Being Arab: Ethnic and Religious Identity Building among by Paul Eid

By Paul Eid

Arabs in North the US are frequently looked as if it would be a monolithic crew. 'Being Arab' explores how Muslim and Christian Arab-Canadian adolescence truly negotiate their ethnic and spiritual identities.

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Once the notion of culture has been deconstructed with a view to exposing its fluid and ambiguous nature, research on the ethnic identities of migrant youths undergoes a radical shift: from the study of how migrant children are socialized into one cultural community or another, it is redirected toward strategies by which these children move away from the prefabricated ethnonational boundaries of host society and ethnic community alike. Although sociologically relevant in many respects, this “actor-centred” perspective should not be embraced uncritically.

And Christiano 1999, 222; Voyé 1999, 275). How- Building Ethnic and Religious Identity 37 ever, the fact that people today are more likely to indulge in code mixing and engage in religion selectively does not mean that they are less religious. What it does imply is that religion tends to be increasingly relegated to the private sphere, where individuals are free to recompose their own religious frame of beliefs so as to meet their personalized spiritual needs (Bramadat 2005, 4). That being said, the notion of a privatized religion does not mean that people’s quest for the sacred and the transcendental takes place in a communal vacuum.

Rather, he argued that ethnic groups selectively draw certain defin- 22 Being Arab ing characteristics from a pool of shared symbolic resources rooted in a common history. Once these characteristics are “socially activated,” they become symbolic material available to members of the group for purposes of identity construction. This perspective, to which my research is indebted, is largely in keeping with the “situational,” or “contextual,” approach to ethnicity as developed by such authors as Joane Nagel (1994) and Jonathan Okamura (1981).

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