Jul 092012

This post completes the overview of Salman Akthtar’s “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation.” Part 1 tackled factors affecting the immigration experience; Part 2 dealt with the first two dimensions of identity transformation following immigration. 

From Yesterday or Tomorrow to Today

The pain of separation from home results in an idealization of your pre-immigration past, centering more on memories of places than of people. Immigration disrupts the connectedness of time while “the past continues to exert time dominance.”

Like an emotionally deprived child with but one toy, the immigrant clings to memories. Ever wistful, he convinces himself, that “if only” he had not left these places, his life would have been wonderful—or, more frequently, that when he was there he had no problems.

While the “if only” fantasy idealizes the past, the fantasy of “someday” to return to the home land idealizes the future. The “if only” and “someday” fantasies often coexist until the past and the future enrich your today.

From Yours or Mine to Ours

For a good while after immigration, the split between what you experience as your own and the host culture expresses itself as the split between “my culture” and “your culture.” It is only by resolving this split that you can experience “ours.” One way to do this is by enjoying local culture, e.g. movies, music, or literature. Another is to adapt your values to the host culture. The most important, however, is becoming fluent in the host language.


Source: Salman Akhtar, “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation,” New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999

Image credit: Leo Reynolds

Read Part 1 and Part 2

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