Running head: EGYPTIAN?S IDENTITY DIASPORA
Egyptian-American?s Identity Diaspora: An Ethnography of Middle-Class Youth?s Identity Formation, Ethnicity, and Self-Esteem A Research Proposal Nora El-Bilawi George Mason University EDUC 893: Educational Anthropology Dr. Jorge Osterling
December, 2008 “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”Chuck Palahniuk Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Background Overview Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose. You shape your memory with what you go through and what you know; therefore, what you know is usually who you are. The search for one?s identity can be a challenging quest especially in a younger age (Merten & Schwartz, 1967); being culturally, physically, and ethnically different living already in a diaspora, in your youth, can further deepen this difficulty. One of the major developmental procedures an individual go through is his or her identity formation. While it is a complex challenge for younger generation in general, it is particularly complicated for youth belonging to an ethnic minority group away from the homeland. The research for personal identity was examined by theorist Erik Erickson who focused a great deal on the different developmental stages an individual goes through developing their identity (Kinney, 1993). Identity diffusion could play a great role in shaping youth?s identity as they develop an unclear sense of their identity with a sense of dilemma and eventually achieved a clear sense of their identity (Robinson, 2000). Identity formation, as above mentioned, is designed with complex components; identity diaspora, self-esteem, and ethnic identity are parts of these components. These unique components can be influenced by the experience he or she goes through, negative or positive, throughout the experience of identity formation. They all go through a process of an evaluative, judgmental, or affective customization of a person?s self-concept of
identity (Owens, 1994). According to Hogg, Terry, & White (1995) the idea of self- identity is considered to be a product of social interaction where people come to know who they are through their interactions with others. According to social identity theory, self-identity realization is a social category into which one falls, such as ethnicity, and to which one feels to belong and is able to defining characteristics of the category he or she belongs to (Hogg et al.). Although there have been several studies done researching the issues of generation diaspora and self-esteem in minority groups such as African-Americans or Asians; however, there have been few studies which have examined self-esteem and identity diaspora among Middle Eastern individuals and Egyptians, in particular. Historical Debrief The fashionable discourse on multiculturalism and identity seems to be a characteristic feature of what is described as the post-modern and postcolonial condition (Docker & Fischer, 1997). More terms of this discourse has developed such as hybridity, globalization, ethnic identity and Diaspora at the end of the 20th century (Docker et al.). The reason of the great interest to such discourse might be the result of the new international relations paradigm, such as the continuing process of decolonization, renegotiation, globalization, and normalization. All these aspects participate in a new global migration pattern. Unfortunately, that tendency towards globalizing economy and politics brought together new diaspora and identity loss. According to Docker & Fischer (1997), in the late 20th century with the dramatic developments like the “implosive disappearance of the “Soviet Empire;” along with the failure of its economic system, a new path of a one world economy of capitalists based on unparalleled world exchange had begun; i.e. the free mobility of capital, services, people, signs, information, and ideas. Internationalism, normalization, and free global mobility brought together overlapping and unresolved contradiction; for example, colonial versus postcolonial, old settlers versus new settlers, indigenous people versus invaders, majority versus a great number of minorities, and white against black; all these brought together the feeling of diaspora and the need to search for individual and personal or group identity based on ethnicity, language, country of origin, or religion. Statement of the Problem ` ` A vast majority of research findings on ethnic identity have been conducted in the United States on more prevalent ethnic groups; primarily African-Americans, HispanicAmericans, and Asian-Americans (Phinney, 1990). However, less research has been done examining ethnic identity and self esteem among other minorities, living in the diaspora, such as Egyptian Americans. For the purpose of this paper, the identity diaspora will be the big umbrella under which comes my general main focus of self-esteem and ethnic identity. Research Questions This proposed research paper is based on a qualitative semi-structured interview study of middle-class Egyptian -American youth living in the United States; it is to explore their perceptions of ethnic identity and self-esteem. The questions are: ? What does the concept of maintaining Egyptian heritage mean to young Egyptian American generation (Egyptian youth)? (in relation to ethnic identity) ? Do they feel that their cultural identity is more attached and related to their
Egyptian cultural heritage or more to their personal (dual) experiences? In other words, are they living in a diaspora (away from the homeland) or they are more acculturated to American culture? ? Being looked at as the “other,” does their ethnic identification have an impact on their self-esteem? Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to explore Egyptian-American youths? perceptions of identity formation, ethnic identity, and self-esteem living in the diaspora in the United States. It is expected that the perceptions of this particular population will depend upon how they perceive their culture, their level of acculturation, and how they perceive their level of acceptance by Egyptian and non-Egyptian peers. Practical Application and Objectives The ultimate goal from implementing this study is to integrate the knowledge about immigrant Middle Eastern, particularly Egyptians- and their identity: ethnic identity and self-esteem- as a “way of knowing” and to be an ingredient for most of our educational programs and course-readings; for example, in teacher education and teacher preparation programs, in educational psychology programs, in world perspective courses and/or in educational anthropology course readings. This understanding of the “other” will create a more internationally minded teacher; hence, a production of a new internationallyminded generation of students believing in the concept of a global citizenship. This study can also help professionals, such as social workers, gain insight into areas of ethnic identity and self-esteem of an ethnic group such as the EgyptianAmerican youth. It will help them understand the dynamics of a different culture and the obstacles in existence that may find your quality of life of that particular ethnic population; this will increase social workers cultural awareness and sensitivity to the differences of this ethnic population. Social services who encounter working with Egyptian youth population will need such information to have a heightened consciousness of this ethnic minority group (Cunningham, Spencer, & Swanson, 1991) results may also guide further research in supporting and understanding how Egyptian youths and other similar minorities view themselves in terms of ethnic identity and selfesteem. Theoretical Structure Theoretical Framework: Terms used In this study, the term “Egyptian-American youth” refers to individuals who currently live in the United States and is between the ages of 17 to 20 years, and is of Egyptian descent. The concept of “identity” is based on the social identity theory of Tajfel. In here it represents the part of one?s personality of which one is aware and able to see as a meaningful and coherent whole. It is also a central aspect of the healthy personality, reflecting both an inner sense of continuity and sameness over time, with an ability to identify with others and share common goals and culture (Cobb, 1995, p.79). Postcolonial and multicultural projects are related to this theory can be seen as layers of discourse, as a quest for identity formation, and as a struggle for recognition (Docker & Fischer, 1997) The origin of the word “diaspora” can be traced back to several hundred years ago to its Greek beginnings (Cohen, 1996), but has since acquires new theoretical dimensions in contemporary migration studies. The term is rooted in accounts of forced migration and
exile among Jewish, American, and Greek people. “Diaspora,” traditionally summons the image of mass exodus and the longing of the return to an imagined “homeland” (Clifford), 1994. In the late 20th century, the term diaspora refers to mass migration, used particularly in post-colonial studies to denote a scattering of peoples away from their homelands under pressures such as colonization for slavery (Aidan Arrowsmith, ret. 2008). In this study, the term is used to describe a group of immigrants (away from their homeland) feeling the pressure of the identity confusion and self loss. Also, the term “self-esteem” is one of the solid concepts that I will use in this study. According to Rothenberg (1965), self-esteem is the “favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the self” (p. 15). The term “ethnic” is commonly used to refer to a group that differs from others in terms of culture, nationality, race, or religion. In this study, the term “ethnic identity” focuses on descriptions, expressions, narratives or discourse, and ethnic experience. According to Phinney & Rotheram, (1987), the term refers to “individual?s sense of belonging to an ethnic group and the part of one?s thinking, perception, feelings, and behavior that is due to ethnic group memberships” (p. 13).
Conceptual Framework: categories and variable Chapter 2 LITERATURE REVIEW This literature review chapter addresses the concepts of self-esteem and ethnic identityunder the bigger umbrella of diaspora-and how these issues are related to minority youth. The lay-out in this chapter is as follows: First, introduction social identity theory (as the theoretical frame work of the study). Next, is the explanation of the application of the theory in analyzing youth identity. Second, is an introduction of identity formation theory (as the theoretical frame work of the study). Afterwards, is the application of the theory by analyzing ethnic identity in the study. Third, is the self-esteem theory (as the theoretical frame work of the study). Followed by the theory comes the practical analysis of self esteem with relation to the study. The fourth is the combination of the three theories and integrating them to study this population?s identity diaspora. Social identity theory Social Identity Theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner in 1979. The theory was originally developed to understand the psychological basis of intergroup discrimination. Tajfel et al (1971) attempted to identify the minimal conditions that would lead members of one group to discriminate in favor of the in-group to which they belonged and against another out-group. In the Social Identity Theory, a person has not one, “personal self”, but rather several selves that correspond to widening circles of group membership. Different social contexts
may trigger an individual to think, feel and act on basis of his personal, family or national “level of self” (Turner et al, 1987). Apart from the “level of self”, an individual has multiple “social identities”. Social identity is the individual?s self-concept derived from perceived membership of social groups (Hogg & Vaughan, 2002). In other words, it is an individual-based perception of what defines the “us” associated with any internalized group membership. This can be distinguished from the notion of personal identity which refers to self-knowledge that derives from the individual?s unique attributes. Social Identity Theory asserts that group membership creates in-group/ selfcategorization and enhancement in ways that favor the in-group at the expense of the outgroup. The examples (minimal group studies) of Turner and Tajfel (1986) showed that the mere act of individuals categorizing themselves as group members was sufficient to lead them to display in-group favoritism. After being categorized of a group membership, individuals seek to achieve positive self-esteem by positively differentiating their ingroup from a comparison out-group on some valued dimension. This quest for positive distinctiveness means that people?s sense of who they are is defined in terms of ?we? rather than ?I?. Tajfel and Turner (1979) identify three variables whose contribution to the emergence of in-group favoritism is particularly important. (a) The extent to which individuals identify with an in-group to internalize that group membership as an aspect of their self-concept. (b) The extent to which the prevailing context provides ground for comparison between groups. (c) The perceived relevance of the comparison group, which itself will be shaped by the relative and absolute status of the in-group. Individuals are likely to display favoritism when an in-group is central to their self-definition and a given comparison is meaningful or the outcome is contestable. In looking at the identity from a psychological point of view, striving for a unified and integrated sense of self may facilitate the definition of personal goals and the sense of direction (Giles, Taylor, Lambert, & Albert, 1976). The search for identity is a persistent topic in our society and is used in many ways to account for various social occurrences. Many different definitions exist to help explain what identity is. According to Cobb (1995), identity is a central aspect of the healthy personality, reflecting both an inner sense of continuity and sameness over time. Identity is an ability to connect with others and share in common goals, to participate in one?s culture (Cobb). Erik Erickson, a leading figure in psychoanalysis, defined identity as an “objective sense of an invigorating sameness and continuity,” as well as a “sense of feeling active and alive.” Identity formation is accomplished by selecting values, release, and concepts that better define our sense of self (Adams, Gullotta, & Montemayor, 1992, p. 2). Youth and identity According to Erickson (1963), youth is usually associated with adolescence which is the age of the final establishment of a dominant positive ego identity; these adolescents must revisit some of the earlier stages of development in order to achieve identity formation. In order to accomplish identity formation, youth and adolescents must resolve their different selves such as their social self and self at home (Penuel & Wertsch, 1995). Beginning with a young child?s awareness of significant others and initial sentence of self and extending to the older adults summation, the development of an individual?s identity expands and takes shape across one?s lifespan and integration and evaluation of one?s life accomplishments (Erickson, 1963). Identity, then, is in expansive term that describes a
broad aspect of the individual?s total personality; including the establishment, dissimulation, and incorporation of societal norm, beliefs, principles, and standards (Archer, 1990). Identity Formation Theory Theories of ethnic identity development have primarily followed developmental models and attempted to explain this process according to a sequence of conflicts which must be resolved before the next stage is achieved (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1983; Gay, 1985; Phinney, 1990). Atkinson et al. (1983) propose that minority identity development follows five distinct stages: conformity - preference for values of the dominant culture instead of one's own cultural group; dissonance - confusion and conflict regarding the dominant culture's system and one's own group's cultural system; resistance and immersion - active rejection of the dominant system and acceptance of one's own cultural group's traditions and customs; introspection - questioning the values of both the minority and majority cultures; and synergistic articulation and awareness - resolution of conflicts in previous stages and developing a cultural identity that selects elements from both the dominant and minority cultural groups' values. Phinney and Alipuria (1987) define ethnic identity as "an individual's sense of self as a member of an ethnic group and the attitudes and behaviors associated with that sense" (p. 36). They further state that ethnic identity development is "the process of development from an unexamined ethnic identity through a period of exploration, to arrive at an achieved ethnic identity" (p. 38). According to Sotomayor (1977), ethnic identification refers to identification or feeling of membership with others regarding the character, the spirit of a culture or the cultural ethos based on a sense of commonality of origin, beliefs, values, customs or practices of a specific group of people. Thus, unlike the concept of race, which pertains to specific physical traits, the concept of ethnicity connotes cultural group membership. Ethnic identity Early in the identity formation stages, children become aware of a wide range of physical characteristics in themselves and others; for example, racial such as skin color, facial features, and here texture (Gasser & Tan, 1999). Also, chilled to acquire ethnic values, costumes, language styles, and behavioral codes long before they are able to label and know them as ethnic (Tajfel, 1978). These ideas may carry over from childhood into adolescence where identity is further explored and can be complicated by an individual?s membership both in an ethnic group and in mainstream culture (Gasser & Tan, 1999). This complication may be due to the fact that youth are caught between parents? ethnic beliefs and values, and those of the majority society. This dilemma adds up to the conflict of youth?s self identity formation. The construct of ethnic identity has been under considerable scrutiny in recent decades. In her literature review of ethnic identity, Phinney (1990) describes three theoretical frameworks of research: identity formation, social identity, and acculturation. While these frameworks overlap in their general conceptualizations of ethnic identity, they differ in the specific aspects they emphasize (Gasser & Tan, 1999). As a result, the range of inquiry and focus of ethnic identity research has been broad, including self-identification, group membership, attitudes toward one's ethnic group, ethnic involvement, and cultural values and beliefs (Phinney, 1990). Theories of identity formation parallel those of ego identity development, investigating
the psychological stages through which the individual progresses in establishing an ethnic identity. Very few studies of ethnic identity include social context as part of their empirical examinations. However, ethnic identity must be considered within a specific social context since the contrast an individual experiences between his or her culture of origin and the dominant culture will significantly affect the self. Further, an individual's ethnic identity may vary according to the influence of other individuals and the social context (Rosenthal & Hrynevich, 1985). Ethnic identity research also has not typically investigated individual change - a process of exploration and decision-making related to ethnicity. Although ethnic identity stage theorists propose psychological correlates for each stage of development, this process has not been clearly defined and it has not been proven that it progresses in stages (Gasser & Tan, 1999). The results of the present study suggest a model of ethnic identity formation in which the individual's attitudes and behaviors about ethnic identity continually change and develop simultaneously as issues in the ethnic group and dominant culture are encountered. Further, most studies of ethnic identity have used child or adult subjects even though youth is a developmental stage marked by identity transition and consolidation (Erickson, 1968; Phinney, 1990). Since few studies have focused specifically on critical transitions during adolescence and early adulthood (Phinney, 1990), this study examines ethnic identity development among late adolescent (college-age) Egyptian-Americans. Phinney (1990) adapted distinct stages of identity development; these stages are: (a) defuse (ethnic identity is not yet explored), (b) foreclosure (commitment is based on parental values and not made independently), (c) moratorium (the individual is exploring his or her ethnic identity but is not yet committed to one), (d) achieved (the individual has explored his or her identity and is firmly committed). This model was first developed by Marcia (1980) and was later adapted by Phinney (1990). Therefore, ethnic self identity is the integration of ethnicity or race into one?s self concept or self image (Cunningham & Spencer, 2000). It is the complete recognition of one?s ethnicity: ensuring self identity that flows from the values, ways, and styles of that ethnic background instead of a strong self-concept based on the attitudes and prejudices of the larger society to words that ethnic group (Cunningham & Spencer, 2000). Hence, ethnic identity is an identity that arises from within, instead of a representation that is forced by social stereotypes. In describing the power of stereotyping, Rosenthal & Feldman (1992) assure that the stereotypes the majority of a society shape as an image on a specific ethnic group could greatly influence the youth of this group?s sense of pride or shame from their ethnicity group. Self-esteem theory The study of youth self-esteem is important because it directly relates to and is derived from the larger social structure wherein values are intrinsically transmitted. Classical and contemporary social psychologists agree that people have a pervasive need for selfesteem (Greenberg, 1992). Self-esteem theory and measurement inherently imply cultural and gendered assumptions. In other words, the implication is that self-esteem is an individual characteristic that all humans possess and are continually striving to improve. Improvement is conceptualized in terms of further self-development. Most importantly, at the very basis of all these assumptions, lies the crucial Western notion of the individuated and autonomous self. The majority of researchers believe that self-esteem lies on a linear
vector: individuals who espouse high self-esteem are considered to be functioning smoothly in society whereas those with lower self-esteem are thought to be struggling. The study of self and self-esteem originated from a psychosocial perspective. The concept first arose in psychology and can be traced back to the writings of William James in the late 19th century. James was the first social scientist to develop a clear professional definition of the self (Turner, 1998). In his typology of self, James' description of the social self recognized that people's feelings about themselves arise from interaction with others; he recognized that humans have the capacity to view themselves as objects and to develop self-feelings and attitudes toward themselves (Turner, 1998). According to James, [Self] is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities; a fraction of which our pretensions are the denominator and the numerator our success: thus, Self-Esteem = Successes/Pretensions. Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator (296). Morris Rosenberg is a main contributor in the rebirth of self-esteem studies in social psychology, which had been dormant since the turn of the twentieth century (Mruk 13). Rosenberg's (1965) Society and the Adolescent Self-Image opened a new door to psychologists and sociologists and helped bridge a disciplinary gap with his self-esteem theory and his Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Rosenberg's self-esteem theory relies on two factors: (1) reflected appraisals and (2) social comparisons. Regarding reflected appraisals, Rosenberg acknowledges that “human communication depends on seeing matters from other people's perspectives. In the process of 'taking the role of the other,' we become aware that we are objects of others' attention, perception, and evaluation. We thus come to see ourselves through the eyes of others.” According to the abovementioned definition of the term self-esteem in psychology by Rosenberg (1965), it is seen as individual?s overall positive or negative evaluation of one?s sense of worth, importance, and appreciation. One?s self-esteem could show the ability to think and to cope with the challenges of life and assurance in one?s right to be happy (Tashakkori, Thompson, Wade, & Valente, 1990). Tashakkori further explains that self-esteem could be considered as they evaluative mood and component of self-concept and self-esteem. Self-esteem In trying to understand the developments of self-esteem we need to keep in mind the different experiences and backgrounds an individual inhabits. One of the aspects that participate in developing one?s self-esteem is his or her relationships with family and the surrounding environment. For instance, relationships with parents provide the foundation for self-esteem. When parents are loving, children feel secure; hence, develop the feeling of self-worth (Cobb, 1995). In fact, several empirical investigations have indicated that parental support, encouragement, and affection are strongly correlated with children?s positive self-esteem (Walker & Greene, 1986). Youth?s relationships with their family is usually determined by the culture of this individual; in other words showing love and affection among family members could differ from one ethnic group to another and this is an important factor and component of shaping self-esteem. Combining ethnic identity and self-esteem in studying Egyptian-American diaspora In order to form a well-developed ethnic identity an individual had to go through the process of developing self-concept and self-esteem; a person with a positive self-concept experienced high self-esteem and would have a strong and favorable ethnic identity and
vice versa (Charlesworth, 2000; Samuels, 1977). Researchers Phinney and Rotheram (1987) assure that self-esteem is unquestionably related to ethnic identity explaining that there is a strong correlation between an individual?s self-esteem and degree of ethnic identity. Phinney and Chavira (1992) had conducted a research complimented on three different ethnic groups? youth: Asian-American, African-American, and Hispanic American. They examined the sample in their adolescent frame of mind (in high school), then they re-examined them in their youth frame of mind (sophomores and juniors at University). Their research found that the samples ethnic identity and self-esteem increased as age increased they assert that those who had achieved a firm and secure ethnic identity, and will have dealt with ambivalence, prejudice, and discrimination, actually felt good about themselves and had a better self-esteem and did not live in a complete diaspora. Moreover, researchers have found that ethnic identity have a correlation with gender, ethnicity, self-esteem, self-confidence, and purpose in life (Martinez & Duke, 1997). In their conducted research, they alleged that the more established ethnic identity, the higher self-esteem, purpose in life, and self-confidence. Parental support, personal support networks, economic opportunities, and social competence in ethnic communities are all factors that have different impact on an individual?s level of self-esteem (Vega & Rumbaut, 1991). For instance, among Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans, extended family support and fast networks have been found to play an important part in their youth self-esteem (Porter & Washington, 1993). According to the social identity theory of Tajfel and Turner (1979), being a member of a group provides individuals with a sense of belonging that contributes to a positive selfconcept and that being perceived as ethnically different can negatively impact an individual?s self-esteem. Kurth Lewin (1948) emphasizes on the importance and the need for a firm sense of identification with a heritage and culture of one?s ethnic group in order to find a secure self-esteem and well-being. Phinney and Rotheram (1987); however, were against overgeneralization of this notion and asserted that when the dominant group considers traits or characteristics of an ethnic group to be in low regard, the members of the low status ethnic group may be faced with negative identity and low self regard. Unfortunately, the majority of cultural experience of minorities in the United States forces young ethnic generation to become bicultural where one has to be capable of demonstrating competence in both the larger society and within their own ethnic community and this pressure lead, sometimes, to the extreme of being marginalized (Cunningham, Spencer, &Swanson, 1991). This experience of this duality requires functioning with a double consciousness; hence, by cultural individuals must learn the ways of coping with tasks, expectations, and requirements of society based on one?s ethnic minority status (Spencer et al.). Both Lewin (1948) and Tajfel (1978) discussed the probability that identification with two different groups can be challenging for identity formation in ethnic group members because of the complex in attitudes, values, and behaviors between their own in the majority group. They both assert that the establishment of duality and biculturalism may cause either marginalization or a sort of immersion into the dominant culture; this immersion is what we call acculturation. Acculturation is when an ethnic minority group is raised with the influence of more than one culture resulting in the “continuous contact between two distinct cultures” (Phinney
& Chavira, 1992, p. 299).
Chapter 3 METHODOLOGY Research design Since there are a limited data available addressing this population, information will be a trained using qualitative methods of research which will involve the use of semistructured interviews. The main reason for choosing a qualitative design in this study is to provide flexibility of research since there isn?t plenty of information on the chosen minority group. Sample population The suggested sample will consist of 20 Egyptian-American youth who lived in the United States for 10 years or more based on a purpose sampling technique. In this study, the participants? pool will be consisted of: sophomores and juniors Egyptian- Americans who go to George Mason University, individuals who go to Egyptian- American community events, and from family and friends. Having some knowledge of the matter will allow obtaining information as well as easy accessibility to the target population. The following are the criteria that I will base my choice upon: (a) must be between the ages of 17 to 20, (b) must be Egyptian descent, and (c) must be a member of the Middle Eastern or Egyptian community -not only a formal group, but could be an informal family community. Instrument The main instrument of this study will be based on a semi-structured interview containing open ended questions that will allow participants to speak at their own ease to explain and elaborate on each item. The interview guide will focus on the research areas of interest including identity diaspora, ethnic identity, and self-esteem. LIMITATIONS As the case in any study, there will be some limitations to the conducted research. The first limitation is the fact that the research samples are not taken in a random procedure and this is because a small sample size will be used. Therefore, the generalization cannot be made to the entire Egyptian youth population. Reliability and validity limitations is the second limitation; it stems from the fact that interview guide will be developed purposely for the study and had not been previously tested. The third limitation includes subjectivity and objectivity issue; there will be a sort of biases and researcher subjectivity in analyzing data.
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