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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Marketing the American Creed Abroad: Diasporas in the U.S. and their Homelands
Yossi Shain

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999
Index. Bibl. Hb.: 35.00; ISBN 0-5216-4225-6. Pb.: 12.95; ISBN 0-5216-4531-X



Yossi Shain richly depicts how immigrant groups have interacted with the prevailing culture and interests of an evolving United States. The author cogently makes the case that successful "diasporas" have been able to show that they are part of, or compatible with, the mainstream of American society. Once having demonstrated their civic attachments, diaspora groups are better able to call upon the American concern for fair play in the name of their cause. They are less successful in using U.S. leverage to effect the politics and policies of their home countries. Voters count and politicians in America count voters: Diasporan confidence in community strength grows with numbers, experience and wealth. Leaders figure out how to gain enough unity from the community and acceptance from the establishment to exert influence, both in domestic and international affairs. The analysis packs too many provocative ideas into too dense a package. The most tantalizing dimension of this study is the author's sweeping discussion of how diaspora groups related to the tension between American democratic idealism and its realpolitik pursuit of national interests. The book treats many diaspora experiences, with special emphasis on Arab-American identity, Black-Jewish disputes and the Mexican diaspora. With the end of the Cold War, accelerating multi-culturalism of the 1980s and 1990s broadened opportunities for domestic and international political influence for diverse groups, according to Dr. Shain. The author is optimistic that multiculturalism will help, not hinder, the U.S. both domestically and internationally. The new constituencies are creating a broader set of interests and a new agenda for U.S. international involvement. Dr. Shain offers a healthy does of positivism in contrast to skeptics on the left who worry that Establishment America will coopt - or ignore - diasporas, and the right who fear manipulation of the mainstream by parochial diasporan groups.


Michael Schneider, Director Syracuse-Maxwell Washington



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