“Being Middle-Eastern American: Identity Negotiation in the Context

Identities are answers to the questions
“Who are you?” and “Who are they?”
Identities are relational, contextual
Identities form through social interaction
Their content and meaning – the boundaries
of identities – change over time
Identities consist of:
a boundary separating me from you or us
from them
a set of relations within the boundary
a set of relations across the boundary
a set of stories about the boundary and
Tilly, 1999
Identities form through pairing - comparing,
contrasting, & relating - social categories
a social category consists of a set of sites that
share a boundary distinguishing all of them
and relating all of them to at least one set of
sites visibly excluded by the boundary
identities separate us from them, imply
distinct relations among us, among them, and
between us and them
Tilly, 1999
Ch. 42: Being Middle-Eastern
American: Identity Negotiation in
the Context of the War on Terror
Amir Marvasti
Stigma & management of spoiled identity
objective: to show how Middle Eastern Americans
manage the stigma of their “spoiled identities,”
especially in the aftermath of September 11th
analytical method: combines symbolic
interactionism (SI) and structuralism
SI attends to how meanings and identities are constructed
through everyday social interaction, while structuralism
focuses on how micro-level interactions are conditioned
by social structure - social context and history
Goffman on stigma
“When a stranger is present before us,
evidence can arise of his possessing an
attribute that makes him different from
others…He is thus reduced in our minds from
a whole and usual person to a tainted,
discounted one. Such an attribute is stigma.”
Stigma is variable social construct and not a fixed
characteristic of a person
Identity disputes are occasions for
eliciting and producing “accounts”
accounts: encounters in which a person is
called to explain unanticipated or untoward
behavior—whether his/her own or that of
others, and whether the cause of the statement
arises from the actor himself or someone else
accounts are conditioned by structural factors,
social-historical context, e.g.,
political turmoil
Media images shape social context
Middle Eastern Americans are suffering “ill-fame”
(Goffman, 1963) perpetuated by the mass media
their “public image . . . seems to be constituted from a small
selection of facts which . . . are inflated into dramatic newsworthy appearance, and then used as a full picture [of their
identity],” e.g.,
racist stereotypes and fear of terrorism perpetuated by the media
the stigma of being Middle Eastern American is not
external to interactions but is constructed or rejected via
interaction, accounts, & self-presentational strategies
Five forms of accounting strategies
humorous accounting
educational accounting
defiant accounting
Humorous Accounting
uses humor as a diversion technique
substance of account is incidental and is
deliberately trivialized
account-giver acknowledges demands of
encounter while undermining legitimacy and
urgency of request for an account
Educational Accounting
takes deliberate pedagogical form where
account-giver assumes role of educator,
informing & instructing account-taker
combats stigma by correcting stereotypes
unlike humorous accounting, educational
accounting centers on the informational
substance of the account
Defiant Accounting
like humorous accounting, account-giver
exerts agency by challenging other’s right to
unlike humorous accounting, stigmatized make
explicit demands for counter-explanations
interaction explicitly focused on the fairness
of the exchange
in “defensive cowering” (Goffman) the stigmatized
go along with stereotypical demands of setting in
order to avoid greater harm
artful practice and agency take backseat to external
stigmatized is virtually powerless in the face of rigid
demands of the setting
more about “saving body,” or one’s physical safety,
than “saving face”
goal is information control and concealment
of stigmatizing attributes
accomplished by manipulating one’s
appearance, e.g., using disindentifiers
Trafficking Migration, and the
Law: Protecting Innocents,
Punishing Immigrants
Wendy Chapkis
Deviance and the law
law is a key means for the construction of
deviance, especially those not white, not
native born, and not sexually restrained by
new laws defining deviance and crime are often
the product of a moral panic
Trafficking Victims Protection Act divides
“violated innocents” from “illegal immigrants”
relies on a repressive moral panic about
sexual slavery created through slippery stats
& definitions
differentiates between innocent and guilty
prostitutes, providing support only to former
makes assistance, even to “deserving” victims
contingent on willingness to assist in
“Right to Remain Silent” (audio)
For 17 months, New York police officer Adrian
Schoolcraft recorded himself and his fellow
officers on the job, including their supervisors
ordering them to do all sorts of things that
police aren't supposed to do. For example,
downgrading real crimes into lesser ones, so
they wouldn't show up in the crime statistics
and make their precinct look bad. Adrian's story
first appeared as a five part series in the Village
Voice, written by Graham Rayman.
Schoolcraft's website looking for other cops to
come forward is here. (41 minutes)