Önver A. Cetrez, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Psychology of Religion & Cultural Psychology Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden - PDF

Önver A. Cetrez, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Psychology of Religion & Cultural Psychology Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden 104 Forum 21 [Research] I hate when people ask me where I come from...

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Önver A. Cetrez, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Psychology of Religion & Cultural Psychology Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden 104 Forum 21 [Research] I hate when people ask me where I come from... The challenges of postmodernization for understanding religious-cultural identities in Sweden ¹ Introduction Through history migration has been a major source of human survival, adaptation, and growth (Marsella et al., 2003). Today, as a result of migration, identity is a central concern for many people, both on individual and collective levels. The first departing point in this article is that identity needs to be related to culture, as culture provides the context in which our practices and values are embedded and negotiated (Marsella et al., 2003). Both identities and cultures are in a constant state of change, representing efforts after adjustment, adaptation, growth, and development. The second departing point is linked to the theory of modernization and that this theory must be contingent on the historical and cultural context of the societies in question (Inglehart & Baker, 2000). The objective of this article is to illustrate the importance of historical and cultural analysis, especially for the acculturation of a religiouscultural group, the Assyrian, into a dominant culture, the Swedish, with specific attention to Assyrian youth. The Swedish societal context It was primarily after the Second World War that the immigration to Sweden increased, and in that two clearly differentiated periods can be delineated; one dominated by labour immigrants between and the other dominated by political or refugee immigrants from the mid 1970s onwards. The Assyrians, as the population in this study, belong to the latter immigrated group. The ethnologist Å. Daun wrote in 1996 that despite the historical presence of many ethnic groups, or the increased internalization, as well as the membership in the EU, Sweden can still be characterized as having a homogenous culture in terms of a dominant religiosity, language, and ethnicity. Historically immigrants have gradually assimilated, and their influence hasn t led to cultural diversification or divisions. This still seems to be the case. One example of this is the topic of identification, where it is still approached from a static and monocultural perspective. The label Swedish is formally very broad, as it encompasses all those having Swedish citizenship, but at the same time narrow, as it implicitly is related to appearance and also limited to those having a historical ethnic background in Sweden, though never specified for how many generations. The label Swedish is often used in opposition to the label invandrare (in Swedish for immigrant), implying non-swedish, but rarely used in a double mode, such as Swedish-Assyrian or other. The label invandrare is often linked to other terms, such as language (invandrarspråk, immigrant language), media (invandrarradio, immigrant radio), and sports (invandrarlag, immigrant team), oppositionary categories of identities that are given specific meaning. The use of these identity labels and their meanings in Swedish society are not non-normative, but reflect power relations, used not only to describe a context, but their meanings also position and regulate people s place in such a context, and dominate relations among them (Cetrez, 2005). A historical look at some labels is needed here. In the 1950s the label utlänning (foreigner) was used for a person who was not born in Sweden, in contrast to a Swede, who was born and raised in Sweden. But, in the 1960s an intentional change to the label invandrare (immigrant) was taken, to indicate a person who had chosen to come-in, in contrast to being an outsider. However, despite the positive intention, the 105 concept invandrare has come to define a category of people who are not, implying not Swedes; i.e., still being outsiders. As Svanberg and Tydén (1999) point out, society had now created a new collective group and a new identity category, with specific characteristics as other collectives, such as women, youth, or retired people. Instead, within the concept that politicians and researchers had constructed, there was a vast variety of people, with differences in terms of geography, language, religion, education, and social background. Today, the label invandrare has become so broad that it passes on from one generation to another. A person, born and raised in Sweden, but with at least one immigrant parent, becomes an invandrare, even specified as 2nd or 3rd generation invandrare. The label implies, among other meanings, a person who still isn t rooted in society and who keeps a distance (Svanberg & Tydén, 1999). Apart from the time dimension, there is also a geographical dimension, showing that the more the person differs in appearance, colour, and cultural traditions from the majority, the longer the person will be looked at as an invandrare (Allwood & Franzén, 2000). There is in Swedish society a general tendency to categorize immigrants as a homogenous group, despite the significant heterogeneity among them. This categorization includes not only the persons who have immigrated themselves, but also many of those who are born and raised in Sweden (Parszyk, 1999). These people are given the type of immigrantidentity that is difficult for them to identify with (Parszyk, 1999). Studies by the National Integration Office in Sweden (KortNytt, 2002/2003), as well as by The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) (2003), point out that there is a systematic special treatment and discrimination of both immigrated persons and their children. Yet another example to describe the societal context and use of identity constructions is from the religious institutional level. Despite the high degree of secularization in Sweden during the 20th century, and still after the separation of state and church in 2000, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, that being the official name, still stands as the norm for Christianity in Sweden, broadly called the Swedish Church. Being the church of the majority ethnic group and in a dominant position, other Christian denominations are either referred to as invandrarkyrkor (in Swedish for immigrant churches) or free churches. Thus, the once-powerful Lutheran church still seems to shape individuals positions within the Swedish society. Immigrants entering into the host culture of Sweden are entering also into a postmodern and Lutheran heritage that informs the cultural context shaping values, attitudes, and practices. Assyrian community background and context In order to move from a theoretical level to an empirical one, a brief background to the case study population is needed. The Assyrians have their origin in Mesopotamia and count their heritage back to the ancient Assyrians ruling here from 1100 B.C to 612 B.C. They converted to Christianity in the first century A.D. and did play a central role in the forming of Christian theology already from 4th to 12th centuries (Cetrez, 1998). Today the Syriac Orthodox Church, the ethnic associations, as well as individuals, primarily in Europe, are all divided between those adhering to Assyrian and those to the Aramean ideologies. Specific for Assyrian culture today is the use of the Syriac language, belonging to the Neo-Aramaic languages. Most Assyrians also speak the languages of their country of origin and of the new country, thus being multi lingual. In ethnic language the following emic terms are also used: Athuroyo (Assyrian), Suroyo (with a religious connotation), Suryoyo (with an ethnic connotation), or Aromoyo (Aramean). Due to massacres during late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Middle East, and the increased violence during the 1980s and on, as well as the search for labour opportunities, the migration among the Assyrians has been ongoing 106 Forum 21 [Research] for long and increased extremely, both within the countries in the Middle East and to the countries in the West. The Assyrian immigration to Sweden started in the 1970s and continues still. Though the exact number of Assyrians in Sweden is difficult to calculate, internal figures point to members. Their total number in year 2004 in the city of Södertälje, where the majority of Assyrians live, came to 14,311, which is 17.9% of the total population in the city (Cetrez, 2005). Method Procedure and participants The current study is based on questionnaires and interviews conducted during among three Assyrian age-groups in the city of Södertälje. The sample design used in this study was a probability sample; more specifically a stratified random sampling. The population was divided into a number of groups, or strata, where the members of each group share some particular characteristics. The groups chosen for this study were selected by generation and gender. Next step was a random sampling within each strata, where questionnaires were sent by mail until the requested number was reached. This way of acquiring respondents may be faulted for not giving a representative sample of the general population. Given the conditions for conducting surveys among Assyrians and the relatively large percentage of the total population covered through the name lists, the sample was as representative as possible for the Assyrians in the city of Södertälje. A specific difficulty with conducting a survey study among older participants was that not many could answer the questionnaires sent out by mail. Many of them were therefore contacted by phone and a meeting time was decided upon for filling out the questionnaire together. For the youth, the questionnaires were distributed at class sessions, where the students had free time and could thus engage in the investigation. Measures A sequential mixed model study has been used, so the results from the quantitative study have determined the focus of the qualitative one. For measuring the central concepts of this study, religious and ethnic affiliation, in the quantitative study, five items have been compared through all three generations. The first item was How strongly religious/spiritual do you feel you are? The second item was How often do you go to the church you are a member of? The third item was How often do you do religious fasting? The fourth item was How strongly Assyrian/Syriac do you feel? The fifth item was How strongly do you feel part of the Swedish society? A 4-point Likert-type rating scale was used (1-not at all, 2-little/weak, 3-somewhat, and 4-a lot/very strongly). For the qualitative data, a template analysis style has been used. Results of the quantitative data The majority from the 1st and 2nd generations were born in Turkey, followed by Syria, and Lebanon. Within the 3rd generation the majority were born in Sweden, followed by Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. The majority of the respondents, who were not born in Sweden, came to Sweden in the mid 1970s, another group in beginning of the 1980s, and a third in the mid 1980s. For church membership, almost all respondents answer Syriac Orthodox, with the exception of a very few indicating Syriac Catholic or other. For educational level, most common within the 1st generation was no education/illiteracy among the females and five-years of elementary school among the males. Within the 2nd generation the education level is somewhat higher, mainly at the five-year elementary school level and high school level among the females, and five-year elementary school level and university level 107 among the males. Within the 3rd generation, all being on Gymnasium (high school) level, the majority study majors in social studies, followed by economy, business, cosmetology, and media. The results from the quantitative investigation on the items of religiosity have been more thoroughly presented in an earlier article (Cetrez, 2008), pointing to a decline from the 1st to the 3rd generation. A post hoc test for one-way ANOVA reveals statistical significance for feeling religious as well as for I go to church, between the 1st generation and the other two generations (1st and 2nd generation, P.001, 1st and 3rd generation, P.001). This indicates that a significant difference in religious worldview between the generations can be detected. On feeling Assyrian/Syriac, all three generations answer very strongly. A correlation analysis shows statistical significance with the importance of Syriac language within the 3rd generation (r =.417, p .001), indicating that ethnic language is a central dimension in ethnic affiliation. On feeling part of the Swedish society, though from a low level, an increase is noted from the 1st to the 3rd generation among the females. An ANOVA for feeling part of the Swedish society and generation was significant (df 2, F 4,724, P .01). The post hoc test for one-way ANOVA reveals statistical significance between the 1st and 3rd generations (df 2, F 4,724, P .01) (1st and 3rd generation, P.001). Results of the qualitative data Turning to the qualitative investigation, the interview material among the Assyrian youth reveals more complexity of identification than the survey study does. The youth do confirm the strong Assyrian affiliation, but also point out that changes in relation to affiliation and within selfimage take place along interdependent developmental lines, that they are context bound, that several labels are used simultaneously, and that they are loaded with both positive and negative feelings. There are also respondents describing themselves as different, such as immigrants. Similar experiences were also expressed for adolescence time. This would result in feelings of exclusion, making kinship and religion problematic. The youth also identify themselves using other qualities, such as gender, occupation, or feelings, with such identifiers increasing in the young adulthood period. An example of exclusion is given by a female person: It is probably my look, as a svartskalle (black head). Even if nobody says it, I can feel it from some Swedes and how they look at you (. ) At work for example, where I work at a grocery store (.). There I feel right away that I m by my look not a Swede (. ) I feel it (Female participant, age 19). The interviews revealed that personal identity development is closely related to religious affiliation, but also affected by experiences of ethnic division in the Assyrian community and experiences of exclusion in the Swedish host society. Personal identity development is thus linked to the process of acculturation within a multi-cultural setting, where both Assyrian and host Swedish cultures are central, and where the individual negotiates his/her personal identity through strategies of alternation and differentiation. In general the results show that a diverse set of kinship labelling is used from childhood onwards. They also show that as development continues some respondents use more than one label, mostly depending on the situation. Finally, an example of ethnic identity being an issue and often imposed upon one is given by another female participant: If someone asks me where I m born or where I come from I think that isn t important for my personality. If you want to get to know me it is my personality and how I am as a person to be with [that is important], not that I m Syriac or that I ve been born here. I hate it when people ask me where I come from. I always get the question where I come from. (Female participant, age 19) 108 Forum 21 [Research] Discussion Three different societal categories by Inglehart and Baker (2000) can be used as a working model to approach the Assyrian community today. Preindustrial life is characteristic for Assyrians who have migrated during the second half of the 20th century and are today mostly elderly individuals who have both their primary and secondary socializations in the Middle East. Many of these individuals have migrated directly from the primitive life conditions in their villages to the highly modern Sweden. For this generation, collective safety, traditional values, and religiosity are central in both culture formation and maintenance, the basis on which the life decisions can be made. Industrial life is characteristic of the Assyrians who also have migrated during the second half of the 20th century, but who are now in their middle-age. They have their primary socialization in the Middle East and their secondary socialization in Sweden. These individuals may have migrated directly from villages in the Middle East or had a transition period in larger cities, such as Istanbul or Beirut. Inglehart and Baker (2000) point out that a shift from preindustrial life (agrarian society) to industrial life brings a shift from traditional values towards an increased rationalization and secularization. Thus, though religion is still a part of community Assyrian culture, the process of secularization is inevitable. This generation has a rationalized life orientation, characterized more by an ethnic-national dimension than by an ethnic-religious one to start from as their basis for decision making (see also Deniz, 1999). Postindustrial life is characteristic for the youth in the population. They have been born in and have both their primary and secondary socializations in Sweden. The youth, compared to their parents and grandparents, don t have a single or dominant orientation to start from. On the contrary, after growing up in Sweden the choice is more complicated for this generation, as they are simultaneously being strongly influenced by both their parents and grandparents worldviews and the postindustrial society of the 21st century. The Assyrian youth have to choose elements from or ways of interacting with each of the three societal structures they encounter. Thus, using the approach by Inglehart and Baker (2000), at the same time as collective safety, economical welfare, and social safety are important for the Assyrian youth, being children of Swedish society they also value self-expression, quality-of-life, and a servicecentred-life as do other peers of their age. Linked to the changes between these three societal structures are value differences across generations. One important concept, namely that of secularization, applies mainly to the industrialization phase; i.e., the shift from preindustiral life to industrial life (Inglehart and Baker, 2000). This finding is also supported by the results of the Assyrian community in Sweden (Cetrez, 2005) where post hoc analyses reveal that the main religio-cultural changes occur between the 1st Assyrian generation and the other two generations. What is important to note here is that these shifts are not clear cut. Within Assyrian community, the values that reflect these different societal structures exist and function simultaneously, and are more differentiated by generation than by gender. However, gender might become a differentiating factor as the acculturation phase proceeds. Assuming the above societal changes among the Assyrians, the intensive transformation of identification from an ethno-religious through an ethno-national to a situational one of the postmodern life, during a short time of migration and acculturation, becomes a critical search for personal and collective meaning and purpose; all within the postmodern Swedish context where there is no single dominant worldview to start from when making the decisions in life. Thus, traditional religious and ethnic identity symbols 109 start to loose their legitimacy and meaning in Sweden, as Assyrian youths are being acculturated towards a more postindustrial form of expressing and constructing their identities. Conclusions Based on the generational comparison, societal categories, and empirical findings presented above, the following hypothesis can be formulated: The changes from the preindustrial life, and through the industrial into the postindustrial one (modernization), along generatio
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