An Examination of the Integration Experiences of Muslim Immigrants and Refugees in Traditional and Non-Traditional Immigrant Destinations

Awarded Scholars:
Amarat Zaatut, Temple University
Stephanie DiPietro, University of Iowa
Project Date:
Jun 2021
Award Amount:

Cofunded with the Carnegie Corporation of New York

The past two decades have witnessed significant growth in the Muslim population, with about 3.5 million Muslims living in the U.S. (about 1% of the population) in 2017. No single region or country of origin, and no single racial or ethnic group, accounts for most of the Muslim population. While Chicago and the Detroit metro area have large enclaves, various places across the country have growing numbers of Sudanese, Syrian, and Iraqi immigrants. The growing Muslim population has coincided with increased anti-Islamic sentiment, fueled in part by the rhetoric of the Trump administration and its policies designed to curtail the entrance of Muslims. Ethnographers Amarat Zaatut and Stephanie DiPietro will compare the experiences of Muslims in two different contexts to better understand the factors that affect their social and cultural inclusion. The investigators will also examine the ways in which national and state-level discourses and policies affect various spheres of daily life (e.g., social interaction with other groups, identity formation, psychosocial wellbeing). They will focus on Philadelphia, which has a large black population and a sizeable contemporary foreign-born Muslim presence and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, two majority white cities with growing Muslim presence. The investigators will conduct a comparative in-depth qualitative interview study that places context of reception at the center of immigrant integration. Their conceptualization includes individuals’ perceptions of the degree of receptiveness (or welcoming) of the city and the opportunity structures available to them. A positive context of reception allows immigrants to forge social ties, build social capital, and achieve economic development in the absence of hostility. A negative context of reception might impede socioeconomic advancement and engender feelings of isolation, rejection, and rebuke. They hypothesize that the presence of coethnics and the degree of racial-ethnic inclusion will play an important role in shaping racialization (i.e., the ascription of a racial identity to a relationship, social practice or group that does not identify itself as such) and social and cultural inclusion.



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