Presentation Title: Making Muslim Americans: Identity Construction and Boundary Work among Second-Generation Muslim American Parents
In this talk I analyze the identity construction processes of second-generation Muslim American families in order to shed light on processes of strategic assimilation. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork as well as 72 in-depth interviews with Muslim Americans in Metro-Detroit, I show how a group of 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, I demonstrate how these parents 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.
Rebecca A. Karam is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University. She earned her PhD in 2020 at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of the sociology of religion, race and ethnicity, international migration, and qualitative methods. Her work examines how ethnic and racial minorities navigate their place in America’s racial hierarchy while accounting for the increasingly salient role of religious identity in these processes.
Rebecca’s forthcoming book, Making Muslim Americans (under contract with NYU Press), explores the intergenerational transmission of religion and parenting strategies among second-generation Muslim Americans. This project provides evidence of patterns of upper-middle-class Muslim Americans assimilating socioeconomically without losing their religious identity in the face of widespread Islamophobia.