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Theses Doctoral

Hicksville: How Silence and Storytelling Re-Shape a Migration Gateway

McGunnigle-Gonzales, Rosemary

Scholars have studied and debated the causes and dynamics of assimilation for decades. Still, existing work has yet to explain how we get from encounter, interaction and taking assimilative “steps” toward the other to judging the other as “socially similar.” I introduce two innovations in approach to address this issue. First, I borrow from theories of collective action, narrative networks, uncoupling and “wrong” tales to ask how societies and their memories are simultaneously re-made. Second, I shift the focus to established residents, who are generally conspicuous outsiders to explanations of the multilateral process of social assimilation in migrant-receiving communities. I conducted a case study of Hicksville, a suburban Long Island hamlet and migration gateway; immersed myself in 150+ years of village history through the study of archival documents and oral histories; and chose three empirical puzzles for in-depth analysis. The first empirical chapter theorizes the long-term consequences of the state appropriation and demolition of the west side of Hicksville’s historical Broadway for a road widening project in the late 1960s. The second investigates the relegation of turn-of-the-century ethnic settlements to the sidelines of shared memory. The third explains the mis-remembering of civil rights era “race riots” outside a local real estate office. I argue that unsettlement of existing relational matrices produces action, silence and storytelling; that silences create the narrative space for stories to uncouple from narratives and narratives from networks; and that within these spaces, ‘wrong” tales, narrative anchor stitching, narrative infilling, and other creative forms of historytellling emerge. As memories, narratives and social relations shift, a village society gets re-member-ed. In conclusion, I illuminate a novel pathway for studying the achievement of social similarity as a multilateral narrative process by closely examining the dynamics of silence and storytelling in one migrant-receiving village.

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More Information

Academic Units
Sociology
Thesis Advisors
DiPrete, Thomas A.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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