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"I'm a Product of Everything I've Been Through"

Title: "I'm a Product of Everything I've Been Through": A Narrative Study of the Cultural Identity Construction of Bosnian Muslim Female Refugee Students.
Name(s): Clark, Elizabeth Hoffman, author
Milligan, Jeffrey A., professor co-directing dissertation
MacDonald, Victoria-Maria, professor co-directing dissertation
Hasson, Deborah, outside committee member
Beach, King, committee member
Shargel, Emanuel, committee member
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2007
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Using Bourdieu's theory of social capital and cultural reproduction as a conceptual framework and narrative inquiry as a methodology, this study explores the role of schooling in the cultural identity development of adolescent females from Bosnian Muslim communities who entered the United States as refugees. The five participants live in a Southeastern city pseudonymously referred to as "Parksburg." Each woman arrived in the U.S. during elementary school years and was either in postsecondary study or nearing high school graduation at the time of the study. The women's personal narratives reveal a common desire to develop bicultural competence in social as well as academic settings. The self-reported degree of success varied, as women who had chosen to socialize primarily within a peer group of other Bosnian refugee youth felt a stronger connection to their Bosnian language and identity as young adults; this cultural self-identification as Bosnian corresponded with a desire to follow Bosnian cultural practices, marry a Bosnian man and make frequent return visits to Bosnia as well as follow Muslim religious observances. Students whose social and academic realms at school included few other Bosnians were much more likely to have constructed cultural identities in which being American or international was primary and a Bosnian cultural heritage was secondary or one of several equal cultural influences. Race played an important role in cultural identity development, as all the students were aware of the pervasiveness of White privilege and the degree to which their adjustment was easier than that of other refugee and immigrant peers because of their "White" appearance. Most of the students felt relief from their ability to blend into mainstream White U.S. culture and placed a high value on being able to "pass" as non-immigrant White. This desire to blend in led to a conscious choice to downplay Bosnian language and Muslim religious heritage in school and social settings. The two students who had attended schools with a majority of African-American students constructed their racial identities in light of their social context in high school; they insisted to their classmates that they were Bosnian and therefore differentiated themselves from the White American students. This public self-identification as "European" rather than "White" extended to linguistic identity development, as one student adopted African-American Vernacular English as the exclusive form of English she used. Racial identity issues reflect many of Bourdieu's concepts including cultural reproduction, symbolic violence, and the social capital associated with race in contemporary U.S. culture. Narrative data also reveals the challenges of the multiple "uprootings" faced by many refugees who are forced to leave their home country for another country where they may live for several years only to be uprooted and resettled yet again in a third permanent country of residence. The concept of a refugee identity and other elements of cultural identity common to many refugees, such as ethnic conflict and the experience of war trauma, are also discussed. Analysis and interpretation also address a number of aspects of cultural identity development revealed as significant in the narrative data. These include the importance of self-selected cultural identity labels as well as the role of the homeland in the development of cultural identity. Ethnic, religious, and linguistic facets of identity are also addressed as portions of participant narrative illustrate the complexity of cultural identity development among these young women who differ in many ways yet share common struggles of developing bicultural or multiple cultural identities in the United States.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-3595 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2007.
Date of Defense: November 13, 2006.
Keywords: Biculturalism, Immigration Studies, Narrative Research, Cultural Identity Construction, Refugee Education, Multilingual Development
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Jeffrey A. Milligan, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Victoria-Maria MacDonald, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Deborah Hasson, Outside Committee Member; King Beach, Committee Member; Emanuel Shargel, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Education
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Clark, E. H. (2007). "I'm a Product of Everything I've Been Through": A Narrative Study of the Cultural Identity Construction of Bosnian Muslim Female Refugee Students. Retrieved from