American Ethnic History: Themes and Perspectives

Jason J. McDonald 2007

E-Book: 272 English pages

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Price: 1000 Toman

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The United States, it is often said, is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. But what, precisely, do we mean when we speak of “ethnic” groups or “ethnicity”?  What is the distinction, for example, between “race” and “ethnicity”? How do various groups meld with the rest of American society? Should we think in terms of assimilation, integration, pluralism, or some other relationship between ethnic groups and the mainstream? It is these and many other questions that Jason J. McDonald tackles in this timely and insightful book.

Chapters explore a range of topics, including how different ethnic groups arrived in the United States—whether through violence and coercion or willing immigration; the peculiar identification of Native Americans as “ethnic,” despite the fact that they are indigenous to the land; whether the American public’s attitudes toward and treatment of difference has been consistent with the nation’s professed egalitarian ideals; and how factors such as language, religion, class, gender, and intermarriage play in either strengthening or weakening ethnic identity and group solidarity.

An engaging and critical look at a term that remains stubbornly ambiguous in both scholarly discussion and the vernacular, this book makes an important contribution to the ongoing debates about “difference” in American society.


Jason McDonald has written an elegant book introducing the main debates concerning ethnicity in American history and society. The central achievement of the book is to present in a methodical way the main points of contention among historians and social scientists regarding the making of American ethnicity, the place of ethnicity in American culture and ethnic collective action. This book is a very useful tool for students entering the field of American ethnicity and for specialists searching for a comprehensive discussion of the work in the field.
— Jose Itzigsohn, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brown University
Jason McDonald’s new book will be welcomed by all students of American ethnic history, whether they are newcomers to the field or seasoned experts. It offers a penetrating overview of the central issues of the American ethnic experience, unsurpassed in its coverage. Not only does it clearly and insightfully frame the major historiographical debates, it does what few works have tried — examine the histories of groups with European, African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry as part of a broader, inclusive framework.

— James Ralph, Professor of History, Middlebury College


Jason McDonaldJason McDonald holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southampton and teaches at Truman State University.
He is the author of AMERICAN ETHNIC HISTORY: THEMES AND PERSPECTIVES (2007), which was described in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies as “an immense source of information” that “even experts in the field will get a lot out of.”
His second book, RACIAL DYNAMICS IN EARLY TWENTIETH-CENTURY AUSTIN, TEXAS (2012), was praised in the Journal of American Ethnic History as “an important work for scholars interested in the processes of racialization, ghettoization, and segregation, or students of urban history in the South and Southwest.”
He has also published essays in various edited volumes and journals.