For over a hundred years, the story of assimilation has animated the nation-building project of the United States. And still today, the dream or demand of a cultural "melting pot" circulates through academia, policy institutions, and mainstream media outlets. Noting society’s many exclusions and erasures, scholars in the second half of the twentieth century persuasively argued that only some social groups assimilate. Others, they pointed out, are subject to racialization.
In this bold, discipline-traversing cultural history, Catherine Ramírez develops an entirely different account of assimilation. Weaving together the legacies of US settler colonialism, slavery, and border control, Ramírez challenges the assumption that racialization and assimilation are separate and incompatible processes. In fascinating chapters with subjects that range from nineteenth century boarding schools to the contemporary artwork of undocumented immigrants, this book decouples immigration and assimilation and probes the gap between assimilation and citizenship. It shows that assimilation is not just a process of absorption and becoming more alike. Rather, assimilation is a process of racialization and subordination and of power and inequality.