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BIPR | Nationalist Education in the Country of Origin and Immigrant Assimilation
Nationalist Education in the Country of Origin and Immigrant Assimilation

February 22, 2024 - 15:30

Harris Mylonas, George Washington University

Event Recap

Immigration has always been a part of human history. Today, there is much forced migration due to climate change and conflict, as well as voluntary for economic reasons. These trends stand to increase in the years to come. What happens to people when they arrive to their destination? Do they integrate or assimilate? How do their lives shape up? Dr. Harris Mylonas, Associate professor at George Washington University, and Vasiliki Fouka, Associate Professor at Stanford University, explore the role of education in the integration and assimilation process of migrants, but their research takes a new approach as they analyze education in the country of origin rather than the country of destination. Specifically, they explore the difference between being exposed to compulsory education versus compulsory education that involves nationalist practices such as flag raising, reciting the national anthem and national content in history books, and so forth. Mylonas and Fouka suggest that individuals that are educated tend to learn some universal skills such as how to sit in a classroom and listen while also internalizing societal norms and behaviors. However, those that are educated with national content also acquire a national identity that ties them to their home country. Thus, education without national content in the origin country increases civic integration in the destination country but education with nationalist content hinders cultural assimilation in the destination.

The researchers analyze immigration to the US in the 19th century because in this period many educational systems had not yet adopted nationalist content. They focus on immigrant coming from more than 25 countries in Europe—thus controlling for cultural and religious heterogeneity, and look at two dependent variables civic integration (operationalized through the time it took them to acquire first papers, and naturalization) and cultural assimilation (operationalized through endogamy and giving ethnic first names to children). Their empirical strategy was to first compare the outcomes of immigrants exposed to mass schooling in the country of origin to the outcomes of those without such exposure. They then compared the outcomes of immigrants exposed to mass schooling with national content to those without. The team found that when a migrant received only education that is focused on skills like literacy or math, they are more likely to civically integrate. When their education included skills as well as national content, they were less likely to culturally assimilate in the country of destination.

In interpreting some of their results, Mylonas suggested that perhaps naturalization is not just a civic integration indicator for some immigrants - perhaps some migrants in the US did not want to become American citizens and simply wanted first papers for residency. Mylonas also suggested that the introduction of compulsory schooling captures an aspiration to educate people, not whether they are getting educated. In future research their team intends to use school enrollment ratios and literacy rates. They also intend to look at how certain national minorities may be differently impacted from the introduction of national content. Turning to policy implications, Mylonas suggested that migrants today are likely and able to civically integrate, but may resist cultural assimilation unless the criteria for inclusion align with a more civic understanding of nationhood.



Nationalist Education in the Country of Origin and Immigrant Assimilation

hosted by Professor Eugene Finkel

Harris Mylonas
George Washington University

Harris Mylonas is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affair, at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University.

His work contributes to our understanding of states' management of diversity that may originate from national minorities, immigrants, diasporas, or refugees. He is particularly interested in the role of decision makers' perceptions about foreign involvement in their domestic affairs and the impact these perceptions have on the planning and implementation of state policies.

Professor Mylonas' award-winning book, The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities (Cambridge University Press, 2012) identifies the conditions in which the ruling political elites of a state target unassimilated groups with assimilationist policies instead of granting them minority rights or excluding them from the state. The Politics of Nation-Building won the 2014 European Studies Book Award by the Council for European Studies which honors the best first book on any subject in European Studies published within a two-year period and the Peter Katzenstein Book Prize for the best first book on International Relations, Comparative Politics or Political Economy in 2013. The book was also awarded an honorable mention by the Rothschild Prize in Nationalities and Ethnic Studies Committee of the Association for the Study of Nationalities in 2014.

Mylonas is the co-author of of Varieties of Nationalism: Communities, Narratives, Identities (Cambridge University Press, 2023; w/ Maya Tudor) and the co-editor of Enemies Within: Fifth Column Politics in Comparative Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2022; w/ Scott Radnitz) and The Microfoundations of Diaspora Politics (Routledge, 2022; w/ Alexandra Délano Alonso). His work has also been published in the Annual Review of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Security Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Territory, Politics, Governance, Nations and Nationalism, Social Science Quarterly, Nationalities Papers, Ethnopolitics, as well as various edited volumes. Turning to service, Mylonas has served as Associate Dean for Research at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs during 2017-18. Since 2018, he is editor-in-chief of Nationalities Papers, a peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press for the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN). He has been serving as a member of the Board of Directors of ASN since 2011. He is also a member of the editorial board of Diaspora Studies as well as the Journal of Modern Greek Studies. From 2019 to 2021, he served as Chair of the Council for European Studies Research Network on "Historical Study of States and Regimes."

As part of his public engagement activity, beyond writing opinion pieces, Mylonas has recently completed a political documentary entitled, Searching for Andreas: Political Leadership in Times of Crisis. The film premiered at the 20th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, won two awards at the International Documentary Festival of Ierapetra and was also screened at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, DC and the 2021 World Congress of Political Science of the International Political Science Association.

Mylonas received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University, his MA in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Athens, Greece. In 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 academic years he was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
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