Becoming American by Becoming Muslim

Rebecca A. Karam (2019) Becoming American by becoming Muslim: strategic assimilation among second-generation Muslim American parents, Ethnic and Racial Studies, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2019.1578396

Strategic assimilation describes how individuals use boundary work to construct Publication Cover
identities which allow them to selectively maintain ties to a minority community while assimilating into the mainstream. However, scholarship that accounts for the role that minority religious identity plays in these processes is warranted. The current study fills a theoretical and empirical niche by exploring boundary work among not only racial, but religious minorities in their processes of identity construction and assimilation. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork as well as 72 in-depth interviews with Muslim Americans in Metro-Detroit, I demonstrate how upper-middle-class suburban second-generation parents actively deconstructed class, racial, and ethnic boundaries to construct boundaries around religious identity and generational identity. In so doing, they consciously crafted a de-ethnicized interpretation of Islam and hence a Muslim American identity that they saw as integral in promoting upward assimilation for themselves and their third-generation children.


Lecture at the University of Michigan (11/26/18)