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By Paul Eid

Arabs in North the USA are frequently looked as if it would be a monolithic workforce. 'Being Arab' explores how Muslim and Christian Arab-Canadian formative years truly negotiate their ethnic and non secular identities.

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Additional resources for Being Arab: Ethnic and Religious Identity Building among Second Generation Youth in Montreal

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I will then discuss the implications of this revamped postcolonial Arab-Islamic identity for the Arab diaspora. The colonial powers were driven out of Arab countries during the second half of the twentieth century, following wars of independence (as in Algeria and Morocco) or military coups that overthrew centuries-old monarchies (as in Egypt and Iraq). The pervasive influence of Western cultural models remained, however, exacerbating an identity crisis that permeated the Arab world. One of the most important catalysts of this identity crisis was the disruptive impact of modernization during the postcolonial era.

Thus, says Roy, the typical Beur of the Cité speaks more “Verlan” (urban street slang used by French youth) than Arabic, listens to rap, and goes to McDonald’s. Bastenier (1998) argues along the same lines when he points out that young Belgians of North African descent increasingly opt for the street as their primary space of socialization, thus drifting away from the codes and norms of the family. Leveau (1997) reported the results of a 1989 survey2 that showed that young Beurs identify with and embrace French culture at very high levels.

The first approach embraces the poststructuralist notion that ethnic identity formation results from a series of choices, decisions, creative transformations, and adaptations, leading to a largely negotiated and always moving identity. The second, more orthodox, approach posits a top-to-bottom relation between culture and agents. According to this perspective, certain external cultural frameworks supply actors with the normative, cognitive, and behavioural knowledge they need to form what comes to be seen as a largely ready made ethnic self.

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