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Immigrants’ Diasporic Identity

In the center of the concept of the diaspora lies the issue of displacement. The large movements of people connected with their crossing of state borders and migration around the world characterize the modern global world. These movements are increasingly being analyzed in the context of migration problems of ethnic groups and the further formation of the diaspora (Tsolidis 17).

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Thus, according to this view, any ethnic group that lives outside the country of origin due to special reasons is considered the diaspora. It leads to a partial abandonment of the classical interpretation and a broader interpretation of the term which is regarded as a “new” or “modern” diaspora (Tsolidis 78). However, some issues remain open such as the starting point of the assumption that the ethnic group has already become a diaspora or the possibility of reverse transformation. All these issues inside the concept of displacement together with the criteria that determine the diaspora provide clear theoretical and methodological guidelines.

Displacement

The nature of motivation for displacement is divided into two categories. The first one results from the voluntary movement of people driven, for example, by economic motives such as the majority of “new” diaspora communities in the EU countries. The second one is formed as a result of “squeezing” members of a given ethnic group from the original territory due to various social circumstances, political changes, or natural disasters. From the perspective of the researcher, immigration can be caused by several groups of factors. The first of them includes military conflicts leading to a large-scale displacement through evacuation, capture, and resettlement of the masses of the population beyond the confronting states (Kenny 34). The same group includes deportations of an ethnic minority that was disloyal to the government, forming its community in a new heterogeneous ethnic environment.

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Other reasons for the formation of the diaspora the researcher associated with the movement of state borders (Kenny 41). It may be due to annexation – the forcible annexation of the territory of one state to another, following the expansion of borders and acquiring new citizens. The disintegration of the state also leads to the emergence of diaspora, the consequence of which can be the emergence of divided ethnic groups compactly residing in any territory and minorities living dispersed. The loss of statehood is another prerequisite for the emergence of the diaspora (Kenny 41). Thus, according to these views, the displacement of people who cross state borders is more frequently considered to be the diasporic process.

The diaspora forms systems composed of multiple displacements in different parts of the planet, each of which has its history and its specifics. For instance, the integration of Muslims into Australian society is quite slow. The complexity of the integration process can partly be explained by the ethnic and religious constituents of Australian society (Hopkins 54). In this case, the variety of Muslim community ties forms a diaspora communication network. Such networks arise as a result of immigration to a country of residence, which is not a process of individual adaptation and acculturation but a form of collective action, the evolving displacement of ethnic networks. Instead of perceiving migration through the prism of individual attempts to adapt to new conditions, the analysis of the collective struggle of the ethnic group is done.

This group must share common values, the outcome of which determines the fate of whole categories of immigrants and their descendants (Hopkins 57). Therefore, any diaspora is a sophisticated set of displacements that can be transformed into one movement by merging the descriptions of all possible displacements in the collective and individual memory of members of the diaspora.

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Home and Homeland

There are two key concepts in the issue of diaspora: home and homeland. The concept of the homeland is defined as the place where the historical and cultural appearance of the diaspora group was formed and where the main culturally similar array continues to live. In this case, the diaspora is understood as people or their ancestors who were dispersed from their initial center to another foreign region. A distinctive feature of the diaspora is, first of all, the existence and maintenance of collective memory, the notion of a primary homeland that includes geographical location, the historical version, and the achievements of its heroes (Bartram et al 34). Another distinguishing feature is the romantic nostalgic belief in the homeland of ancestors as a real ideal home – the place where representatives of the diaspora or their descendants must return (Bartram et al 36). Therefore, the return is understood as the restoration of a certainly lost norm or bringing this norm-image into correspondence with the narrated way.

In turn, the concept of the home is treated with attachment not to the state but to the local territory, which is perceived not only as a fragment of the subject world with clearly defined characteristics but above all as a symbol associated with a variety of representations and stereotypes. According to this division, people from one nation may have different notions of home, but homeland is a common one, although there may be different concepts of the homeland within one community (Alonso and Oiarzabal 71). Frequently, the notion of home in the context of the diaspora is used in the sense of a certain expanse of the territory that a person is capable of identifying. The concept of the homeland has an emotional subtext because a person feels a special sense of duty.

According to Bartram, the diaspora is characterized by the presence and maintenance of collective memory – representation or the myth of the “primary homeland” which includes geographical location, historical version, cultural achievements, and cultural heroes (27). The idea of the homeland as a collective memory was created, similarly to many collectivist ideologies, as an authoritarian one concerning an individual member of the diaspora. From the personal perspective, the idea of the homeland is primarily his/the history that he/she remembers. Thus, virtually always there is a collective myth about the homeland in the diaspora which is preserved through oral memory or texts.

Despite frequent inconsistencies with individual experience, this collective myth is constantly supported, widely shared, and maintained for a long time, gaining popularity with new generations of people (Bartram 34). At the same time, the adherence to it does not strictly depend on the historical depth of the diaspora. The young generation of the diaspora can reject collective memory in favor of other more topical attitudes, but at some point revive the past on a grand scale. An ideal homeland and attitude towards it can vary greatly, and therefore, it is understood as the restoration of some lost norms or bringing this norm-image into correspondence with the ideal (Bartram 37).

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Thus, the diaspora tends to preserve its original homeland, its prosperity, and its security. In several cases, this faith provides ethnic-communal consciousness and solidarity of the diaspora. Relations in the diaspora are built around serving the motherland. That is to say that the main prerequisite for the continuation of the historical existence of people outside their original homeland remains the preservation of the imperative of ethnic self-awareness, a sense of belonging to the homeland, a special commitment to the basics of their spiritual, and religious culture.

Sense-of-Self

The evolution of human social identities reveals a tendency for the formation of various social communities and the self-identification of people within them. The diaspora is a variant of the national ethnic community. The need to identify oneself with any social community is conditioned by people’s desire for existential security and maximum self-realization in life. The personality is formed in the space of mutual relations and exists within it. These relations arise among individuals in the process of cultural activity. The experts identify two levels of sense of self that are peculiarly manifested in the diaspora (Cohen and Van Hear 82). The first level is personally-psychological when a person feels and identifies himself/herself as a member of a cell of society like a diaspora, and through this cell, he/she realizes the meaning of self. In this case, the diaspora serves as a means of transferring national values from one generation to another (Cohen and Van Hear 84).

The second level is socially-psychological when there is a sense of self within a significant group. The individual representations of self are formed as derivatives of the person’s awareness of his/her involvement in the diasporic context (Cohen and Van Hear 86). In this case, the representatives of the diaspora can have difficulties with self-identification. On the one hand, they are considered as an integral element of the people to which they belong by birth, on the other – the society and the country of residence. Thus, the sense of self is important in the formation of the diaspora, since it is the paramount factor that induces the protection of national interests. The sense of self is largely a sensory-psychological perception of the group’s role and the national identity supported by national self-consciousness.

The diasporic consciousness is the result of a broad identification that includes ethnic and other forms of actual identification, such as territorial, cultural, linguistic, religious, ritual, racial, anthropological, psychological, etc., corresponding to existing objects of a polymorphic socio-cultural environment that embodies their ethnic values. Consequently, a person understands the subjective, social, and psychological attachment to the objectively existing components of ethnic reality that determine his/her place in the ethnic world. Owing to this view, a person forms an “image of self as an ethnic subject,” a representative of a certain ethnic community (Carvalho 46). Thus, self-identification is a crucial factor in shaping the notion of self as a subject of the ethnic diaspora and one of the levels of the formation of diasporic self-consciousness.

It is necessary to mention that in case a person discovers oneself in another socio-cultural reality, in a new language environment, then he/she experiences significant existential tension. After a brief period of euphoria, it becomes necessary to identify himself/herself with this new socio-cultural environment. The diaspora as a local, variable, and non-rigid entity in the requirements of an individual social formation can provide the migrant with existential stability for the time of adaptation to a new cultural environment, that is, to fulfill the role of a “plaster bandage” for a traumatized identity (Carvalho 52). As soon as the sense-value system of personality is restored, a person can and should participate fully in the overall cultural and historical process. The immigrant who successfully survived the change of personal identification can participate in the life of the diaspora. The interaction leads to the fact that members of the community perceive themselves as a part of a big family. Thus, the possibility of the existence of a diaspora mostly depends on the national community itself. In the diasporic conditions, ethnic self-awareness awakens, which becomes a kind of sense of self in the consciousness of an immigrant.

Roots and Routes

The person as a representative of a particular community of a certain historical era has his/her parameters and characteristics; through them, he/she perceives other members of society as his/her contemporaries. For all the plurality of the latter, people living in a single socio-cultural space need a certain complex of common values, norms, and attitudes. It includes the roots and routes that people identify with at the conscious and the unconscious level in their lives. In the diaspora, ethnic identity is manifested in rigidly fixed root and route ties that determine the individual’s belonging to a particular ethnic group and community (Alonso and Oiarzabal 34). The roots and the routes are constants predetermined from birth and not the result of personal choice. The supporters of this approach note that the single ethnic origin makes the diaspora resistant to assimilation (Lachenicht and Heinsohn 19).

This position underscores one of the most significant characteristics of diaspora such as the national trait. At the same time, it is not enough to understand such a complex and multilayered phenomenon as the diaspora. This is because some important characteristics such as the specifics of time, the specific region of justification, and the level of cohesion among others are not taken into account. According to Enoch Wan’s typology, diasporas are defined as people from a certain country who maintain a root connection with it based on identity and maintain rather dense links among themselves as well as the groups of descendants from the country who absentmindedly live in any other countries and who maintain a historical identity link with the root country but do not form sufficiently dense communities (34).

The conception of common roots and routes community maintains the collective memory which is the fundamental element of its self-awareness. In the case of the Muslim diaspora in Australia, the collective memory is embodied in the texts of the Quran. This root can later become mental constructs that allow for preserving the wholeness and “purity” of identity (Jacobs 41). Thus, an immigrant that realizes his/her ethnic root living in a different social and cultural environment has to consider himself as a part of the diaspora and thereby accept his/her foreignness.

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The ethnic group can create a diaspora in case it is resistant to assimilation. If objective stability is achieved due to the factor of the organization of the diaspora, the subjective one is achieved through the existence of a certain route – the common root that unites and retains an ethnic community and does not allow it to dissolve in an alien environment. The roots and routes are the factors for the existence of collective memory and the myth of the motherland, including its location, history, and achievements (Jacobs 47). The diaspora’s interest in maintaining contacts with its roots initiates transnational networks. This pattern characterizes the activities of all existing diaspora, including Muslims in Australia (Jacobs 49).

The transnational networks can provoke conflicts between countries. However, the attempts to constrain their development are, as a rule, unsuccessful. In general, the diaspora skillfully uses its roots to undertake its legal or illegal activities (Lachenicht and Heinsohn 67). Therefore, the idea of common roots is the most significant characteristic of any diaspora. It is designed to adjust the diasporic consciousness to something more than something compulsory or voluntary expulsion and thereby giving it independence and legitimacy. The presence of such an integrative idea allows to distinguish it from other ethnic communities as well as to foster a sense of superiority and selectivity.

Ideology and Traditional Beliefs

The most significant aspects of diaspora adaptation are sociocultural adaptation and relations between the ethnic group and the host country. Sociocultural adaptation is the acquisition of skills of free orientation in a new culture and society. The study of the socio-cultural adaptation of immigrants was traditionally conducted in the context of acculturation. It is the process and the result of the mutual influence of different cultures, in which all or part of the representatives of one culture adopt the norms, values, and traditions of another one. An important function of the diaspora entails active participation in the maintenance, development, and strengthening of the spiritual culture of its members; in the cultivation of national traditions and customs; and maintaining cultural ties with its historical homeland.

For example, in Australia, the cultural differences between subgroups of immigrants from Islamic countries are so significant that representatives of various social groups use different symbols to describe and express their identity (Akbarzadeh and Mansouri 97). In other words, the processes of cultural hybridization and differentiation of identities among immigrants from the Islamic countries in Australia do not yet allow for discussing the formation of relatively homogeneous diasporic communities in this category of citizens.

Australian Muslims are extremely heterogeneous. In addition to ethnic, national, and confessional differences, this group of the population is also differentiated by class. As a result, new ideological and traditional practices appear. Their core lies not in the expression of “cultural nostalgia” but in a reaction to the problems they face in the host country. It is a clash that leads to what could be called the “politicization of cultures” both from the diaspora and from the host society (Akbarzadeh and Mansouri 100). Society predominantly identifies Islam as the main marker of the identity of immigrant Muslims. They are automatically called Muslims, regardless of whether they are practicing Muslims and whether Islam is a determining factor in their lives. Even though Islamic law and religious norms of behavior prevail in their countries of origin, the immigrant Muslims differ from each other both in worldviews and values in terms of ideological convictions. In this case, the social ties are based primarily on a religious rather than a specific cultural community.

Many immigrants are classified based on their former nationality as a reminder of collective injuries and harassment (Akbarzadeh and Mansouri 86). In such conditions, the commonality of traditional beliefs is the basis of social interaction. For example, the Islamic diasporic public sphere is created with the recognition of belonging to the transcultural Islamic tradition. The accentuation of transcultural Islamic identity enables natives of “Islamic cultures” to develop social ties in a broad diasporic context. They do not pay particular attention to the cultural characteristics of Islamic practices and characteristics of local ethnocultural communities of their country of origin. Their cultural identity is radicalized and politicized, and there is a growing need for belonging to a single community (Voloder 34). This promotes the appeal of religious symbols and practices. In general, the shift towards Islamic identity means that Muslim immigrants express their commitment to Islam primarily as an ideology of resistance rather than as a set of norms of behavior in everyday life (Voloder 63).

 

Therefore, the integration of the Muslim diaspora into Australian society is considered as the preservation of Muslim ethnic characteristics and the generality of cultural and religious norms of behavior as well as the quality of life and their simultaneous inclusion in this society. Integration is possible if there are positive impulses from both the minority and majority of the diaspora. The absence of discrimination and prejudice of the majority, in turn, is determined by a wide range of factors. They are as follows: the traditions of immigration, the cultural pluralism, and the diversity of the host society. In any context, the existence of irreconcilable contradictions between the country of origin and host country as well as ethnographic characteristics of the population is crucial.

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Double Consciousness

The diaspora is a unique social and ethnic phenomenon with a dual nature where the nationally primordial and heterogeneous connections are closely interwoven. It serves as a kind of a living link between different national cultures, which is a wonderful tool for bringing people together. Its dual property consists in the fact that while being separated from the maternal nation or the national area, the diaspora plays a noble mission of rapprochement of different nationalities at the same time. Being a part of one nation, the diaspora turns into one of the components of another nation, leaving its historical homeland it finds the second homeland.

The development of a diasporic social structure is dialectical and contradictory. It traces both elements of denial and retention, preservation of national-specific features, the moments of renewal, and synthesis of national and non-national (Jacobs 69). Therefore, the dual self-identification of the diaspora has different impacts on community members. The focus on a successful entry into a new society entails mastering the language and discovering its culture inevitably leads to the rejection of old norms and traditions (Jacobs 71). At the same time, the desire of the host society to impose its traditions and forcefully accelerate the process of sociocultural adaptation or assimilation gives rise to the opposite, often sharp reaction of rejection as well as closure to its ethnic and cultural specifics, its relevance to historical norms, and, as a result, the self-isolation of the community.

In the conditions of such a large selection of identities, the double consciousness, the fundamental mechanisms of which belong to the mental sphere, builds its identity. In the diasporic context, the basis for distinguishing double consciousness is ethnicity. For example, it seems natural that any two Muslims or Muslim communities relying on the idea of an ethnic community should be united and mutually positioned by the sense of common “we” (Jacobs 31). Consequently, a person can have a meaningful sense of belonging to the community in a foreign society that is close to him/her in the value-semantic field and at the same time feel alienation from a compatriot in concrete communication. A characteristic feature of Australian Muslims’ consciousness is duality. On the one hand, young Muslims are more affected by European culture, but on the other – their religiosity is manifested in a more rigorous form, which is understood as a return to the original Islam (Jacobs 53). They feel in Australia as well as at home, so they seek to occupy the European intellectual and social space but they do so only to be treated as Muslims and to be able to remain faithful to deep Islamic values. As a result of this process, Muslims are increasingly been recognized as bearers of other religious and cultural values.

The dualism also contributes to the importation of diverse values, norms, and standards, which were borrowed from various socio-cultural systems, in this case, the western – from the Australian, while the eastern – from the Muslim ones. Representatives of the diaspora reach the dual position when “they are no longer Arabs, but not Australians yet” (Jacobs 57). The immigrants combining ethnic identity with civic belonging to the host society arrive at the border of two cultural fields that allow them to be identified as the cultural marginal. What is more, they adjust their norms of behavior accordingly and form vital values that are typical of the host society (Volume 14).

Therefore, it has become increasingly evident that Muslims in Australia exist in two social realities – native and Australian. In addition, the individual’s decision on his/her migration is the result of double determination. It is, on the one hand, a member of the diaspora who inherits the ancient culture, but on the other hand, he/she criticizes this culture owing to the fact of migration. In conclusion, the immigrants accept the role that society imposes on them, which leads to numerous conflicts and contradictions on the subconscious level.

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