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Reclaiming European Heritages of Transatlantic Migration

The Politics of Identity of East European Immigrants to the U.S.A.

Vytis Čiubrinskas

Keywords: genealogy; heritage; Lithuanians; local history; migration; politics of identity; U.S.A.

Abstract

This article provides a fieldwork-based case study for the application of identity empowerment through heritage as a research perspective for the analysis of East European transnationalism seen in Lithuanian immigration in the U.S.A. Two patterns of reclaiming European heritages, 'diasporic' and 'recognitionist', are discussed. The 'diasporic' pattern among more recent migrants embraces a transatlantic heritage in which culture stands for the nation. It is instrumentalised as a claim to retain essential Lithuanianness, and reinforced by the moral imperative to return to the homeland. The 'recognitionist' pattern is exemplified by descendants of earlier East European immigrants, and is focused on family roots, as well as on ethnic history and culture. Transatlantic roots and ethnic heritages of the Lithuanian 'Texas pioneers' are reinforced by belonging to the local United States as migrants strive to achieve re-inscription of that heritage as one that has long been rooted in the local history of Texas.

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