SRA 2010 - Culture helps make good decisionsPresentation Transcript
"My Culture Helps Me Make Good Decisions": Cultural Appropriation and Adaptation of Sudanese Refugee Youth Desiree Baolian Qin, Andy J. Saltarelli, Laura Bates, MeenalRana, Jung Ah Lee, Deborah J. Johnson, Thomas Luster
Research Gap Growing research on the experiences of children and youth after migration or resettlement Nearly all focuses on children and youth accompanied by their parents Key role played by immigrant and refugee parents We know little of the unique experiences of unaccompanied refugee youngsters
Immigrant Adaptation and Assimilation: Theoretical Considerations Straight-line assimilation(Park, 1924) Accommodation without assimilation (Gibson, 1988) Segmented assimilation(Portes & Zhou, 1993) Positive role of parental culture and key role played by immigrant parents
Key Questions What happens to children when they do not have the support of their parents in a totally unfamiliar land? Is their native culture important to them? How do they maintain their native culture? How do they negotiate the different cultures in the absence of parental support?
Methods Participants: 19 youths and foster parents Procedures Interviews with youth Interviews with parents Data analysis: Open, axial, and selective coding
Findings: Unique Challenges Horrendous episodes of trauma before arriving in the U.S. Ambiguous loss was a major struggle Balancing education, work, and the pressure to send money home was a common struggle
Findings: Overall Adaptation Mixed: those who adapted well and those who struggled All the youths we interviewed completed their high school education and all but three were enrolled in college.
Connection to Home and Preserving the Culture: “Remembering Where We Came From” “Uh, I see myself as… I will never forget my culture. I see my culture very important as a lot influence to do with who I am and if I leave that then I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I willbe like, ‘where do I go, OK, I’m now in America, where do I go now?’ I mean I would be lost, but I think I know in my culture and knowing where I came from kind of…I know I will go back, I know I can see family.” (Samuel)
“Remembering Where We Came From” First, this connection to their home country provides a sense of “immigrant optimism” (Ogbu, 1987) and motivates them to succeed - “Yeah I think what helped me to be successful was the thing that I went through you know, it was not easy coming from back Sudan … where there was no education, no nothing, it was different, completely different and my high expectation was if I get a chance to go to school, I will do what I can to be educated person. Yeah so I was having that in my mind, so whenever I do something I think about my background, how did I come here and why am I here? So all these questions helped me to, to formulate what I will do” (Daniel)
Connection to Home and Preserving the Culture: “Remembering Where We Came From” Second, the connection and memory of home gave them a strong sense of focus, cause and purpose in their life in the U.S. Those who do not do well in their adjustment tend to forget what they came here for and lost this sense of purpose “What made it hard for them, they don’t thinkof what have happened to them. You know what have happened to them back and there’s no point that you have crossed, you could have come all the way from here and then come and forget about what you are going here and, and you don’t appreciate what other people do to you as American people. They brought us up here, they didn’t brought us up here so that we can spoil it. They brought us up here so that we can have a future and that future we can take it back and train our peoples and reverse it back, you know, to our people.” (Marko)
Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized Becoming Americanized viewed as negative for their adaptation The U.S. as a land of distractions for the growing youth “....you’ve got so many opportunities here, but at the same time there are some many distractions here.” (Peter)
Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized
“Yeah, there’s … a small principle that guides me not to get into something new for me and do it. It simply guides me not to say, ‘Okay Daniel, let’s not do this.’ I have like two different person in me, there’s a person guiding me from doing something that will cut my future short and all those kind of things, there’s a lot of things so I kind of make decision. When I made a decision I made it and I just follow, stay on it there and keep doing it…My culture helps me make good decisions.” (Daniel)
Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized Those who were less successful forgot why they came here and they took too much of the U.S. culture. “But some of them took too much of American culture and those are the ones that are not going to school …cause they forgot about where they came from before like how bad was it in Sudan that it is important to go to school and you know getting your degrees so that you won’t have to live in the way you used to... “(Amal) Coping with stress - “Some made new friends and got caught up in American ways sort of thing and then start living the American way cause, if they felt like it was a way to exit from stress and some others never did that good on that. Some still go to school, they still socialize, but others just got caught up in the money kind of thing and having good time and avoiding all the stress.” (William)
Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized The newfound freedom in the U.S. and being away from their own community and the supervision of their elders also contributed to some of the youths’ picking up unhealthy living styles “back home we have closed culture, our culture is very closed and it’s a culture that if I do something and you see…I’m going to be in big, big trouble. And if that happen, then I have to be disciplined by the people, people will come, “why do you do this, your family is not like that, you do this instead, this is what we do, if you don’t know we are going to show you how to do it”... But when we came here, we don’t have that anymore. We came into the freedom, this is the freedom. So freedom, you can do whatever you want…They are not worried about it the community anymore because there’s no, their people right here that can hold them accountable…” (Paul) Two distinct groups “One of the things that separated these Lost Boys into two groups is how they adapt to the American culture like someone just got straight into the American culture and all of the sudden they forgot where they came from. They forgot what their goal is, why they came in United States…they forgot where they are going.” (John)
Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized Age of arrival matters “When we came from Africa, we came as different in age… for example, I am 24 right now…, and I feel like I have more of my culture that I still have right then.I didn’t give it up and I know how it work and … I’m not going to forget it…” (Paul)
Accommodation Not always stick with their Sudanese peer group in order to acculturate to the new culture. “One of the problems I see in special negative area is we lost boys came here in clusters together where we speak the same language. … I went to Dansville. It forces me to learn English because I was the only one; [I] had no option. … I hang out with more white folks than some of the lost boys. Some of the lost boys regretted that they were clustered together… they kind of isolate themselves … Get out of your comfort zone. Make obviously good choices.” (John) Key instrumental support from foster parents and native peers
Accommodation Immigrant optimism gives some of them the lens of appreciation, trust, and openness in receiving help form people here “...listen careful and take advantage, there are so many people helping you out there, so just listen to them, if you need help, just go to anybody, Caucasian, African American just, say I need, I don’t know this, just help, help me.”(Peter)
Accommodation Willingness to listen and try: “Listening to what somebody’s offering you and actually take it and try it. Or you can think about it first before you try it, if you don’t like it, then don’t do it. If you really need help, you can try it and if it don’t work, you can even go back to that person and say ‘I tried this way and it don’t work, is there any other ideas that you can give me?’ And that’s what helped people that are really successful right now, is they understand and they take it and they try; if it don’t work they ask for help. And people that are not doing too good now are people that don’t ask.” (David)
Cultural Appropriation “cultural appropriation,” a new form of cultural production that combines the good things from the American culture with the good things from their native Sudanese culture A process of conscious selective acculturation and cultural hybridity.
Cultural Appropriation “I’m kind of in between two cultures now and I’m trying to make two things work together, I’ve become an American and in the bowl of culture I’m mixing it back and forth you know, get good things here and good things there and I think I’ve become like a hybrid between two cultures you know and these two cultures make me, I’m making good thing out of it, the way I look at it.” (Daniel)
Cultural Appropriation This helps their adjustment “you know you were from a different culture and you lived in a different culture. So you have to adjust to it and actually take a little bit of each and then put it together. That’s the only way you can manage to live in America. I think personally cause that’s how I did it…The ones that are doing well are the ones that take a little bit of each culture and the ones which are not doing well are the one that are sticking to the Sudanese culture, I think. But some of them took too much of American culture and those are the ones that are not going to school…James, he is, he took both, like he has a little bit of Sudanese in him and a little bit of American culture and he is flexible with everything. So he is doing well. And some of my friends that I know, they everything is Americanized like they just want, you know doing parties, don’t go to school.” (Amal)
Discussion Unique experiences both before and after arriving in the U.S. Their native culture played a key role in their adaptation. Our findings also illustrate a new process of cultural creation and blending and a flexible orientation.
Discussion Similar adaptation experiences with “voluntary immigrants” (Ogbu, 1987) “immigrant optimism” dual frame of reference Strong connection to home and a strong sense of cause to help those left behind Practical implications for the adaptation of refugee and immigrant adaptation