May 152013

We are come to rest and push our roots more deeply by the year. But we cannot push away the heritage of having been once all strangers in the land; we cannot forget the experience of having been all rootless, adrift. Building our own nests now in our tiredness of the transient, we will not deny our past as a people in motion and will find still a place in our lives for the values of flight. In our flight, unattached, we discovered what it was to be an […] Continue reading >

Mar 212013

Exiles see two or more places at the same time not just because they’re addicted to a lost past. There is a very real, active component to seeing in this particularly heightened retrospective manner: an exile is continuously prospecting for a future home—forever looking at an alien land as land that could conceivably become his. Except that he does not stop shopping for a home once he’s acquired one or once he’s finally divested himself of exile. He goes on prospecting, partly because he cannot have the home he […] Continue reading >

Jan 192013
In Praise of Weak Ties

When you leave your country you leave behind a crucial element of your life as a human being: your social networks.* You put significant physical distance between yourself and the 150 or so people in your circle with whom, according to the Dunbar number, you have a meaningful relationship. Whether the tie between you and the individuals in your network is altered, weakened, or severed altogether depends on its strength: whereas strong ties remain strong, weak ties may disintegrate. To succeed in your integration into a new country you […] Continue reading >

Jan 132013
One Foot in Each Culture

A common metaphor for an immigrant is that of a plant, uprooted from his country of origin and replanted in another land. Anchored in the place you are born, you become rooted in it. The longer you’re there, the deeper the roots. When you leave your country, you yank yourself out of the land. To begin a new life in a new country, you put the old roots down in the new soil but you must also start new roots to survive. The metaphor finds expression in a synonym […] Continue reading >

Aug 072012
What's the Impact of Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses on the U.S. Economy?

Immigrant-owned small businesses employ 14 percent of all people working for American small-businesses and 18 percent of all small-business owners in the U.S. are immigrants. The widely publicized (New York Times, Business Week, Huffington Post) new study from the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative identifies immigrant-owned small businesses and their impact on the U.S. economy. The immigrant share of small-business owners is higher than their share in the overall population—18 vs. 13 percent—as well as the immigrant share of the labor force, 16%. As I’ve speculated before, this could be […] Continue reading >

Jul 092012
Immigration and Identity: Identity Transformation Following Immigration, Part 2

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 […] Continue reading >

Jul 032012
Immigration and Identity: Identity Transformation Following Immigration, Part 1

According to Salman Akhtar, writing in “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation,” anxiety resulting from the culture shock and mourning over the losses inherent in immigration “cause a serious shake-up of the individual’s identity. A state of psychic flux ensues and a growing sensation of discontinuity of identity emerges.” The resulting identity change has four dimensions: Drives and affects: from love or hate to ambivalence Interpersonal and psychic space: from near or far to optimal distance Temporality: from yesterday or tomorrow to today Social affiliations and mutuality: from yours or […] Continue reading >

Jun 252012
Immigration and Identity: Factors Affecting the Immigration Experience

Salman Akhtar’s “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation” has shed a lot of light for me on the psychological experience of immigration. The book takes a psychoanalytical look at the effects of immigration on individual identity. The most useful parts deal with factors and process of identity transformation. Part 1 of this overview will tackle the “psychosocial variables associated with immigration.” Immigration from one country to another is a complex psychosocial process with significant and lasting effects on an individual’s identity. Leaving one’s country involves profound losses. However, alongside […] Continue reading >

May 112012
For Those About to Vote I Salute You

This weekend I’ll cast my first vote in an American election—the “May 15, 2012 Primary Election.”* It’s a big deal. Everyone remembers pivotal moments of their life: Slovaks where they were when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and independent Slovakia came into existence; (East) Germans when the Wall came down; Americans where they were when the planes hit the Towers. I remember the exact moment I decided to apply for U.S. citizenship and be a part of this nation: on the evening of November 4th, 2008, as I watched Barack Obama […] Continue reading >

Jan 252012
Why Promoting Integration Beats Curbing Immigration

There has been no significant movement toward federal immigration reform since a bipartisan effort died in 2007, blocked by conservative opposition. But it has been the subject of a fever of legislation at the state level, and it could become an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. —In “Immigration and Emigration”, 1/19/2012 update, The New York Times That is as succinct a summary as it gets of the current status of the immigration reform process in the U.S. We’re stalled, folks, but may be hitting another turbulence soon. Regardless of the reform’s […] Continue reading >

Jan 232012
Catching Up on the Acculturation Treadmill

Aside from being a wonderful English phrase, "learn something new every day" captures an immigrant’s experience to a tee. It feels good to understand your new home better, day by day. Until you hit the acculturation treadmill. The bigger the cultural difference between your own and the host American culture, the steeper and longer the learning curve. Even immigrants and transplants from Central Europe, who have, culturally, always taken inspiration from and looked up to the United States, have plenty to process and learn. After a while, the instances […] Continue reading >

Nov 282011
The Little Big Differences

Whether you consider yourself an expat(riate), a transplant, an émigré, an exile, or an immigrant, you notice how and in what way your new country—the U.S. in the case of American Robotnik—differs from the country of your birth. “Cultural distance from host society”, that is, how much your new country differs from your old one, plays a role not only in your acculturation, but also in what you notice and how it affects you. When it comes to the differences between developed Europe and the U.S., Vincent Vega said […] Continue reading >

Oct 032011
Acculturating? You Have Options!

It’s a special kind of discovery to learn your personal experience has an underpinning in academic theory. A paper by Jean Phinney, Gabriel Horenczyk, Karmela Liebkind, and Paul Vedder on the connection between immigration, ethnic identity, and well-being validated my personal transformation that led to American Robotnik. The Acculturation Model To be more precise, it was an overview of John Berry’s acculturation model that confirmed what I’d gone through. Berry asserts that acculturation has two dimensions: the degree of preservation of one’s heritage culture and adaptation to the host society. In […] Continue reading >