Journal Article

The Church as a Surrogate Family for Working Class Immigrant Chinese Youth: An Ethnography of Segmented Assimilation

Nanlai Cao

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 66, issue 2, pages 183-200
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/4153085
The Church as a Surrogate Family for Working Class Immigrant Chinese Youth: An Ethnography of Segmented Assimilation

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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.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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