Change

Change
Turning Over New Leaf

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Identity









Identity








What makes the world go 'round?

This semester, I am teaching a college writing course that has specific curriculum components to it, one of which is political science. Yesterday’s topic was immigration. I was surprised by the variety of opinions young people seem to have concerning immigration and the issues surrounding it.

 
I decided to rein in the discussion so the class could re-focus on the concept of writing about political topics rather than arguing over them, but I encountered difficulty as the conversation became spirited.

 
I decided to pose the following question to the class and asked for a written response in essay form. The result was fascinating. I wonder if my readers would fare as well as my students. Here it is:

 If we were to relocate everyone in Japan to Ireland, and everyone in Ireland to Japan, would the people living in Japan be Irish and those in Ireland be Japanese?



23 comments:

  1. Oh what fun a person could have with that question, so many twists and turns...I would love to read their replies and see their thoughts on the matter! I hope you share some bits and pieces. My answer quickly is this, those moving to Ireland will no doubt learn and use Irish much quicker I believe...and still carry their own traditions within their new houses...but the Irish well they will continue to be Irish in every sense of the word I believe...although of course all children born in the new country will be considered what their new country is ! Now if I was only in your class...I could really put down some ideas! Thanks for this thought!

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  2. Ethnic identity is not determined by where a person lives - it is determined by who they think they are and where they came from. Event to this day we have people in US who say they are Afro-American or Mexican American even if they were born here and lived here all their lives. I am curious if any of your students responded with a 'No' and left it at that! :-)

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  3. I think it all depends on the person what they want to assimilate from the other country's culture.. My gf came over when he was 14 from s. korea (stowaway) and landed in Georgia.. His philosophy was that whatever country u live in u take on their culture.. He did, he could cook southern like nobody's business.. Graduated from Notre Dame... Followed their football team till the day he died... He was the first to give a stern talking to his brother in law when his BIL's grandson wanted to marry a Chinese... He was accepting of all and can't say I am surprised since the U.S. allowed him to earn an education and freedom.

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  4. Wow, you are clearly a terrific teacher! I want to be in your class!

    I have faced this question in my own family. Two of my five kids were adopted from China, one as a toddler and the other as a teenager. The one who grew up here (in the US) sees herself as American. She identifies racially as Chinese, but has little connection with her Chinese heritage.

    The one who grew up in China sees herself as Chinese. I wonder sometimes if she sees herself as a permanent expatriate. She occasionally still uses the term "American" to mean white.

    By the way, I ordered your book and I'm looking forward to reading it!

    And PS (in case you didn't notice my reply to your comment on my post), we are in complete agreement about the toilet paper! Over the top is the only right answer.

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  5. Karen S: Their responses were a blast. They stopped arguing, and many of them indicated it was the first time they had ever given real thought to ethnicity, which blew my mind!

    helen: During discussions, some replied, "No." However, since they were required to write their responses, the entire dynamic changed. The whole class thought it all out.

    KBF: Assimilation was one of the key terms we discussed. Others were, amalgamation, pluralism, and self-imposed segregation.

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  6. Galen: Thanks for the compliment. The story about your children is exactly what the students discussed in class. It puts a whole new light on the subject of immigration. It takes the focus off racism, and centers on culture and ethnicity. As for the toliet paper, it figures we would agree. Great minds run in the same channel!

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  7. self-imposed segregation, wow, I like that.. I know some Japanese and Koreans...I guess its a fear they have.. I have a friend who is vietnamese and his family is quite conservative to the pt. where their views are pretty harsh, views that I don't think I've ever heard from conservative friends...
    A friend told me they have found other immigrants with the same view pt... I was bold enought to tell this friend's relative that if his cousin was so against California's political views he could move elsewhere and why did he come to this country if all he could find was fault in it? The U.S. is better than where he was living why else did he flee in a boat w/his family?? It angers me when people get the education here and then turn around and get upset over political views... As I told my friend, 'no one asked that u come to the u.s."

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  8. KBF: The question certainly clarifies the distiction between culture/ethnicity and nationality. I'm not sure it solves anything, but it gets people talking.

    Bruce: That was a popular view (which, as a Hemingway fan, I appreciate).

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  9. It doesnt matter where you live after your born your still the same person and have the same nationality. Infact i should have just said the same as Bruce "expats" ;-)) dee

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  10. Dee: Expatriate was a popular answer. However, is it the same nationality, culture, or ethnicity that is retained?

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  11. Well just like anything else I look to life experiences for my answer JJ. Australia is as multicultural as a country can get & in my own life I have been surrounded by people from all corners of the globe... Greece, Italy, South America, China, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, India, Africa & England. People adapt on the most part to survive in their new country of course but in my experience the older the immigrant is the more likely they are going to clinch onto their cultural beliefs & traditions and at times struggle to belong, often pining for their country of birth. Their heritage is ingrained into the fiber of who they are! My husband was 5 when he came to Australia from Chile, he has no trace of an accent, he doesn't associate much with Chilean Social Groups and such and considers himself and Aussie through & through. He does however have a great respect for his heritage but considers Australia home.
    So my answer is to this is: I guess it depends on the person, the age they were when immigrating & the preparedness to accept a new way of life & living!

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  12. How many expats would it take to create an Irish or Japanese Gertrude Stein? Riddle me that, JJ.

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  13. Katherine: Very insightful. That is exactly the type of reasoning I was looking for from my students. Also, Chile is a beautiful country!

    Bruce: I will have to do some calculating, but the question is worth pondering. Normally, I would shoot back a quick answer with some sushi and a couple of pints of Guiness in it, but Gertrude complicates things.

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  14. I think that if you moved EVERYONE,then they would keep their culture the same. The only way to become part of a new culture is to be a part of it. In your scenario, you're just moving a batch of people to a new location, or at least that is how I am reading it.
    Does bring up some interesting points - would someone who grew up in Chinatown feel less integrated with America than someone who grew up in a nearby area that had multiple ethnicities in it? I'm just using Chinatown b/c it popped into my head, but the same thing could go for any community that is predominantly one ethnicity.

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  15. Are all the Japanese really Japanese, or do they just live in Japan. Are all the Irish really Irish, or are some writers and artists who get good tax breaks in Irland.
    I am Hungarian/Irish, but I consider myself a American. Rod's Canadian by birth, and he considers himself an American. I agree with April.

    People who choose to live another country can be considered ex-pats, but if someone else moved them there I don't think that would apply.

    Then again, what do I know??

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  16. Love the Neil Diamond music! Great song. I'm not sure if I'd get a passing grade in your class, JJ. That's a difficult question. I'd like to think that the Japanese would remain Japanese regardless of where they reside. I like to think I'm Irish even though I live in America. Of course I claim all the benefits of my genealogy. (Swiss, French, German, Scottish, etc.) Culture and tradition are a great part of who we are, and I hope that remains in tact in spite of our location. Okay, did I just go off on a tangent? Will my comment affect the grading curve? Be kind, professor.

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  17. Immigrants seem to maintain the culture of the home country, don't they. Later generations invariably take on the culture of the new country. Hold that thought. got to take the kids for a hike will continue later. You're the man, JJ...

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  18. I think you all pass. The scenario is interesting because it gets us thinking about immigration in quite a different light. Today, we hear our politicians argue these issues, but I don't hear any of them reach conclusions like you all have done. The bottom line is none of us are being fooled. Living in a certain location does not automatically infuse culture and ethnicity. As #167 Dad started to say, immigrants tend to hold on to their culture of origin. It is the following generations that tend to assimilate. That is why immigration takes planning. Diversity is important and healthy, but mass immigration absent a plan tends to shock the host culture.

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  19. I guess it would depend on the behavior of the individual. Would they learn the language, culture, and so forth of their new land and adapt it as their own, or would they go to the new country and take an arrogant pride in their old culture as if it were better than all others on the planet. One of my closest friend's if from Mexico and we've known each other in Texas for over 15 years. He speaks perfect English, has become a U.S. citizen, and has adapted himself to fit in here. The point is, he accepts the U.S. as his country, and so this country accepts him in return.
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  20. I kinda feel if you did a straight swap then everyone would keep their ethnicity because they'd still be a part of their community and would still be using the same language. Although some cultures have strong ties to the land that they live-in, I think language and community have a stronger influence on identity.

    Just think of us Aussies cooking a Christmas Roast with a Sticky Date Pudding for desert on an unbearably hot day in summer where temperatures occasionally hit 40 degrees Celsius (I think that's about 100 degrees over your way).

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  21. Miriam and Akseli: I think you are both correct. Either you assimilate, or you don't. However, governments should not attempt to fool us into believing that someone who simply "lives" in a host country has exchanged his or her culture for that of the host country. They do not. As Miriam says, they must accept the host, and then be accepted in return.

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  22. Interesting question. I believe it would depend on each individuals interpretation of who they think they are.

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