#7 Safe Harbor

The final chapter of God in Chinatown is titled “Safe Harbor.” As the title suggests, the chapter provides five conclusions on religious Fuzhounese immigrants and their religious communities and how these interactions aided in “survival” by acting as a haven for immigrants (195). These conclusions were drawn from the data that was discussed throughout the duration of the book. Guest makes the following conclusions:

  1. Fuzhounese religious communities act as a key location for mobilizing social capital.
  2. Hierarchies of class may be replicated within the religious communities and may reinforce the stratification of the enclave.
  3. Religious Fuzhounese immigrants have constructed networks between home and honest religious communities that affect the migration process.
  4. Fuzhounese religious communities serve as sites for establishing alternative identities.
  5. The immigration process engenders a search for meaning.

Of the five discussed, numbers one and four immediately caught my interest and sparked comparisons between the other readings, but in particular from The Madonna of 115th Street and From Ellis Island to JFK.

Through their religious communities, the Fuzhounese immigrants have managed to reconnect to social networks based on factors, which include kinship and religious practices. It was mentioned that for immigrants working outside the New York area, many would schedule visits to return that coincided with religious holidays and festivals. This clearly reminded me of Italian immigrants who returned to celebrate the festa of the Madonna. Family and extended family would travel and return to New York for this celebration. Through these activities and interactions, Fuzhounese immigrants have formed stronger internal communities that serve additional functions such as the exchange of information and the exchange of financial resources (198).

These religious communities also serve a larger purpose as well. Undocumented immigrants in the United States are often alienated and unable to establish full citizenship rights in their new context (205). Through their participation in religious events, Fuzhounese immigrants have managed to construct a secondary role in the United States society. The religious community serves as a focal both that reaches both New York and China. This perspective reminded me of the transnational ties discussed in From Ellis Island to JFK. Although the Fuzhounese may not be able to acquire citizenship they are certainly considered somewhat “American” in a sense.

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