Acculturation experiences of Syrian Muslim refugee women in the U.S.: Intersectionality of nationality, religion, gender, and refugee status
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Drawing on acculturation and intersectionality theories, this research explored the acculturation experiences of Syrian Muslim refugee women in the U.S. in order to better understand how the intersection of their national, religious, gender, and refugee identities influence their transition process and lives in the U.S. The study participants were six Syrian Muslim refugee women living in South Central Texas who resettled in the U.S. after the breakout of the 2011 Syrian War. The study addressed the following research questions: What are the acculturation experiences of Syrian Muslim refugee women in the U.S.? How does the intersectionality of their nationality, religion, gender, and refugee status influence their acculturation to the U.S.?
Data included transcripts from individual interviews, researcher’s journal, and field notes. Data analysis was informed by narrative inquiry methods and intersectionality theory. Stories of the participants were analyzed employing Taylor-Powell and Renner’s (2003) five data analysis steps: 1) get to know the data; 2) focus the analysis; 3) categorize the information; 4) identify patterns and connections within and between categories; and 5) interpret the data to bring it all together. In the second step of data analysis, the findings were further analyzed using Clandinin and Connelly’s (2000) three-dimensional narrative inquiry space: interaction, continuity, and situation/place. Within the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space, place shifted from the war zone to the participant's life in the U.S., time shifted from their life before the war, to fleeing for life, and to resettlement process in the U.S. Finally, the interaction of participants as Syrian Muslim refugee women were also revealed. The analysis of the data indicates several findings. From the data, it became evident that war traumatized all the participants. Besides the burdens of pre-migration experiences such as loss, fear of the unknown, and grief, the participants reported several challenges they have tried to navigate in their new life. The challenges like language, living in an isolated environment prevent them from taking part in social life and interacting with people from the host community. All the participants except for one who lives more secluded than others, have experienced prejudice and marginalization due to their intersecting identities. The stories of refugee women revealed that being a Syrian, Muslim, Arab, refugee women did intersect in their experiences. Even though they reported some positive interactions with people from the host culture and experienced adjustments in some of their cultural behaviors, the findings indicate that they prefer to maintain their heritage culture and language by interacting mostly with people from their religious and ethnic community.