned Journals 2009 Award for Best Special Issue.
Mexicans seeking U.S. citizenship often view the interview process as arbitrary, and say Latino officers who administer the tests are usually the toughest, USC College Ph.D. student Adrián Félix wrote in an essay.
Félix's essay was among 13 included in American Quarterly’s September 2008 volume, which has won the Council of Editors of Learned Journals 2009 Award for Best Special Issue. The council is a major national organization of scholarly journal editors in all disciplines.
The guest editors for Nation and Migration Past and Future (Johns Hopkins University Press) were the College’s Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and David Guitiérrez of the University of California, San Diego.
“This award suggests that American studies can’t be seen as a marginal field, but a leader in social sciences and humanities and a voice on major issues such as immigration,” said Hondagneu-Sotelo, professor and director of graduate studies in sociology.
American Quarterly, the 60-year-old journal of the American Studies Association, has been headquartered in the College’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity (ASE) since 2002.
Curtis Marez, editor of American Quarterly, was associate professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, with a joint appointment at ASE when Nation and Migration was published. The journal publishes four times yearly, including its special issue.
“This is a big honor,” Marez, now an associate professor at UCSD, said of the award.
“It recognizes how successful American Quarterly has been at USC. It shows how USC has organized this kind of think tank that brings together the brightest minds throughout California to work on real world problems like migration,” he said, referring to the journal’s managing editorial board.
The special issue examines migration issues involving Mexicans and other Latin Americans, as well as Europeans, Middle Easterners and Asians. Contributors were from throughout the country, mostly professors who teach in various disciplines. Editors chose from more than 60 essays. Topics ranged from migration in history to literature to politics.
“Immigration is a central defining feature of contemporary United States,” Hondagneu-Sotelo said. “Not just in Los Angeles, but in Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina and throughout the country.
“It’s an enduring symbol of American culture,” she said. “What it means to be an American comes back to the immigrant American. This volume looks at the different meanings of the migrant experience.”
Félix was a graduate student in Hondagneu-Sotelo’s class when he wrote, “New Americans or Diasporic Nationalists? Mexican Migrant Responses to Naturalization and Implications for Political Participation.”
The essay was a result of seven months of fieldwork and interviews conducted in a citizenship class in San Bernardino County, primarily from September 2006 to March 2007. Most students were from Mexico with a few from Central and South America. His research determined an increasing urgency to naturalize as the climate becomes more hostile and precarious toward immigrants. The result, stemming from the fear of losing certain services, has caused “defensive naturalization,” Félix wrote.
The interview is usually the most anxiety-producing part of the naturalization process, he found.
“The outcome is largely determined by the idiosyncrasies and prejudices of the officers,” wrote Félix, who will earn his Ph.D. in politics and international relations. “Some students are scrutinized; others are in-n-out in as few as five minutes.”
Some who did not speak English well passed the interview test. Others who spoke English did not.
“Every officer is different,” Félix wrote, quoting the citizenship class teacher. “Every interview is different.”