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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

American Social Imaginary: Narratives About Immigrants in the United States History Textbooks
by Sang, Wenjuan, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2020, 231; 28090990
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation analyzes the contents about immigrants in American history textbooks from 2001 to 2015 approved in high schools in the State of Indiana. Asserting that immigrants play an important role in American history and history curriculum, the project seeks to interpret both the depictions of immigrants in textbooks across the years and the shared understanding about American and global society underlying the portrayal of immigrants.

The dissertation sits mainly in the fields of curriculum studies and education policy studies, with a context of globalization and its influence on state curriculum policy and textbook adoption. It employs a combination of narrative analysis and the social imaginary theory as its research method and methodological basis. The method considers textbooks as a form of shared practice, which is informed by the shared norms, expectations, images and narratives of both the state and the nation. In other words, through analyzing the contents of immigrants as a cultural product, the researcher can understand the widely recognized views about American society and the global world in a dynamic of “self” and “other,” which is constantly represented by immigrants across history.

The researcher found imbalances in the portrayals of different immigrant groups, determined by their original countries, cultural distance from the mainstream American society, and their social status and wealth. Findings suggest that textbooks construct different meanings about immigrants. Among all immigrants, those with higher social-economic status and closer relations with mainstream American culture gain positive portray in terms of contribution and social integration.

Declaring itself as “a nation of immigrants,” immigrants are used to proving the uniqueness of the U.S., compared with other countries. Beyond that, the project also finds that the shared social imaginary imagines American society as it is founded upon mutual benefits that immigrants are supposed to trade their skills and labor to enjoy the benefits of American prosperity and security. American history is imagined as a constant expansion of cultural and ethnic diversity but there is a struggle between diversity and uniformity. This argument is also supported by the last finding that communication in the public realm is centralized with native-born Americans in the middle and minority groups are marginalized—social communication and interaction only happen between immigrants and native-born Americans, not among different immigrant groups.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Carspecken, Phil F.
Commitee: Barton, Keith, Kubow, Patricia K., Levinson, Bradley A.
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy, Social studies education, American history, Curriculum development
Keywords: American history textbooks, Immigrants, Narrative analysis, Social imaginary, United States, State of Indiana, Global society, Globalization, Social status
Publication Number: 28090990
ISBN: 9798672171104
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