Narratives of Biculturalism: Arab-American Identity Negotiation Post-9/11

By: Janan Shouhayib '16

Advising Faculty: Jefferson Singer

The process of identity negotiation for bicultural individuals is ongoing and psychologically challenging. Arab-Americans in particular must deal with this process in a contentious environment where the Arab World is demonized and “Othered,” especially after 9/11. This project was an exploration of the identity development of Arab-American youth in a post-9/11 context. Background research for this study included a review of identity theory from Erik Erikson to postmodern thinkers, as well as the immigration patterns and historical-political context of Arab-Americans. Participants included 14 Arab-Americans from seven Arabic-speaking countries, five of whom were men and nine of whom were women, from different religious backgrounds. The study employed a mixed methods design including both qualitative and quantitative approaches. All participants completed a scale that quantified the degree of their identity integration, participated in a qualitative interview, and created a piece of artwork that reflected a visual representation of their bicultural identity. The data of the study were analyzed along three themes: how participants experienced their external worlds, how they internalized this environment, and how their internal and external experiences came together to provide them, or deprive them of, a sense of home. Ultimately, there was variation within the sample in how the individuals perceived of their identities. Due to their various intersectional identities, including race and religion, the participants made sense of their identity differently. With these results in mind, this study served as a way to understand how all immigrant experiences, even within the Arab-American community, vary along a spectrum and cannot be seen as universal.

View this honors paper in its entirety at Digital Commons @ Connecticut College.

Related Fields: Psychology