The church as a surrogate family for working class immigrant chinese youth: An ethnography of segmented assimilation

Nanlai Cao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Based on ethnographic data collected in a New York Chinatown church, this paper explores how ethnic socialization and upward assimilation work together, a primary theme of the segmented assimilation thesis, among working class immigrant Chinese youth who convert to Christianity. These youth are much more bi-cultural and more at risk than the Asian American youth who have received most of the attention in the immigrant religion literature. This study shows that the church facilitates youth socialization by being a nurturing surrogate family that compensates for the weakness of immigrant families and the lack of parental resources. This study suggests that working class immigrant Chinese conversion to Christianity involves a re-authoritization process in which the new authorities in the Western Christian world, as represented by the pastor's role as a foster father, replace the old ones embedded in traditional Chinese families and create an emotionally open culture for the marginalized youth. This emotionally open culture of the church places immigrant youth's adaptation in a supportive context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)183-200
    JournalSociology of Religion
    Volume66
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

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