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date: 22 July 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the identity processes involved in acculturation and multiculturalism, drawing on insights from various social psychological theories of identity. According to self-categorization theory, people are especially likely to view their cultural values and practices as self-defining in situations of intercultural contact. Social identity theory suggests that members of cultural majorities and minorities will find various ways of maintaining the positive distinctiveness of their cultural identities: for example, migrants may compete directly with receiving-society individuals (e.g., Asian Americans in science and mathematics), or they may find creative ways of affirming cultural differences (e.g., opening restaurants specializing in heritage-culture cuisine). However, multicultural national contexts can be understood not only in terms of intergroup relations, but also in terms of intragroup dynamics by which members of different cultural groups negotiate and defend competing definitions of a superordinate national identity. Drawing on integrated threat theory and on motivated identity construction theory, the authors suggest that these intergroup and intragroup dynamics will bring a wider range of identity motives and processes into play. Moreover, the elaborated social identity model emphasizes the importance of viewing majority and minority groups’ identity processes as reciprocally related over time, rather than treating them separately. This analysis helps to explain why migrants and receiving-society members often behave in ways that seemingly contradict the predictions of earlier theories of acculturation and of intergroup relations.

Keywords: acculturation, international migration, social identity, intergroup relations, cultural identity

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