Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Political Participation and Influence
At first glance there is a surprising degree of consensus in the literature on immigrant participation. In pointing to the factors that cause various groups to become involved in the politics of their host societies, there are two standard reasons given. First, participatory attitudes and behavior develop in stages: there is a shift from temporary migration, or sojourning, to permanent settlement. New groups eventually acquire the language and knowledge necessary to enter the political arena (Handlin 1951; Piore 1979; Ireland 1994). This process has been likened to acclimatization or assimilation. Second, groups might be drawn into the political fray if there is an intensification of discrimination, or threats thereof. If Chinese communities have not adapted culturally to the countries where they reside, one might reasonably understand why they are also removed from the political fray. However, if they are fairly well acculturated with the “indigenous” population (this term will be explained shortly) then one might expect that they would participate in politics to the same degree as other citizens. Thus one of the first tasks of this chapter is to assess to what extent Chinese have become acculturated or assimilated with the populations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States.