Dissertation title: The Cities that Immigrants Built: The Creation of Civil Society in West Coast Cities, 1855-1910
Committee: Lis Clemens (chair), Robert Vargas, Nicole Marwell (Social Work)
The general assumption is that immigrants had to assimilate or build outsider movements if they wanted a say in changing a city’s political institutions. However, on the West Coast, mass immigration occurred before most place’s political institutions were formed. This gave ethnic communities opportunities to build community and political power that they could use to be part of the founding of a city’s institutions. That they did so fully apparent in the ubiquity of organizations these immigrants and their children formed. The demography of these ethnic communities was also highly unique, featuring immigrants from three continents following many different religious beliefs. My dissertation asks, what was the role of ethnic organizations in building the political institutions of cities and civil societies on the West Coast from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries? I answer this question with comparative mixed methods techniques. I have digitized and built novel quantitative datasets and spent an additional year collecting archival documents from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. My data reveals that racialization on the West Coast was highly local, contingent, and often ambiguous. The racialization of communities, both prior to their arrival on the West Coast and once there, had critical effects on how, and the extent to which, various ethnic and immigrant communities built organizations to serve their needs. I argue that this collective organization, or lack thereof, has had long-lasting ramifications on these four cities’ politics and civil societies to this day and explain enduring differences in community organizing and social change efforts.
Simon studies philanthropy in the U.S. from both historical and contemporary vantage points. His dissertation analyzes the interpenetration of immigrant organizations and politics during the 19th-century creation of cities on the West Coast of the U.S. These relations defined boundaries among racial ethnic groups, developed the political institutions of the cities, and left enduring legacies on the organization of civil society. In his more contemporary work, he is interested in understanding the philanthropic foundations' simultaneous perpetuation and alleviation of inequality.
Recent Research / Recent Publications
Shachter, Simon Y., and Carrie R. Oelberger. 2021. National Sovereignty and Transnational Philanthropy: The Impact of Countries' Foreign Aid Restrictions on U.S. Foundation Funding Activity. VOLUNTAS 32:204-219
Oelberger, Carrie R., Jesse Lecy, and Simon Y. Shachter. 2020. Going the Extra Mile: The Liability of Foreignness in U.S. Foundation International Grantmaking to Local NGOs. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 49(4): 776-802.