Assimilation has long functioned as the telos in narratives about the American experience and as an organizing rubric in U.S. immigration history, the social sciences, particularly sociology, and public policy (Alba and Nee 2007). Immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants are expected to blend into and to find acceptance, if not success, in the mainstream. Indeed, assimilation is often linked to the American dream. Those who do not assimilate or who are deemed inassimilable are generally regarded and treated as outsiders or failed citizens.

Assimilation is the process whereby the boundary between mainstream and margin blurs, disappears, or paradoxically, is reinforced. While the term is commonly used in the United States in relation to immigrants, it may also be applied to any group not deemed part of the mainstream, such as religious, linguistic, and sexual minorities, and to the production, circulation, and consumption of cultural practices and products (for example, Mexican …

This essay may be found on page 14 of the printed volume.

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