Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Metaperceptions and Identity Negotiation Strategies of Perceived Middle Eastern Immigrants in the U.S.

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Sandra L. Faulkner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Gary Heba (Other)

Third Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lara Lengel (Committee Member)

Abstract

Utilizing the Communication Theory of Identity (CTI), this qualitative study explores the metaperceptions and identity negotiation strategies of immigrants from the so-called Middle East (and North Africa) region. The study encompasses in-depth interviews with ten (10) individuals with various ethnic backgrounds from the Middle East, living in the United States either as international students and/or as immigrants. In addition, this study explores the author’s lived experiences as a Turkish international student in the U.S. in forms of autoethnographic writings embedded throughout the project. The findings include common themes of metaperceptions such as “terrorist,” “foreigner/not-American/the Other,” “rich (and poor),” “Middle Eastern – Arab – Muslim,” and “white but not white.” Regarding identity negotiation strategies, common patterns were found which emerged as “informing/lecturing,” “avoiding talking/interacting,” “being used to it / not caring about it anymore,” and “use of attire/clothing.” Besides the metaperceptions and identity negotiation strategies, three “contingent” factors emerged from the analysis. These factors (i.e., “beliefs about Americans,” “with/out family member,” and “location/setting”) overlapped with both metaperceptions and identity negotiation strategies of the participants; thus, not only affected them but were also affected by them. Lastly, the research introduces two mini case studies from the participants’ own accounts and examines them in detail. Overall, the results of the study indicate that the participants experienced numerous identity gaps due to the inconsistency between their self-perceptions and their metaperceptions. The participants tried to close these identity gaps by utilizing various identity negotiation strategies. The autoethnography section of the paper concluded that the author’s metaperceptions were highly consistent with the interviewees’ while revealing salient differences in identity negotiations employed by the author and the participants. Finally, this paper emphasizes the importance of using clear and consistent terminologies in relation to ethnic, racial, religious identities as well as geographic categorizations (e.g., the Middle East, Arab, Asian, etc.).

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