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Linking religion and ethnicity?: Exploring religion of immigrants

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

By Myna German, PF&R chair

Delaware State University

Professional freedom and responsibility is defined by AEJMC as “programming in the area of free expression; ethics; media criticism and accountability; racial, gender and cultural inclusiveness; and public service.” How does this affect the reporting of religion?

One of the areas that I have been researching is Global Migration and Communications Technology with collaborator Padmini Banerjee from the Psychology Department at my university, Delaware State. What we are researching is whether technology allows global migrants—individuals who change their country with as much ease as we would change our state—to create permanent links that are so fluid that it as if you never left. If you enter a new country, you will be calling home as easily as you would from New Jersey to Illinois or California and emailing as prolifically as you would from New York to Tennessee. Hence, what was  once a permanent separation in the days of my immigrant grandparents coming to America around 1910 or 1920 is less consequential. What we research is whether this technological hookup system aids or abets assimilation and acculturation.

We have not looked at religion yet, because none of our new immigrants that we study mentions it. We could take it a step further—will global migrants stick to the same church in the new host country (incoming country) or join a house of worship more popular there in their new community? That would be the next frontier. Or will the Internet lead to a cyberchurch hookup with the Old Country that supersedes any in-person meeting that could be arranged in the new place?

What is our professional responsibility to report immigrant religion in the United States? Or, are we busy with house of worship listings in our own towns or dealing with the closure of religion pages in the newspaper. This is certainly an area that we could study when the smoke clears.

One idea that I had was to expand the Religion and Media Interest Group classification to include Ethnicity. How would you feel about Religion/Ethnicity and Media Interest Group? Would that include the topic that is currently on my plate or create a turf battle with other divisions such as International that might study topics such as this? Or, is our responsibility to leave the study of ethnicity and nationality to other quarters. What if religion overlaps with ethnicity? Is that within our purview—or do we need to become more eclectic in this regard? Are religion and ethnicity the same for some groups?

Or, is the world leaning more toward “cosmopolitanism” to use Appiah’s phrase? Is the study of ethnicity no longer a responsibility of the journalist or communications researcher? That is certainly an issue that we could discuss and whether ethnicity, unless it overlaps with religion, is a responsibility of RMIG.