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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Political Incorporation Compared: the Irish and the Taiwanese experience in the United States

With Professor Pei-te Lien (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Series:  Regional Comparison: Taiwan and Ireland in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 11 March 2010, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Reverend John Scott (LSE and University of Birmingham)


This paper reviews theories of immigrant political incorporation and compares the social and political adaptation of two very different ethnic groups in American history and contemporary politics. Immigrants and their descendants from Ireland are now considered a symbol of success in social integration and political incorporation by becoming 'white' in US racial politics. Taiwanese Americans, on the other hand, are considered part of the migrant population from Asia, which has been paradoxically characterized as either the 'yellow peril,' as a 'model minority', or as 'perpetual foreigners' throughout their more than 150 years of immigration history in the United States. In the 2006-8 American Community Survey series, Taiwanese Americans had a much higher level of educational achievement and per capita income than Irish Americans, but they also registered a much lower citizenship rate and a higher poverty rate. What explains the paradoxical indicators of social and political incorporation between the two ethnic groups? How can the Irish American experience provide insights into the future of the political incorporation of Taiwanese and other Asian immigrants, and their involvement in ethnic homeland politics?

This paper reviews historical, institutional, and behavioural evidence relating to the evolution of the two ethnic groups to challenge the validity of the conventional assimilation framework and pluralism as a political theory for explaining immigrant incorporation in a diverse and globally connected world. Among other topics, we compare and contrast the significance of race and racialization in group history and the role of US policies towards the admission and incorporation of immigrants from Asia and Europe. We also compare the mediating role of political parties as agents of (re)socialization/incorporation as well as the role of the ancestral homeland in the development of nationalist identity and consciousness which, in turn, may mobilize political participation across the Atlantic/Pacific. We believe a comparison of this unlikely pair may yield empirically and theoretically exciting results for the advancement of Taiwan Studies, American Studies, and international migration research as a whole.

About the Speaker

Professor Pei-te Lien is a professor of Political Science affiliated with Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her primary research interest is the political participation and representation of Asian and other non-white Americans. Most of her recent work examines the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, and nativity in political behavior, among both the governing elites and the masses. The Making of Asian America Through Political Participation (Temple University Press, 2001) received the 2002 best book award on political participation, voting, elections, and political behavior from the American Political Science Association's Division on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. Her latest book, The Transnational Politics of Asian Americans (Temple, 2009), is co-edited with Chris Collet and includes original essays that explore the world of political transnationalism among Asian Americans from a multidisciplinary perspective. She is a co-principal investigator of the Gender and Multicultural Leadership project (www.gmcl.org) and is co-authoring a book Race, Gender, and the Changing Face of Political Leadership in 21st Century America (Cambridge) in relation to this project.