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Decoupling Religion and Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indian American Christians

Abstract

Classic assimilation theory was based on the assumption of individualistic adaptation, with immigrants and their children expected to shed their ethnic identities to become Americans. In the sphere of religion, however, they could maintain their communitarian traditions through American denominations. In contemporary society, multiculturalism, spiritual seeking, and postdenominationalism have reversed this paradigm. First- and second-generation immigrants integrate by remaining ethnic and group-identified, but religion is viewed as a personal quest. This paper examines how this paradigm shift affects the ethnic and religious behavior of second-generation Americans. It is based on research among Malankara Syrian Christians belonging to an ancient South Indian community.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This interview was conducted by Laurah Klepinger-Mathew, my research assistant.

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Correspondence to Prema Kurien.

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Kurien, P. Decoupling Religion and Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indian American Christians. Qual Sociol 35, 447–468 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-012-9238-0

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Keywords

  • Nondenominational evangelicalism
  • Ethnic churches
  • Immigrant integration
  • Second-generation Americans