Personal Identity and Cultural Identity essay

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All of the researchers must be given equal weight relation to the importance of their work. The following sampling of research represents some of the key authors and works in the area of location and personal identity.

Toft (2003) examined the connection between personal identity, culture, and geography. She concluded that culture and ethnicity are governed by geography and that these issues are the root of conflict. When one group feels that that their section of geography is being threatened, they will resort to violence to protect it. This research leads us to at study by Kim. Kim (2009) examined the issue of identity and geography in relation to power structures. She used a literature review as her key research tool. The focus of her research was to examine the affects of splitting an area on the identity of its people. Her example focused on the Korean peninsula. Her work was not conclusive, except from the standpoint that geography and personal identity are closely linked.

These studies concluded that geography could have an impact on national identity. However, another study by Dowling (2009) found that geography could also have an impact on social class. The study found that numerous class-related identity elements derive from a person's geographic location. One example is the differences between people from the North and South. This can be more easily understood when one considers the fact that poor people have difficulty obtaining housing in wealthier sections of metropolitan areas. By the same token, those who are more affluent will not be likely to choose housing in poorer sections of the city.

Penrose and Mole (2008) also addressed the role of nation in a person's identity and where it intersects the issue of geography. These authors contend that within nations, internal divisions emerge as a result of differences in the ability to access resources. This supports the idea that class and identity are related to geography. Those that have the better geography will have a different set of attitudes than those who do not have the best geographic location. For example, Americans are considered to be more successful in comparison to other nations because they have access to more abundant resources. This can lead to assumptions about people that are based on geography alone. However, not all assumptions about geography and location hold true.

Mitchell (2007) challenged the widely accepted view that cosmopolitan people have a certain air or coldness about them. The study found that while certain general assumptions can be made based on geography, there are limits to the applicability of such generalizations. Mitchell argues in favor of challenging these assumptions. Generalizations have been found to have little predictive value as to the way in which individuals behave towards one another. These types of generalizations can lead to stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes. One needs further information to make judgments about individuals that are based on geography.

These issues of class lead us to the dynamic nature of geography. Rowles (1983) explored how identity in relation to one's geography change with age. The sample population for this study included elderly persons living in Appalachia. The study found that the elderly often place a greater attachment to a specific place. Locations helps them to sustain a sense of personal identity, than they did when they were younger. This phenomenon increases after the age of 75.

Studies support the supposition that place is important to a person. This brings us to the most relevant topic to the research subject. Bhugra and Becker (2005) found that migration could affect a person's mental well being. They found that moving to a place with a different culture is stressful. The loss of one's social structure can trigger a grief reaction in some migrants. They will miss their home culture. To further complicate the process, the person might not receive adequate help due to cultural or language barriers. Eisenbruch (1991) found that cultural bereavement was particularly strong among Southeast Asian refugees. Some refugees might need therapy to overcome the trauma of losing their culture (Schreiber, 1995). Higher rates of mental illness are seen in migrants than in the local population. The ability of the individual to acculturate determines the likelihood that a migrant will develop mental illness as a result of cultural bereavement (Bhugra, 2004).

The literature supports the idea that people form attachments to geographic locations and that they suffer a loss when they must leave that location and their home culture. They identify themselves with that local culture and landscape. It becomes a part of the definition of who they are. The nation-state is a key manifestation of this concept, and an excellent vantage from which to study people's sense of identity. The struggle for a homeland, as with the Sikhs in India or the struggle to return home highlights the importance of geography on a person's identity. This study will fill a gap in research that stems from the loss of homeland among a population of Middle Eastern migrants to the Los Angeles area.

3.0 Research Hypothesis

The research hypothesis for this study states that Middle Eastern migrants over the age of 40 to the Los Angeles area will experience cultural bereavement and a sense of loss for their homeland. The hypothesis will be measured using interviews.

4.0 Methods

This study will use a formal face-to-face interview process with Middle Eastern migrants to the Los Angeles area. It will examine Middle Eastern migrants over the age of 40 who have been in the Los Angeles area for 10 years or more and who foresee staying in the Los Angeles area for the rest of their lives at the time of the interview. The results of the interview will be examined for content and categorically analyzed for groups with similar content.

It is expected that the study results will indicate a high level of bereavement in Middle Eastern migrants to the Los Angeles area. The bereavement and grief process are expected to be amplified, as their home culture and that of the Los Angeles area are dissimilar. The unfamiliarity of the surroundings will result in extended bereavement issues in this population. This research will enhance the existing knowledge of communication and the effects of geography on a sense of loss of personal identity among those who migrate to a foreign land.


Bhugra, D. (2004). Migration, distress, and cultural identity. British Medical Bulletin. Vol. 69

(1) 129-141.

Bhugra, D. And Becker, M. (2005). Migration, cultural bereavement and cultural identity. World Psychiatry. Vol. 4 (1) 18-24.

Dowling, R. (2009). Geographies of identity: Landscapes of class. Progressive Human

Geography. Vol. 34 (5).

Eisenbruch, M. From post-traumatic stress disorder to cultural bereavement: diagnosis of Southeast Asian refugees. Social Science Medicine. Vol. 33(6) 673-80.

Kim, M. (2009). Social construction of power, identity and geography: The voices from Korea,

India and Tibet. International Studies Review. Vol. 11 (4) 749-754.

Mitchell, K. (2007). Geographies of identity: The intimate cosmopolitan. Progressive Human

Geography. pp. 1-15.

Penrose, J. & Mole. R. (2008). Nation-states and national identity. Sage Handbook of Political

Geography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rowles, G. (1983). Place and personal identity in old age: Observations from Appalachia.

Journal of Environmental Psychology. Vol. 3 (4) 299-313.

Schreiber, S. (1991). Migration, traumatic bereavement and transcultural aspects of psychological healing: loss and grief of a refugee woman from Begameder county in Ethiopia. British Journal of Medical Psychology. Vol. ( Pt 2):135-42.

Toft, M. (2003). The geography of ethnic violence. Princeton University Press.

Princeton, NJ.


10 Interview Questions:

Can you tell me about your decision about moving to Los Angeles and what type of expectation you had before moving?

I am asking an open-ended question, has moving to the Los Angeles affected your personal identity in any way compared to how you saw yourself in your home country?

Can you give me some examples of how your new geographical location might have affected your personal identity and if it not then has it affected someone else in the family?

From your experiences of acculturation, can you tell me how long it took you before you started seeing differences in personal identity between your country of origin and Los Angeles? (weeks, months, years?)

What do you say to yourself when you see other families like yours who have migrated to Los Angeles and have started identifying themselves differently? For example acting more American?

What would be the ideal way for you to construct your personal identity in a new country? Or is there none?

Do you think easier to maintain the way you identified yourself back home or are you pressured to change your identity to become more American now that you live in the States?

Since we live in Los Angeles a metropolitan city, do you believe Los Angeles can construct people's identities compared to a more urbanized city?


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