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U.S. Americanization

American National Identity And Ideologies Of Americanization, Conclusion, Bibliography

Americanization refers to processes of "becoming American," and to organized efforts to encourage the transformation of immigrants into "Americans." The term was in informal use in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, but it is most prominently associated with the movement of that name during the 1910s and early 1920s. The term is often used interchangeably with assimilation.

The "problem" of Americanization arises because American national identity must be constructed in the absence of primordial ethnic mythology, and in the face of exceptional diversity. There is general recognition that the United States is a "civic nation," rather than an "ethnic nation," in which devotion to "founding principles" is the source of national identity and community. The creedal nature of American identity carries the implication that anyone may "become American" by committing himself or herself to the nation's founding principles, and to their expression in distinctively American symbols and ways of living. However, the propositional nature of American identity carries with it the question of who is capable of the necessary understanding of, and commitment to, American principles, and to the ways of living that they are taken to imply. That seed of doubt has led Americans to scrutinize cultural differences, ethnic consociation, and race as potential indicators of the lack of qualification for trusted membership in the polity, and to insist on outward demonstrations of Americanization by those considered for membership.

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