Theorizing identity in transnational and diaspora cultures: A critical approach to acculturation

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Published in: International Journal of Intercultural Relation, vol. 33, issue 2, 2009.


This paper examines the various ways in which the concept of “diaspora” has important implications for rethinking traditional notions of acculturation in Psychology. In this paper, we argue that the idea of a fixed, invariant, and apolitical notion of acculturation dominates much of Psychology, and as such it needs to be revised and reexamined in light of transnational migration and global movements. Drawing on our previous and current scholarship on acculturation and identity [Bhatia, S., & Ram, A. (2001). Rethinking “acculturation” in relation to diasporic cultures and postcolonial identities. Human Development, 44, 1–17; Bhatia, S., & Ram, A. (2004). Culture, hybridity and the dialogical self: Cases from the South-Asian diaspora. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 11(3), 224–241; Bhatia, S. (2007a). American Karma: Race, culture, and identity and the Indian diaspora. New York, NY: New York University Press; Bhatia, S. (2008). Rethinking culture and identity in psychology: Towards a transnational cultural psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 28, 301–322], we provide a counterargument to models of acculturation that claim that all immigrants undergo a universal psychological process of acculturation and adaptation. More specifically, we show how members from the Indian diaspora reexamined their acculturation status after the events of 9/11. We use interdisciplinary research to critically examine the role of race in the acculturation process. In addition, we provide a new analytical framework to understand the larger structural forces that shape the acculturation and assimilation process of transnational and diasporic migrants.