Identity and Acculturation as Adaptation in Society

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Symbolic integrationists believe that the identity is not an objective fact, but it is built through multiple interactions between the social actors. In the integrationist view, the concept of self is built and changed within our social life. Cooley came up with the theory that the self develops in relation to the other people as part of the social environment, a process that develops over time beginning during childhood and is moderated by how others interact and relate to us.

According to Berger and Luckmann, gaining an identity means establishing your place in the world. Identity has three major components: individual, relational and collective. Individual identity refers to self-definition on an individual level, including goals, values, religious beliefs and standards for behaviour. Relational identity focuses on the roles of an individual with regard to others the societal norms that exist – e.g. a parent, customer, or spouse, but also how those roles are defined by the individual.

Collective identity refers to people’s identification with groups and social categories with which they belong, the interpretation of those entities, and the feelings, beliefs and attitudes that result in that association. An aspect that this thesis will not delve deeper into is the relationship between different ethnicities within Israel. The so-called ‘Mizrahim’, or ‘Oriental Jews’ immigrated from the Middle East, North Africa (also known as Sephardim), India, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early decades of the state. Even though they have different cultures, all Jews from these countries have been grouped together under the term ‘Orientals’ in order to differentiate them from the European Jews, the Ashkenazim. The Mizrahim were economically and socially marginalized in the first decades of the state, which resulted in the second generation’s establishment of the Black Panthers protest movement.

Moreover, many Mizrahim had a masorti, or ‘traditional’ identity. The Ashkenazim were unfamiliar with their idea of religiosity in the early decades, as they used a dichotomy between secular and religious. Therefore, the Ashkenazim characterized the masorti as religious instead, even though the religious rituals they performed had different meanings beyond the Ashkenazi framework. This masorti identity of many Mizrahim was not understood correctly, and secondly, it shows the disdain for the Mizrahim by many Ashkenazim at the time, as they were associated with backwardness.

Another concept that is important to understand the formation of identity in immigrants is the concept of acculturation, Oberg (1960) is generally credited with introducing the concept of culture shock, described as an “occupational disease…the anxiety that results from losing all of our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse” such as customs and words. Adler (1975, 1987) prefers viewing culture shock in the broader context of “transition shock,” a process in which one experiences “profound learning, self-understanding and change.” Zaharna (1989) integrates the idea of “self shock,” emphasizing the “double-binding challenge of identity”. feedback from others, and the demand of changing identity-bound behavior. Ward, Okura, Kennedy and Kojima (1998) examined the psychological and sociological challenges individuals face with their “strange” new environments in a longitudinal study. They found more of a linear, progressive process of psychological adjustment versus the initial elation stage of the U-curve hypothesis. Adjustment problems were greater at the beginning of new experience and decreased over time.

Scholars have, for the most part, ignored the communication aspects of acculturation. For example, Keesing (1953) and Spiro (1955) give comprehensive summaries of the acculturation literature from an anthropological perspective. They concluded that the term “acculturation” was not used consistently in the literature. Sometimes the terms “assimilation,” “cultural integration,” “accommodation,” “absorption,” and “self-identification” are used, not necessarily equivalently, but to refer generally to the concept of “acculturation.” The communication aspects in the acculturation process go unmentioned.

Berry (1980) views acculturation as adaptation, the reduction of conflict, which is conceptualized in three modes: adjustment, reaction, and withdrawal. He advocates a three-phase course to acculturation: contact, conflict, and adaptation. Contact is a core concept to the acculturation process. The nature, permanence, purpose, and duration of contact contribute to acculturation phenomena. Berry states that “the least acculturation may take place where there is no purpose (contact is accidental), where trade is mutually desired, or where contact is short-lived; the greatest acculturation will take place where the purpose is a deliberate takeover of a society (e.g., by invasion) or of its skills or beliefs (e.g., by settlement)”


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Identity and Acculturation as Adaptation in Society. (2020, Nov 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/identity-and-acculturation-as-adaptation-in-society/

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