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Of the many identities which characterize the heterogeneity of American life, among the most enduring are those rooted in sentimental and nostalgic ties to ancestral cultures. Like other descendants of the so-called New Immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, the Serbs have belied the inevitability of the venerable melting-pot theory. (2) On the contrary, Serbian culture transplanted by immigrants to the New World has demonstrated a surprising tenacity and continuity. This is not to say that it has remained static of frozen in time. Rather, what has occurred is an ongoing process by which ancestral traditions are selectively chosen, reformulated, and integrated seamlessly with elements of contemporary American culture as part of an adaptive process. For the purposes of this essay, I will limit the scope of my discussion to only part of the very diverse Serbian diaspora in America, that is, to those individuals who trace their descent from the largely peasant immigration from parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Montenegro, and whose descendents now include grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Like other so-called hyphenated Americans, the expression of ethnic identity among these Serbs exhibits specific characteristics which differ markedly from those of ethnic minorities in Europe and other parts of the world where ethnic identity is an overarching concept permeating almost all aspects of life. In part, this opposition stems from the nature of America as an immigrant country where, with some notable exceptions, (3) citizenship is the principal determinant of status in the public sphere, while ethnicity is largely relegated to private life.

1 januari
Slavica Publishers, Inc.

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