The Effect a Society Has on an Immigrant


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Societies have changed over the years; our identities play a huge role in this world. Because we live in a heterogeneous society, many people may have dilemmas when it comes to constructing their identity. The effect the society can have on an immigrant is immense; living in a foreign country can easily change one’s identity. Despite the fact that Maalouf and I are both immigrants with double personalities deprived of the worrisome in exposing our identities, we’re at a variance with our perception towards constructing identities and the society’s attitude towards us.
Maalouf and I both come from two different settings. Maalouf was born and raised in Lebanon for 27 years. He then migrated to France and still lives there. In a like manner, I’m a Syrian who was born in Russia, but raised in the United Arab Emirates. We are both immigrants to our society with nothing to hide when it comes down to revealing our identities. Since my father speaks Arabic, whereas my mother speaks Russian/Chechen, they communicate in English. So as I grew up, English was the only language I was exposed to, and thus, has become my first language. Maalouf, on the other hand, is bilingual; he speaks Arabic and French fluently.
We don’t share the same perception towards constructing our identities. Maalouf believes that people should not have a fixed identity if they were exposed or raised in different cultures. I, however, think that there are different types of identities when it comes down to its national component: ‘Blood’ nationality, which what defines you from the moment you are born (component of “fixed identity”), and ‘Sense’ nationality, which is the feeling of where you belong (component of “multiple belongings”). My identity will always be classified as Syrian half Chechen despite the fact that I don’t conform to the Syrian or Chechen customs. This is me going by the impression of ‘Blood’ nationality. Maalouf is somewhat against this idea. When he stated that one cannot have a “fixed identity” because it changes overtime, he clearly did not exclude the nationality component of identity, meaning that he goes by the idea of ‘Sense’ nationality. He argues that “identity cannot be compartmentalized; it cannot be split in halves or thirds, nor have any clearly defined set of boundaries” (2012, p. 66).
Maalouf’s society’s attitude also differs from mine. When Maalouf migrated to France, he had been asked several times about his identity; if he felt more Lebanese or French.

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The people in my society (UAE) are not like that. They are so used to being heterogeneous that any identity is instantly accepted. I have only been asked once on what I felt “deep inside [my]self” (Maalouf, 2012, p. 66). My response was one of my ‘Blood’ identities, Chechen. That question never actually made me think deeply. It may be because of the way I was raised; Arabs tend to identify themselves as their father’s nationality. Some, like me, identify themselves as half of both, while the rest identify themselves as either their mother’s nationality or a nationality that has absolutely nothing to do with their trait.
Maalouf and I are similar in that we are both immigrants who come from two different backgrounds that may have a conflict on one another, not as individuals, but as a whole. We also do not hide our identities; we identify ourselves without the worrisome of too much attention. However, when it comes to our attitudes and perception on constructing our identities, we are not alike. Maalouf believes that identity should have “multiple belongings”. I do not fully agree with that idea because he did not exclude the nationality element of the identity; he goes by the ‘Sense’ nationality. The nationality component of identity should simply be what you are (‘Blood’) and not what you feel (‘Sense’).



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