Brock University

Diaspora and Identity I

Upon migration, one's identity is challenged due to environmental and cultural changes. The session will be focused on the formation process of diasporic identity based on cultural, spatial, and social circumstances in modern Canadian society.

Session Organizer: Shirin Khayambashi, York University,


Minorities among Minorities: Deconstruction of Diasporic Identity

Shirin Khayambashi, York University,

Diasporic community development is tainted with the preconceived notion of cohesion and homogeneity. This assumption overlooks the internal social hierarchy and power struggle existing in each diasporic community, which falsify the cultural equilibrium. Consequently, minority members within a diasporic community are confronted with multiplicity of discrimination from both diasporic community and dominant society of receiving nation. In addition, being in diaspora is in an unbalanced state of unacceptability and longing to belong. Since life in diaspora is dwelling in the unstable state of “in-betweenness” (Bhabha 2004), diasporic identity develops and flourishes in this spatial and temporal location. For a minority member of a diasporic community, this unstable state is sullied with cultural unacceptability and communal oppression. In this paper, I will ask: how does multiplicity of oppressive factors affect one’s identity development in diaspora?


The Impact of Culture and Experience: An Examination of the Educational under-Achievements of the Afghan Diaspora in Canada

Afsana Tabibi, York University,

In 2008 the Toronto District School Board in Toronto, ON, Canada published a report based on a census conducted in 2006. This report indicates academic achievement patterns of various student groups in intermediate (i.e. 7-8) and secondary (i.e. 9-12) school in the Greater Toronto Area. This report suggests that Dari and Pashto speaking (i.e. Afghan) intermediate students within the GTA are at the lowest levels of reading, writing, mathematics and science. Furthermore, Dari and Pashto speaking secondary school students are located in the higher-at-risk level and are more likely to be lower-performing in all subject areas measured: English, math, science and geography. These results indicate that Afghan youth are in fact struggling in intermediate school and high school. While this report is very useful in presenting and describing the various student groups’ academic achievements, it does not provide reasons why such disparities exist. In this paper I investigate such disparities by attempting to answer the question: What are the obstacles that are causing Afghan youth living in the Canadian diaspora, to be rated among the lowest achieving groups in high school? I suggest that Afghans face many pre-migration and post-migration determinants that not only affect their identities, but also impede their academic success in the diaspora.


The Differential Impact of the Dominant Canadian Culture on Identity: Race, Gender and Diaspora

Negar Pourebrahim Alamdar, York University,

Conceptually, this examines how diasporic women experience the conditions, contexts and consequences of transmigration in terms of the dialectical interplay , the tensions and contradictions ( attraction and repulsion) between tradition and western values (the juxtapositions between home and host). The process of transnationalism encourages the development of hybrid identities, a focus of this proposed study. To remedy the essentializing  character of identity this paper offers fruitful theories that explore the fluidity and hybridity of identities. The emphasis on culture (values, beliefs, knowledge and customs) as a source of identity and signification and representation of diasporic social life in Canada is long overdue given the post 9/11 climate decades where contemporary biopolitics and the regulation of population is a political problem for transnational communities in Canada. This paper will investigate what it means to be a diasporic woman in the Canadian milieu in relationship to the common characteristics of Canadian identity and the pervasive " othering".


Contesting the Boundaries: Gender Roles and Immigrant Women in the Maritimes

Catherine Holtmann, University of New Brunswick,

The recent proposal of a charter of secular values in Quebec has raised the question of the equality of religious women and men in Canadian society.  With the charter, the state assumes that gender inequalities are beyond the agential capacities of religious groups and warrant public intervention yet does not provide evidence for this assumption.  In the media Muslim women are placed at the forefront of this debate however, the question of women’s equality within Catholicism is also far from settled.  Research indicates that gender relationships within patriarchal religions are not static but in dynamic relationship with wider societal influences (Moghissi et al 2009; Gallagher 2003).  Based on qualitative data collected from 31 Muslim and 31 Catholic women immigrant women in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, this paper will outline the similarities and differences between the two groups in terms of the social construction and lived experiences of gender roles.  The analysis is based on an intersectional theoretical framework and incorporates contemporary social scientific literature on immigrants, gender and religion.


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