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The analysis of ethnic identity through the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism

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Title:
The analysis of ethnic identity through the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism
Creator:
Baccam, Lanine
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
80 leaves : ; 28 cm.

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Sociology, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Sociology
Committee Chair:
Aydintung, Candan Duran
Committee Members:
Anderson, Richard
Endo, Russell

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Ethnicity ( lcsh )
Symbolic interactionism ( lcsh )
Ethnicity ( fast )
Symbolic interactionism ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado at Denver, 2002. Sociology
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 78-80).
General Note:
Department of Sociology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Lanine Baccam.

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University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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51775458 ( OCLC )
ocm51775458

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Full Text
THE ANALYSIS OF ETHNIC IDENTITY THROUGH THE
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
by
Lanine Baccam
BS.,owa State University, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Sociology
2002


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Lanine Baccam
has been approved
by
Russell Endo
Date


Baccam, Lanine (M.A., Sociology)
The Analysis of Ethnic Identity Through the Theoretical
Framework of Symbolic Interactionism
Thesis directed by Department Chair Candan Duran
Aydintug
ABSTRACT
Current ethnic identity studies do not provide clear
conceptual models and lack a theoretical foundation
necessary for the development of a comprehensive model
of ethnic identity that is testable. Furthermore,
ethnic studies have concentrated on black identity,
while the identity of Asian Americans has just begun to
take hold with social scientists- This exploratory
analysis tries to understand ethnic identity, in
particular Asian American identity, by utilizing the
theoretical basis of Symbolic Interactionism. Identity
salience, commitment, shame, and self-esteem are four
concepts central to Symbolic Interactionisiar especially
Identity Theory and will be the theoretical processes
studied in connection with ethnic identity. In-depth
interviews with twelve ethnically diverse Asian
Americans reveal the importance of shame and suggest a
connection between identity salience, coramitment, self-
esteem and ethnic identity.
This abstract accurately represents the context of the
candidatef s thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
iii


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my mother and father for their
never-ending and immeasurable love and support
throughout my academic years and throughout ray life.
Their strength and endless days of hard work have in
turn given me strength and determination. Their
countless ''bits of motivation^ sent my way has been the
driving force for me to persevere and succeed in school.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Countless thanks to my advisor, Candan Duran Aydintugf
for her patience and understanding during these past
three years. She has kept me on my toes and has been an
enormous factor in my finishing school, I also wish to
thank Richard Anderson (Dr. A) for all of his help, his
light-heartedness, and his cornucopia of knowledge in
statistical matters. Many thanks to Russell Endo for
all of his help and guidance and for sharing his wealth
of knowledge in Asian American Studies with me. Special
thanks to Gregory D. Lee for his generosity in helping
me find my research participants. And last, but
certainly not least, I would like to thank my research
participants for volunteering their time and sharing
their experiences with me-


CONTENTS
Tables .............................-. viii
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM AND ETHNIC IDENTITY
-INTRODUCTION...............
2, REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Symbolic Interactionisin
Ethnic Identity......
Identity Theory.
Previous Empirical Studies
'Ethnic Group and Ethnic Identity
De f i ned-M
-Identity Salience.
Commitment^
Shame.
Self-esteem...
3. METHOD..
Participants.
Measure".
Procedure.
A. RESULTS.
Identity Salience..
3
3
,..6
8
.11
,.17
,.18
20
2
.2 5
30
30
.33
36
.39
39
vi


Commitment .
Self-esteem,,.
5* Discussion
CI TATI ONS****


TABLES
Table
1.Characteristics of Respondents


SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM AND ETHNIC IDENTITY
INTRODUCTION
Over the past decade ethnic identity in the United
States has evolved in new and different directions. The
evident changes have been seen through iirumigration of
new ethnic groups, increasing marriages and births
across ethnicities, and perhaps the increasing
visibility of racial and ethnic conflict, violence, and
politics (Jaret & Reitzes 1999) Current ethnic
identity studies do not provide clear conceptual models
and lacks a theoretical foundation necessary for the
development of a comprehensive model of ethnic identity
that is testable (White & Burke 1987, Phinney 1996).
Furthermore, ethnic studios have concentrated on black
identity, while the identity of Asian Americans has just
begun to take hold with social scientists (Jaret &
Reitzes 1999). Therefore, the identity of Asian
Americans will be the ethnic identity studied in this
analysis, This paper will explore ethnic identity,
specifically Asian American identity by utilizing
1


symbolic interactionism, a sociological paradigm of
social psychology that relates the individual to the
larger social structure (House 1977). Identity
salience, self esteem, commitment, and shame will be
presented as the theoretical processes behind ethnic
identity development.
2


REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Symbolic Interactionism
The term symbolic interactionism was first
introduced by Herbert Blumer who was interested in
explaining social psychology's interest in the
development of the individual in a social context
Symbolic interactionism is considered a part of the
sociological paradigm of social psychology (House 1977)
Blumer (1969, p, 2) comments on the nature of symbolic
interactionism ,by asserting three basic premises. The
first premise is that human beings act toward things on
the basis of the meanings that the things have for them.
These things include all that is recognized in a
personas world, such as physical objects, other human
beings, institutions, ideals, activities of others, and
daily life encounters. Secondly, the meaning of such
things is derived from, or arises out of, the social


interaction that one has with others. The third premise
is that these meanings are handled in, and modified
through, an interpretative process used by the person in
dealing with the things he [or she] encounters.
Unlike previous and more traditional social-
scientific perspectives that viewed human beings as
passive and reactive to their environment, symbolic
interactionism views individuals as dynamic and active
agents (Lai 1995, House 1977). Blumer (1969, p.14)
avows the fundamental difference of how symbolic
interactionism views the human being:
The human being is seen as social in a much
more profound sense-in the sense of an
organism that engages in social interaction
with itself by making indications to.itself
and responding to such indications.
The individual is able to be an acting organism by
possessing a self. Self is not something that we are
born with rather:
Something which has development.arises in the
process of social experience and-activity,
that isr develops in the given individual as a
result of his [or her] relations to that
process as a whole and to other individuals
within that process (Mead 1934, p,135.}
4


Much of the work on the self can actually be traced
back to George Herbert Mead who was a professor of
philosophy at the University of Chicago (House 1977
Along with Mead and Blumer, who was a student of Mead,
many others such as William James, John Dewey, Robert E.
Park, William I. Thoraas, and Charles Horton Cooley have
impacted and guided the direction of symbolic
interactionism in its early stages (Blumer 1969, Lai
1995, House 1977). While these social scientists still
inrluence symbolic interactionism, other theorists have
come to the forefront These include individuals such
as Erving Goffman, Norman Denzin, Sheldon Stryker, John
Lofland, Tomatsu Shibutanif and Morris Rosenbergf among
others (Lai 1995). ..
Symbols and their shared meanings in social
interactions are used by individuals to not only denne
their situation and the behavior of others, but also to
develop an identity for themselves. Identity is seen
within the symbolic interactionist approach as part of
the many shared meanings an individual attributes to the
self (White & Burke 1987).


Ethnic Identity
Ethnic identity can be seen within this framework
as one of the many identities of the self (White & Burke
1987). Current theories of ethnic identity tend to view
individuals as passive. This differs from social
psychological data that suggests individuals to be
dynamic. Another downfall of current ethnic identity
theories is their oversimplification of the
developmental process of identity formation. Ethnic
identity theories have mainly taken a developmental
approach in which a series of conflicts occur that must
be resolved before the next stage of identity formation
is reached. These stage models of ethnic identity are
linear and do not allow for ''the malleabiity of
identity within its social context, a conceptualization
of self that is particularly relevant for Asian
Americans" (Yeh & Huang 1996, p* 645).
The little work that has been achieved in ethnic
identity studies and utilizes a symbolic interactionist
approach faces problems of conceptual clarity and clear
conceptual models (Phinney 1996, White & Burke 1987).


The study of ethnic identity encompasses a definition of
ethnicity that is broad and inconclusive. With the
increasing change in demographics in the United States,
debates on what is an ethnic group have increasingly
centered around race and colorr (Phinney 1996). Many
times the only ethnic groups examined are of black
identity and white identity and with increasing nuinbers,
Latino/Latina identity. Too often theories of ethnic
identity combine together all minority groups to explain
their identity development- The definition of ethnic
groups itself varies greatly depending on the usage and
situation. They mean anything from small, isolated kin
and.culture groups to large categories of people defined
as such because of one or two shared characteristics
(e.g Hispanics or Asian Americans) (Yinger 1985}.
These limitations pose several problems because there
have been clear distinctions discovered between
individualistic and collectivistic groups- Asian
Americans have just recently been analyzed as more
collectivistic in their identity formatipn versus those
who originate and develop an individualistic nature (Yeh
7


& Huang 1996) An example of the latter group would be
of North American or European ancestry {Yinger 1985).
While empirical research has been done on ethnic
identity, it lacks the theoretical basis necessary for
the development of a comprehensive model of ethnic
identity that is testable {Phinney 1996, White & Burke
1987) Symbolic interactionism can shed light on the
analysis of ethnic identity, specifically that of Asian
Americans, by giving it a social theoretical foundation
that can add deeper theoretical understanding and lead
to additional research.
Identity Theory
The concept of identity has a long history in
philosophy and became widely used in the sociological
literature in the 1950s {Wrong 2000). Identity studies
are marked by the works of Mead and Cooley. Studies
focusing on the individual dominated the field through
the 197Os (Cerulo 1997). Identity formation has moved
from being conceptualized as a static, psychological
development to a more social process involving the
8


interaction of individuals {Wrong 2000, Yeh. & Huang
1996, House 1977). This change in the perspective of
identity can be paralleled with the central ideas of
symbolic interactionism.
Structural symbolic interactionism and Sheldon
Stryker's identity theory, both being influenced by
James/ Cooley, and Mead have come into great
consideration within studies of identity formation
(Stryker 1980, White & Burke 1987) Stryker (1980}
contends identity formation is a process of
interpersonal interactions occurring in. and greatly
constrained and defined by the social structure. Roles
in the social structure become an important-aspect in
identity (Stryker 1980, McCallSixnmons .1978) McCall
St Simmons (1978) argue that ''identification of persons
and of other 'things^ is the key to symbolic
interaction; once things are identified and their
meanings for us established, we can proceed with our
strivings, but not before" (p,62). McCall & Simmons
(1978) continue to establish a definition of role-
identity x'as the character and the. role that an
9


individual devises for himself as an occupant of a
particular social position" (p*65).
A problem arises when speaking of the self only
through terms of existing roles in the social structure
(White & Burke 1987). Morris Rosenberg (1979) adds to
the notion of role-identity by discussing the relevance
of groups in the social structure on social identity
(White & Burke 1987). It is the socially recognized
categories (e.g., race, religion, nationality, sex,
status, and so on) that make up an individuals social
identity. Rosenberg (1979) defines the many groups that
arise out of society as membership groups. His analysis
of groups, statuses, and categories as spcial identity
provides a necessary link between structural symbolic
interactionism and the concept of ethnic identity. ''The
source of meanings associated with a social identity
lies not only in a role or counterrole, but in the group
one belongs to and the countergroup^ {White & Burke
1987, pi312), In order for one to deveop an ethnic
identity, traits or meanings associated with the
10


identity and counteridentity of the ethnic group must be
internalized by the individual (White & Burke 1987).
Previous Empirical Studies
Of late there have been several empirical studies
conducted using symbolic interactionism as its
theoretical perspective, specifically identity theory*
However, this comes in recent times. The case has been
that extensive theoretical development on identity
progressed while empirical research lagged behind (Burke
& Tully 1977, Callero 1985r Nuttbrock & Freudiger 1991)*
Several empirical studies have been conducted in the
renewed interest of self and symbolic interactionism
{Stryker 1987). The relationship between role
commitment and identity salience has been measured using
college students. Peter J- Burke and Donald C. Reitzes
(1991) examined the college student role and focused on
linking a person to a stable set of self-meanings rather
than to consistent lines of activity, other role
partners, or organizations. The connection of a person
11


to a stable set of self-meanings in turn links the
person to actions, organizations,, and other persons-
Burke & Reitzes (1991) viewed their study based on
identity theory as an addition to the theoretically and
empirically rich tradition that explores cominitment
processes. In conclusion, Burke & Reitzes (1991)
stated,
"The results of our analyses are in accord
with the expectation that people pursue lines
of activity which sustain and support their
identities to the extent they are committed to
those identities. Commitment emphasizes that
individuals are active agents who make their
own decisions.
Other studies have linked role commitment and
identity salience* Jon W. Hoelter (1983) examined two
potential determinants of identity salience using a
structural symbolic interactionist (identity theory)
approach. Data and analysis of 378 college
undergraduates supported his two hypotheses: identity
salience is positively airected by 1)the degree of
coininitment to its respective role and 2) the degree to
which its respective role is positively evaluated with
regard to one^s performance (Hoelter 1983)* Richard T.
12


Serpe (1987) also utilized a symbolic interactionist
approach in his empirical study of role commitment and
identity salience He studied the relationship between
interactional commitment, affective commitment and
identity.salience. Five identities associated with
collage ife were examined: academic (coursework),
athletic/recreational, extracurricular, personal
involvements, and dating, Serpe (1987) was interested
in examining stabiity and change in self-structure and
collected data from 320 freshmen at three time points
throughout a semester. The analysis suggests a pattern
of stability across identities and change is seen within
those identities that can be characterized as ''open^
social structural contexts allowing a chance for choice
behavior. Serpe (1987, p. 54) concludes, ''This research
provides some.empirical support for the theoretical
formulations of self which assume stability as a major
criterion for the explication of self-relevant social
processes /
Peter J- Burke and Judy C. Tully (1977) developed a
measurement of role identity that is theoretically
13


complex and provides a numerical score for quantitative
analysis. The Burke & Tully (1977) method has been the
measurement used in numerous empirical studies to
explain a variety of behaviors from a symbolic
interactionist perspective (Callero 1992), Peter L.
Callero (1992) modified the Burke-Tully technique and
addressed three general problems that challenge the
validity and reliability of the-Burke-Tully method:
1)the identification of counter identities, 2)the use of
adjectives to assess meaning, and 3>cumbersome and
lengthy implementation and construction procedures.
Callero (1992) applied an empirical test of the modified
measure that demonstrated relatively strong construct
validity and a predictive power equivalent to the Burke-
Tully technique-
Peter L. Callero (1985} has done other empirical
work with identity theory, specifically connecting
identity salience with the act of voluntary blood
donation He gathered data from 658 respondents and
tested the relationship between role-identity salience
and 1)self-definitions, 2)relations with others and
14


3)behavior. Calleros (1985) goal was not to explain
blood-donation behavior, but to examine certain
hypotheses focusing on role-identity salienqe. Callero
(1985, p.214) makes note that ''a single role-identity
represents only a piece of a very complex self-
structure ,/J, Furthermore, future research concerned with
examining self-structure and its connection to behavior
should focus on understanding how all role-identities
interact together as a single structural unit (Callero
1985),
- Few empirical studies exist that assess identity
theory specifically formulated by Sheldon Stryker
(Nuttbrock &-Freudiger 1991). Larry Nuttbrock and
Patricia. Freudiger (1991) examines Strykers original
version of identity theory by testing the salience of
mothering identity* Nuttbrock and Freudiger (1991)
focused on Stryker's ideas of self-structure (identity
prominence and identity salience), role commitment
(extensivity and intensivity), and role behavior
(selection and performance) This research generally
supports identity theory and can be associated with
15


first-time motherhood, but Stryker's hypotheses
connecting identity salience with mothering identity are
supported weakly for the most part. Nuttbrock and
Freudiger (1991,p,153) conclude that ''Indeed, little is
known about the complex associations of selff society,
and behavior," but with Stryker/s identity theory as a
framework, the empirical support it has received so far,
and much needed conceptual refinement further analyses
of such associations can be conducted.
Clovis L. White and Peter J. Burke (1987)
investigated ethnic role identity utilizing a structural
symbolic interactionist approach. They empirically
investigated the relationship of ethnic ident meat ion
with self-esteem, identity salience and identity
coiranitment* The study gathered data from 73 black and
139 white undergraduate students attending Indiana
University (Bloomington) during the 1983-1984 academic
year. The quantitative study investigated several
hypotheses based on identity theory. White & Burkef s
(1987) study confirmed the relationship of ethnic
identity (black and white college students) with
16


salience, self-esteem, and commitment- Their study of
ethnic identity using a symbolic interactionist approach
greatly influenced the research conducted in this paper.
Ethnic Group and Ethnic Identity Defined
Four concepts central to symbolic interactionism
and particularly identity theory will be discussed in
this paper. Identity salience, self-esteem, commitment,
and shame will be related to the notion of ethnic
identity. First, two definitions will be presented: one
of ethnic groups and the other of ethnic identity. J.
Milton Yinger (1976) describes ethnic groups as a
''segment of a larger society whose members are thought,
by themselves and/or others, to have a common origin and
to share important segments of a common culture and whof
in addition, participate in shared activities in which
the common origin and culture are significant
ingredients" (p.159). Language, religion, race and
ancestral homeland with its related culture all play a
relevant part in defining an ethnic group and ethnicity
17


(Yinger 1985). n this study, the concepts of ethnic
group and ethnicity are interchangeable-
Phinney (1996) understands ethnic identity as ''a
complex construct including a commitment and sense of
belonging to one7 s ethnic group, positive evaluation of
the group, interest in and knowledge about the group,
and involvement in activities and traditions of the
group" (p.144). It is important to note that the
process of ethnic identity, similar to the concept of
identity in symbolic interactionism, is dynamic and ever
changing (Charon 1998, Phinney 1996, Yeh & Huang 1996,
Wallace & Wolf 1995}.
Identity Salience
An important aspect of Stryker^ (1980) identity
theory is identity salience. Identities within the self
are organized into a hierarchy of salience or
importance. McCall & Simmons (1978) note that the
''ideal selff or hierarchy of prominence/ aids one in
choosing among diverse projects of action" (p,80).
Furthermore, besides only having an ''ideal self, selves
18


are distributed among a hierarchical arrangement of
role-identities depending on their prominence in a
person^ thinking about himself or herself. ''Some of
his [or her] identities are more important to him [or
her] than are others, and the contents of these
identities afford persisting priorities and dispositions
that lend continuity of'direction to the personas life^
{Me Call & Simmons 1978, p.^ 84)-
Some individuals have altogether rejected a part of
themselves (e.g. ethnic identity). Rosenberg (1979)
proposes they have developed a ''lack of pride7/ in their
group, specirically their ethnic groupi In contrast,
others have ''introjected" their ethnic group as an
integral and inseparable part of their identity- Others
yet, consisting mostly of later generations of an ethnic
group do not lack pride in their group or deny that it
is a socially important category they belong to.
However, they do not particularly feel it is important
to their personal identity* ''The self-concept component
(race or culture) [or religion or status for that
19


matter] may rank low or high in the individuals
hierarchy of self-values" (Rosenberg 1979, p.179).
Commitment
Similar to identity salience is the idea of
commitment to an identity Stryker (1980) refers to
commitment as an investment in a given role or group
One/s relationship to others varies along degrees to
which one is dependent on being a certain type of person
with certain identities (StryJcer 1980) The more
relationships an individual has that affects a
particular identity (e.g* ethnic identity) the more it
is a defining component of the individual/s commitment
level to that identity (White & Burke 1987)* Stryker
and Serpe (1983) posit two concepts in studying
commitment: extensiveness and intensiveness.
Extensiveness is the pure number of persons an
individual knows as a result of their ethnicity and
intensiveness refers to the closeness of relationships
that are a function of the ethnicity- Stryker (1980)
connects commitment to identity salience by proposing
20


that the greater the commitment to role/group identity,
the higher that identity will be in their hierarchy of
salience. This will encourage one to activate and
utilize that identity consistently across different
situations (White & Burke 1987) Identity salience can
be seen as operating within ethnic identity. If one has
many ties to the ethnic group (e.gw family and friends)
and has a strong sense of commitment, they wi1 more
likely identify with that group and use that ethnic
identity across situations. Perceiving ethnic identity
as important to one's self image may encourage that
individual to further explore their ethnicity* In turn,
they may bring it into interactions with others (in
their group as well as those outside of it)
McCall & Simmons (1978) understand commitinent as
having ''bound oneself. An individual commits privately
and publicly and in doing so places emphasis on the
existing social structure. An individual's commitment
will make it difficult to use withdrawal mechanisms to
distance oneself from that group in fear of losing face
(McCall & Simmons 1978),
21


Shame
Shame, though having a long history in sociological
works, has just recently been applied to ethnic
identity, specifically that of Asian Americans {Yeh &
Huang 1996). Christine J, Yeh and Karen Huang (1996)
analyze ethnic identity by placing emphasis on the role
of shame in the identity formation of Asian Americans
Shame plays an important social controlling mechanism in
Asian cultures. It is used to reinforce familial and
cultural obligations, societal norms, and socially
accepted behavior.
We live in a world of social dealings where face to
face or mediated contacts with other persons occur-
Erving Goffman (1967) contends that individuals will act
out what is called a 11136 or a pattern of verbal and
nonverbal acts by which the individual conveys his or
her view of the situation and therefore the evaluation
of the participants, especially of himself or herself
Goffman defines face as the positive social value a
person claims for him or herself based on the line
others believe he or she has taken during the
22


interaction. Furthermore he delineates different types
of face:
A person may be said to have, or be inf or
znaiiitain face when the line he [or she]
effectively takes presents an image of him [or
her] that is internally consistent, that is
supported by other participants, and that is
confirmed by evidence conveyed through
impersonal agencies in the situations (Goffman
1967, p. 6).
A person is in wrong face when information is
attained that shows a difference in a person1s social
worth and the line he or she is taking, A person is out
of face when he or she is in a social contact and is not
ready to assert a line that is expected of individuals
in such situations. When a person feels that he or she
is in wrong face or is out of face, he or she will
likely feel embarrassed and ashamed because of what has
happened in the interaction due to his or her line
taking and is concerned about his or her reputation as a
participant in the social encounter
Goffman places tremendous emphasis on face and
views it as the most fundamental mechanism of social
control which keeps individuals in line by regulation of
their own actions. We care how others see us and hope
23


to present ourselves in a positive light. Asian culture
produces individuals who are highly sensitive to the
reaction of others. They do not want to lose face and
will go to great lengths to maintain their positive
image {Yeh & Huang 1996),
Tiu lien (loss of face) in Chinese culture is
extremely important for the loss of it would mean
condemnation of society and the loss of confidence in
the individualf s integrity and character. Life in
Chinese culture is built on a
break that trust would result
the society as a whole (Yeh &
foundation of trust and to
in dire consequences of
friends, community, and
Huang 1996).
rejection from family members,
It is like honor and yet not honor. It cannot
be purchased with money. It gives a man or
woman material pride. It is hollow and what
men right for and what women die for. It is
invisible yet by definition exists 2?eing
shora to the public. . Jt is this hollow thing
which men [and women] in China live by (Yeh &
Huang 1996, p.648).
This extreme sense of wtiu lien" is passed on from
generation to generation and is used as a negative
reinforcer in child rearing (Yeh & Huang 1996). Asian
Americans growing up in the United States yet being
24


influenced by the traditional Asian culture will still
feel the effects of shame and will maintain face in
order to spare their family and themselves extreme
embarrassment, guilt, and feelings of inferiority.
Yeh and Huang (1996} view shame and the feelings
associated with it as intrinsic to ethnic identity,
specifically Asian American ethnic identity. For an
individual who has these feelings ingrained in them
since childhood, maintaining face influences their sense
of self. The collectivistic nature in which they have
been raised will determine many of their thoughts and
actions. ^As a result, for many Asian Americans# the
answers to questions about self and social identity come
from the social outside, not the psychological inside.
Therefore, the avoidance of shame may contribute greatly
to Asian American ethnic identity development" (Yeh &
Huang 1996f p. 648)*
Self-esteem
Similar to the previous concepts of identity
salience, commitment, and shame is the idea of self-
25


esteem. Self-esteem has proven to be an important
concept in identity (Banaji & Prentia 1994), It refers
to how an individual evaluates oneself. Self-esteem can
be divided into two components: group and personal.
Group-esteem refers to how the individual feels about
his or her ethnic group membership. Personal self-
esteem refers to the individual7s evaluation of oneself
that is generated in distinction of the feelings of
being a member of an ethnic group. Personal self-esteem
is a general evaluative view of the self (Porter &
Washington 1993)_
Morris Rosenberg (1979) defines self-esteem as a
motive in which one wishes to think well of oneself. It
connotes a positive or negative orientation towards
something* High self-esteem is characterized as having
self-respect and self-worth. Characterizing a person as
having high self-esteem does not necessarily deem that
person as arrogant or conceited. Instead a person with
high self-esteem realizes and appreciates his or her
qualities while also recognizing faults to overcome. A
person with low self-esteem considers oneself as lacking
26


in worth and is unsatisfactorily and deficient as a
person. Rosenberg (1979) also discusses the impact of
self-esteem on the individual's negative .attitude
towards his or her group or what he calls group
rejection. Three aspects of group rejection are group
pride, introjection, and importance. .Rosenberg (1979,
p.190) contends that ''group identification is not purely
accidental, People are motivated to protect their self-
esteem/ and they consequently tend to introject those
groups of which they are proud but not those of which
they are not/'
The work done on self-esteem among Asian Americans
has focused on group image, or how the individual
evaluates his or her ethnic group identity. Self-esteem
can be further understood as how an individual evaluates
oneself in relation to different identities comprising
the self-image. The self contains several different
identities; therefore an individual internalizes many
different evaluations of the self (White & Burke 1987).
Stryker (1980) views self-esteem being associated with a
role or group (e,g, ethnic identity) and is dependent on
27


the degree to which an individual incorporates and
sustains the attributes associated with the given role
or group.
Human beings wish to have a positive self-image of
themselves If an individual evaluates themself highly,
he or she is more likely to adopt or continue an
identity that contributes to the highly evaluated image.
Thus, an individual who feels positive towards their
ethnic group is likely to ''promote, internalize, and
maintain this identity^' (White & Burke 1987, p.314)
According to Stryker (1980) the more positive the self-
evaluation of an identity (e.g. ethnic identity) the
greater the level of identity salience. Thus if one
perceives their ethnic group in a positive light, or in
Ro,senberg, s (1979) term, introjectstf that identity, the
individual will regard ethnic identity as important,
The individual will activate and maintain that identity
across different situations.
White & Burke (1987) assert that ''ethnic identity
does not exist in isolation, but that it is part of an
interlocking set of processes relating ethnic identity,
28


salience, cotnmitment, and self-esteem to each
other.... [Furthermore] the identity processes themselves
do not work in isolation, but they vary by position in
the larger social structure" (p. 327). Yeh & Huang
(1996) contribute to this analysis with their work on
the concept of shame. It is important to recognize the
role shame plays in collectivistic groups such as Asian
Americans.
29


METHOD
Participants
Participants were found for this project by the
snowballing technique. initiated the recruiting
efforts by requesting assistance from individuals with
contact to Asian Americans at universities within the
Denver Metropolitan area- The individuals had contact
to primarily undergraduate students and staff at the
university, therefore my snowballing technique led me to
mainly undergraduate students enrolled in an Asian
American. Studies class and to undergraduate students who
worked on campus part time in a pre-collegiate office.
My own direct contacts through another Denver-located
University led me to students enrolled in a graduate
program and also involved in the Asian American student
organization.
The participants are twelve self-perceived Asian
Americans consisting of seven females and five males,
Four identified their ethnic background as Vietnamese,
30


two as Hmong, one as Cambodian, three as Korean, and two
as mixed Asian. Table 1 shows the characteristics of
the respondents.
31


Table 1> Characteristics of Respondents
Pseudonym Age Country of Birth Fatherf s Country of Birth Motherf s Country of Birth Year Parents Immigrated to US. Self- Identified Ethnic Group First Language Primary Language Spoken at Home
Beth 20 USA Laos Thailand 1979 Hmong Hmong Hmong and
English
Korean English English
Julie 19 USA
Mary 26 Cambodia
Diana 16 USA
Sharon 21 Vietnam
Laura 23 Korea
Nicole 18 Thailand
Jake 20 USA ,
Eric 23 Vietnam
Nathan 26 Korean
Scott 23 Taiwan
Mark 20 USA
South Korea South Korea 1978
Cambodia Cam]304iet 1301
Vietnam Vietnam 1975
Vietnam Vietnam 1990
Korea Korea 1990
Laos Laos 1987
Vietnam Vietnam 1901
Vietnam Vietnaia 1985
Korean Korean 1986
Taiwan Taiwan 19B9
Vietnam Vietnam 1975
Cambodian Carobodian, Khmer English
Vietnamese Vietnainese Vietnamese
Chinese Chinese Chinese and English
Korean Korean Korean
Hmong Hmong Hmong
Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnamese and English
Cambodian and Chinese Cambodian English
Korean Korean Korean and English
Taiwanese and Chinese Chinese Chinese
Vietnainese Vietnamese Vietnamese


Measure
In-depth interviews were conducted with the ten
self-perceived Asian Americans. An interview guideline
was used to assess the participants identity salience,
commitment, shame, and self-esteem^ An interview
guideline was used because it is more flexible than an
interview schedule These four theoretical concepts
have not been extensively examined in previous studies
involving Asian American ethnic identity, therefore, an
interview guideline will allow the flexibility to
explore other concepts the researcher (myself) may be
unaware of while still being able to examine the four
central concepts of the project.
The questions asked in the interviews were open
ended and investigated identity salience, commitment,
shame, and self-esteem. Identity salience questions
were generated by utilizing Sheldon Stryker7 s (1980)
idea of identity salience, George P- McCall & J-L,
Simmons {198) idea of hierarchy of prominence or ideal
self, and Morris Rosenbergfs (1979) idea of the
hierarchy of self values, wlack of pride", and
33


''introjection" To investigate Sheldon Stryker^ idea
of identity salience, participants were asked how
important it is for family members, friends, and people
in general to think of them in terms of their ethnicity
(Stryker & Serpe 1983). McCall & Simmons (1978) idea of
the hierarchy of prominence or ideal self was captured
through a question that asked if.the role-identity of
Asian American aids one in choosing among diverse
projects of action. Two questions were asked to examine
Rosenberg's (1979) idea of the hierarchy of self values
and ''lack of pride and ''introjection" How important is
the identity of Asian American to your personal
identity? and, Is it a socially important category for
you to be a part of?
Sheldon Strykerfs and Richard T. Serpef s (1983)
concepts of extensiveness (How many people do you know
as a result of your ethnicity?) and intensiveness (How
many of your friends and close friends are a function of
your ethnicity?) were used to explore identity
coimitment. To investigate McCall & Simmons (1978) idea
of having ''bound oneself" two questions were asked: How
34


difficult would it be to withdraw from the role of Asian
American? and, How difficult would it be to withdraw
from the ethnic group as a whole?
Erving Goffinan, s (1967) concept of ''face" was
examined by asking, How important is it to portray a
positive image of yourself to others? and, Has your
culture placed great emphasis on maintaining your
positive self image or ''face"? To lock into Christine
J, Yeh"s k Karen Huang's (1996) views on shame two
questions pertaining to the importance of conforming to
avoid embarrassment were asked. The first question on
conforming asked, How important is it to conform to the
dominant society in order to avoid shame or
embarrassment of being different? The second question
pertaining to the importance of conforming to avoid
shame asked, How important is it to conform to your own
culture in order to avoid shame and embarrassment in the
family or among other Asians?
Several questions were asked to examine self-
esteem. Stryker^ s (1980) views on self-esteem led to
questions asking about the evaluation of culture, the
35


evaluation of oneself in the role of Asian American^ the
importance of being Asian to self-identity, and the
evaluation of roles that are important to one^ self-
image .
Procedure
In-depth face to face interviews for my research
were approved by the Human Subjects Committee at the
University of Colorado at Denver prior to the start of
interviewing individuals. Interviews lasted
approximately one to two hours and were conducted by
myself, the researcher. They were held in a setting
that was comfortable and convenient for the participant,
such as a location on-campus. Most of the interviews
took place on-campus in a public setting such as a
coffee house, cafeteria or large informal study area.
Other interview settings included private offices and an
outside sitting area on-campus. Participants were first
asked to read and sign the consent form. The consent
form explained the purpose of the research project as an
examination of Asian American ethnic identity.
36


Participants were notified that the in-depth face to
face interview would last approximately one to two hours
and I, the Research Investigator, would write down brief
notes supported by an audio tape of the entire
interview. The consent form stated that direct quotes
would be used in the final research paper, but that real
names would not be used and every effort would be made
to ensure confidentiality7 Participants Were assured
that all of the data collected would be destroyed
immediately after aggregation and only amassed data
would be kept for three years. Issues concerning the
sensitivity of the "research topic were addressed.
Participants were given counseling options in the event
embarrassment, psychological discomfort,or social
ostracism occurred. Individuals were told that their
participation was entirely voluntary and withdrawal from
the study could take place at any time during the
interview process. The results of the research were
discussed in the consent form by stating that it would
add a theoretical foundation to Asian American ethnic
identity studies for use in the Research Investigator's
37


Master's Thesis and ultimately for use in future
research and the development of a clear and
comprehensive model of ethnic identity that is specific
to Asian Americans. Finally, the consent form listed
contact information for myself, the Research
Investigator and also for the Office of Academic Affairs
at the University of Colorado at Denver should the
individual-have questions concerning the study or his or
her rights as a research participant. A copy of the
consent form was given to the participant and any
questions or concerns were addressed before the
interview started* Demographic questions were asked at
the beginning with the identity questions following.
Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed.
Transcriptions were read and reread for analysis of the
open-ended data.
38


RESULTS
Identity Salience
Stryker's (1980) view on identity salience produced
questions and answers that focused on the ethnic
identity of the participant and the people important to
him or her (Stryker & Serpe 1983). Three questions with
three different groups of people who may be important to
the participant are used to measure identity salience
(White & Burke 1987). The first question asked the
participant how important it was for their family to
think of them in terms of their ethnicity. All
participants agreed at different levels that it is
important for their family to think of them in terms of
their ethnicity. One female Cambodian respondent, Mary,
stressed that it is ''very, very important"
Furthermore, she said, 'vital, in some senses For [my
familyf s] behalf,
Most respondents reported that parents have
instilled in them the importance to maintain their
39


culture^ realize their background, and not lose their
heritage* Mark, a male Vietnamese respondent said:
Somewhat important. [My family] want to know
where I came from. Where my culture has come
from. They don^ want me to lose where came
from. They want me to realize that I^rti kinda
lucky because the way they grew up, they
didnrt have as many opportunities.
Along with the importance of maintaining culture and
heritage, language has also played a role- Mark went on
to comment about the importance of language for his
family by saying that ''They still want me to speak
Vietnamese at home. Another.respondent, Julie also
comments on language. She said, 'XI think they wish I
spoke it more and understood it more. But theyf re happy
that I learned English and that understand everything
and that I do good in school Laura, a Korean student
who moved to the U-S. when she was eleven years old
stressed the importance her parents placed on her to
maintain fluency of the Korean language. She had to
speak Korean only and was not allowed to speak English
to her brother at home. Even though they were in the
U.S they were still Korean.
40


Beth, a Hmong female student, commented on the
elders view versus-her parents view on how important it
is to keep tradition* The elders stress it more than
her parents, but she still realizes that both place
great emphasis on her to keep her Hmong heritage. She
said:
I thinkmWell for the older people, I think its
really important because now wefre getting so
more Americanized and they see that wefre
losing our Hmong heritage and background.
think it really upsets them. So itrs really
important to them, because they emphasize it a
lot to us to keep our Hmong tradition. My
parents.itmatters a lot. Because we7 re their
children they understand a little more. I'm
sure deep inside they want us to be more
Hmong. I'm sure.
The second question examining Stryker7 s view on
identity salience asked participants about the
importance of their friends to think of them in terms of
their ethnicity. 'Half of the respondents reported that
it is important for their friends to view them as Asian,
Asian American or specifically Vietnamese/ Cambodian,
etc. Diana^ -a female Vietnamese student commented on
the importance of her friends to think of her as an
41


Asian American and the diversity it brings to their
relationships due to the different ethnic backgrounds:
Yes, I want them to think of me that way.
Like an Asian American. I guess it brings
different cultures together, because the
majority of my friends are not Vietnamese.
They,re Chinese, Black, or White. So it just
brings more diversity.
When asked if it is important for his friends to think
of him in terms of his ethnicity, Jake, a Vietnamese
student comments on the importance of how he is
portrayed to his friends:
Yes, I would say so also* [My friends] see me
as Asian.there, s certain things, you know, you
carry as being Asian like that respect that
you give everybody and the values and morals
that we have and are expected from us and we
expect from each other.
Mark responded with M[My friends] think it^s pretty
important He goes on to say that many of his friends
are also Vietnamese and that ''They kind of offend me
when they say I don't speak Vietnamese good, Bethr a
Hmong respondent also mentions how language affects her
friendships. She said:
My friends..jnost of them can/1 speak Hmong
anymore. A lot of them are Americanized.
They prefer to stick with their American
42


culture instead of trying to learn." relearn
their Hmong culture. I speak Hmong to them,
they understand me, but when they answer me
they answer me in English. I like to speak
Hmong.
Four respondents did not feel that it was important for
their friends to see them in terms of their ethnicity.
Eric was born in Vietnam and is of a mixed Asian
background (Cambodian and Chinese). He said:
I donft think itfs really that important,
because they know who I am, I have friends
from all different kinds of nationalities* It
doesnrt really matter what am, just as long
as I get along with them. We don/t really
care what ethnicity you are,
Julie also commented on the diversity of her friends and
the lack of a role her being Korean plays. She stated^
"The school I went to is really diverse so I think they
see me more as American.Sharon, a Vietnamese student
who was taught the traditions and language of China,
qrew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in the
U.S* and comments that most of her friends are Caucasian
and that she is better able to relate to Caucasians.
Similarly, Scott, a full time graduate student,
commented that having lived in the United States since
43


he was in the fourth grade most of his friends are
Caucasian, Two participants responded by noting that
there is a difference between sets of friends and how
important their ethnicity plays a role. Nathan, a
Korean graduate student, has a set of friends who are
Caucasian and also a set of friends who are Korean, His
Korean background does not have as much importance
placed on it with his white friends compared to his
Korean friends. With his Korean friends it is
M inevitable to establish what country^ they are from.
Being with his Korean and other Asian friends leads them
to eat certain foods (Korean food) or to do certain
activities (Korean karaoke) When he is with hie white
friends he is simply ''Nathan^ with no Korean identity
attached Similarly, Nicole, a full time Hmong student
noted that it depends on whether she is with her Hmong
friends or not:
Hmong people, yea it is important 'cause we
want to represent ourselves as Hmong, but if
H around other people that is not Hmong, if
theyfre interested they would think itfs
important, but if theyfre not then it/s not
important to them. guess they just accept
you for who you are whether you are.Hmong or
not.
44


9
The rhxrd question examining Stryker^ s (1980)
identity, salience asked the participants how important
it is for people in general to think of them in terms of
^ i
their ethnicity. Most respondents felt that it is
important for people in general to think of them in
terms of their ethnicity. Diana commented:
Yes, I think it7s important that they think
I'm Vietnamese, because it makes me unique and
different- from them. And because you7 re
Asian, the majority of people in general think
that your re Chinese or Korean or something
like that. So I think it^s important that
they know that Asianf but also that Irm
Vietnamese,
Beth also thinks it is important, but she commented that
a diverse mind plays a role and some people may not care
what ethnicity she is. She said:
I think if they have a diverse mind and they
like diversity, they think it#s important that
I keep my tradition, my background. But I
think you meet a lot of people who could care
less what your background is. dor^t think
they care at all.
Mark at first said no to this question, but quickly
changed his mind to say,.jnaybe a little bit, but not as
much as my friends or my family/7 Eric does not think ,
that it is important for people in general to think of
45


him in terms of his ethnicity. He stated,No, I don't
think it really matters to me. dor^t think that is
important to them who I 3m." Similarly, Sharon,
Nathan, and Scott did not feel that it is important for
people in general to think of them in terms of their
ethnicity, Sharon coinmented, ''I feel am American'and
is offended when she meets someone for the first time
and is seen as foreign. Scott stated:
No, itr s not important. It/s not important to
me at all. I prefer for them to see me as a
regular guy or a regular person that they^re
dealing with instead of some Asian guy, you
know, that they have stereotypes about.
George P- McCall & Simmons (1978) ''ideal self" was
examined by asking participants if the role-identity of
Asian American aids them in choosing among diverse
projects of action. Most respondents stated that the
role-identity of being Asian American sometimes aids
them in making decisions. Respondents did not answer
this question with a whole hearted'yes' Instead they
felt that the role-identity of Asian American influenced
their decisions only in some situations. Mary said:
46


In some things, yes very much so. Things that
have to do with family image. Even things
that have to do with my social life I have to
consider what that is going to be like or if
someone saw me doing this and that, how -itf11
go back to the family-how it/11 reflect on the
family. So it ranges from simple, basic
personal things to bigger decisions like
marriage and career So it has affected every
part of my life.
Mark feels that the comfort level of interacting with
other Vietnamese is important when considering different
types of action. He answered:
I'd say so, because being around people of my
own kind, not just Vietnamese but, I am
closer to Vietnamese people than other Asian
ethnicities just because of that comfort
level. And yesr it does influence my decision
on who I go out with because I usually go out
with ray friends who are the same ethnicity as
me, because we can speak in our own language.
Mark states that being Vietnamese influences his
decision making, however, he goes on to mention that not
all of his actions are influenced by his Vietnamese
role, but wthere#s some American influences too.
Similarly, Diana remarked,I think I combine both
sides. Both the Vietnamese and the American side.w
Moreover, Diana comments on how the Vietnamese side of
her influences major decisions in her life.
47


Specifically, she mentions how the role of being a
Vietnamese female affects what her responsibilities are
and how her parents have influenced some major decisions
in her life:
With roles as being a female Vietnamese
person, you take on the responsibility of
doing all the cooking and cleaning, taking
care of your other siblings, and taking care
of your parents when they get old. You always
push yourself to do good in school, because
that/s what your parents kind of push you to.
So to do good with academics and you^re
supposed to be a doctor just like all the
other Asians. 1've been pushed into my
major. My major is biology and afterwards I
want to attend dental school because my
parents, ever since I was a kid, yourve got
to grow up and be a doctor.f So my career and
my academics have been influenced by my
parents.
Diana spoke in length about the influences her
Vietnamese culture and her parents have had on her, but
to reiterate her earlier statement that she is
influenced by both Vietnamese and American culture, she
added, '.most of the decisions or what I stand for in
class is more of what I believe instead of pertaining to
my Vietnamese culture
Morris Rosenberg's (1979) idea of the hierarchy of
self values and his concepts of wlack of pride" and
48


introjection" produced two questions that were asked to
participants- The first question asked how important
the identity of Asian American is to personal identity.
Most respondents feel that the identity of Asian
American is important to their personal identity. Many
respondents commented that being Asian is a part of who
they are and where they came from. Beth remarked,
''Yes, just because it is what I am* So I identify
myself as Hmong.Mark commented on how important being
Asian American is to his personal identity by including
how his parents have played a role:
Yes, would say my Vietnamese culture has a
big influence on my personality, I guess I
can say that is where I came from. The
culture or that^s the culture my parents gave
me. Where my parents came from.
Similarly, Jake responded:
I^d say it^ very important to me, 'cause if I
wasn't Asian, dcn#t think I would value so
many things that my parents went through and
sacrificed just to bring me over here. And
work everyday just to give me a better life.
Say, if they didn/t do that I dont think I
would appreciate anything that much* I
wouldnft work so hard and go to college.
49


The second question to examine Morris Rosenberg^s
(1979) idea of identity importance asked respondents if
Asian American is a socially important category to be a
part of. Most respondents answered affirmatively. Jake
said:
Yes, I^d say so 'cause we^re kind of like a
minority, you know, and sometimes we have to
stay together to say that we/re here. We7 re
not just in the back. We have to become
leaders If we stick together and work
towards that same goal, to work towards a
better life, then eventually people will
recognize us as more than that minority that
just came over. So Id say it's very
important,
Mark emphasized his pride in being Vietnamese^ however
he stated that he is part of the category that is
American also:
I am proud of my culture and wouldn^ mind
being categorized in that category, I
wouldnft mind being categorized as Asian
American".! don't mind being called American
either, 'cause I am American. I don't really
have a preference^ but I do have a lot of
pride, a lot of Vietnamese pride.
In conclusion, identity salience (importance) has
been demonstrated across all areas examined but with
varying degrees. Of the three categories, family,
50


friends, and people in general, identity salience was
most significant in the family arena. All participants
responded with an affirmative yes when asked if it is
important for family to think of them in terms of their
ethnicity. Identity salience was less demonstrated with
friends. All, but four respondents (Julie, Eric,
Sharon, and Scott) feel that it is important for their
friends to think of them in terms of their ethnicity.
And two (Nathan and Nicole) felt it was important with
their own ethnic friends, but not with their white
friends. Also less of a demonstration of identity
salience compared to family was the importance of people
in general to think: of one in terms of one^ ethnicity.
While ''friends^ and ''people in general" are not as
significant to participants as ''family^' is, both
categories are still viewed by at least half of the
respondents as important.
Respondents feel that the role identity of Asian
American aids them in choosing among diverse projects of
action, however it is not prevalent all the time.
Rather, the role-identity of Asian American affects
51


their decision making only some of the time and in
certain situations. Participants confirmed the
importance of referring to their ethnic background and
the roles associated with it when making decisions, even
though they are not able to use it across all life
situations.
Identity salience was strongly demonstrated by the
importance participants put on the influence their
ethnic identity has on their personal identity. Most
commented that being Asian is ''who they arew and wwhere
they_.came from." The participants have ''introjected"
their ethnic-identity into their personal identity. The
ethnic group is.an integral and inseparable part of
their identity Most respondents feel that their ethnic
category is important to be socially connected to,
further revealing the salience of their ethnic identity
to their personal identity.
Commitment
The concept of extensiveness (Stryker & Serpe 1983)
was examined by finding out how many people respondents
52


know as a result of their ethnicity. Like Jake, most
respondents reported that a lot of the people they know
are a result of their ethnicity, ''IM say it/s a
majority, I,d say like 80%, 85% of the people I know are
Asian.w Similarly, Beth responded, "A lot*I would
say^jnost of the people in my life are Hmcng/7 On the
other hand, Julie did not feel that her ethnicity played
a big part in who she knows:
I think it/s because I connect with them, like
personality and stuff* Going to the same
school and going to the same things. It/s not
really based on race or ethnicity.
Sharon and Nathan also did not know many people as a
result of their ethnicity, Sharon stated, ''So few.about
ten percent/' and Nathan said at the most five percent.
Intensiveness (Stryker & Serpe 1983) was examined
by asking respondents how many of their friends and
close friends are a function of their ethnicity. While
half of the respondents reported that a majority of
their friends and close friends are a function of their
ethnicity the other six respondents said otherwise.
Jake reported, wIfd say the majority of them. Most are
Vietnamese, but say I know like Laotian people,
53


Cambodian, Korean, and Japanese.w Mary reported, ''Six
of them [are] my close friends. [That is] 80% of my
close friends Mark declared,My best friends are
Vietnamese, My three closest friendsthey7re
Vietnamese."
Julie responded to the question examining
intensiveness" as she did to the ''extensiveness"
question by asserting that her ethnicity does not play a
part in who her friends are, ^[My friends and close
friends] get along because we get along. It/s not
because Irm Asian/7 Ericdid not report that most of
his friends are a function of his ethnicity. While it
is not a majority, it is, ''About 10 -15. 30% 40%."
Scott said his friends like him for who he is and
ethnicity does not play a role. He reported that he has
a couple of Asian friends, but none are close friends.
Diana, Sharon, and Nathan stated that ''none^ of their
friends and close friends are a function of their
ethnicity-
McCall £l Simmons (1978) idea of having ''bound
oneself" led to two questions being asked* The first
54


question asked participants how difficult it would be to
withdraw from the role of Asian American. Most
respondents said that it would be very difficult, even
impossible to withdraw from the role of Asian American,
such as Jake did:
I know. Just like I grew up with it, you know.
I can't just one day turn my back on it.
Like, just say no Inot going to be Asian no
more. Like, Ifm going to totally forget what
ve learned and what my parents taught me.
That wouldn^t be right to me.I don,t think I
would be the same person. I dor/1 think I
would work so hard towards anything...to prove
something/ you know, like H Asian and H
here for a purpose.
Mary commented that in some instances, ''...it is very easy
to withdraw from/' She continues with,'Some things, I
can, t there is no possible way. Eric responded, ''It
would be very difficult-.no, its too important* It
identifies who you are as a person.w Similarly, Mark
answered:
I think it would be very difficult. That is
how I grew up. And it would be different if I
just didn^t eat rice anymore,-And not to speak
the language and be around the same people.
Sharon felt that it would be very difficult to withdraw
from the role of Asian-American even with as much as she
55


rebels or says it doesn't influence her, wIt is rooted
deep in me, the way was brought up*" Julie felt
differently than most of the other respondents. She
reported that it would not be difficult to withdraw from
the Asian American role, 'I don't think so, just because
when I was younger wanted to be White. And ike all
my Asian friends wished they were WhiteNathan
commented that if given the choice he would not take the
responsibilities of being Korean.
The second question examining McCall & Simmons
(1978) identity commitment concept asked participants if
it would be difficult to withdraw from the ethnic group
as a whole. Responses to this second question were
similar to the first question looking at che idea of
havingbound oneself." Most respondents felt that it
would be difficult, if not impossible to withdraw from
the ethnic group as a whole, Eric reported, ''It would
be very difficult, I don^t think anyone can withdraw
from that. It is who.you are and what you do,/, Mark
commented on the difficulty of losing his comfort level:
It would be very difficult to adjust, to be
able to live. To adjust [to] not being around
56


people of my same kind". iuight want to be more
isolated. So it would be a difficult
adjustment- The comfort level isn/t there as
much,
Jake strongly asserted the idea McCall & Simmons call
having ''bound oneself":
I don/t think it would be worth living.not to
go and associate myself with Vietnamese
people. Because I donft think I would fit in
if I totally withdraw from [my ethnic group].
Julie feels that her upbringing is important and she
would not want to lose what she has learned, however she
does not know that many Asians, making it less difficult
to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole.
Similarly, Sharon felt that it would not be difficult to
withdraw from the ethnic group because she feels that
she does not have one. Her close circle of people are
made up of Caucasians. Nicole commented that as much as
she tries to maintain her Hmong heritage and culture, it
is hard to do so in the United States. She said that
she already feels like she is losing her Hmong
background and that it would be easy to withdraw from.
All but three respondents (Julie, Sharon, and
Nathan) indicated that half to most of the people they
know are a result of their ethnicity and six respondents
57


(Julie, Eric, Diana, Sharon, Nathan, and Scott} stated
that a majority of their friends and close friends are
not a function of their ethnicity. These findings
suggest that half of the respondents are coirauitted to
their ethnic identity. The high amount of relationships
that the participants have that are affected by their
ethnic identity imply a high level of commitment to the
ethnic identity. Again, all but two respondents (Julie
and Nathan) reported that it would be very difficult, if
not impossible to withdraw jbot.fi from the role of Asian
American and to withdraw from the ethnic group as a
whole. The participants^ remarks propose that all of
them, but Julie and Nathan have ''bound^ themselves to
their ethnic identity- They find it ''very difficult"
ami even ''impossible" to utilize withdrawal mechanisms
to distance themselves from that group.. On the other
hand, Juliets lack of relationships that are affected by
her ethnic identity, her willingness to withdraw from
her role as a Korean, and the lack of connections with
other Koreans suggest she has a low level of commitment
to her Korean identity. The same can be said of Nathan
58


Sharon for the most part is not committed to her Chinese
identity. She does not know many people because of her
ethnicity, including having no close friends who are
Chinese and commented that it would be less difficult to
withdraw from her ethnic group. However she did state
it would be very difficult to withdraw from the role of
being Asian-American mainly because of the values she
has learned and associates with Chinese culture that
will always be a part of her. Similar to Sharon, Scott
for the most part is not committed to his
Taiwanese/Chinese identity. His friends are not a
function of his ethnicity and it would be fairly easy
for him to withdraw from the role of Asian and to
withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. His only
answer that is not consistent with the other commitment
questions was to the extensiveness inquiry. Scott
reported that about half of the people he knows are a
result of his ethnicity. But upon closer examination
and further probing, he discussed the extent of knowing
some of these individuals. Most were based on
superficial relationships and not all were necessarily a
59


result of his ethnicity. Therefore lessening the amount
of people he knows as a result of his ethnicity.
Dissimilar to Sharon and Scott, Nicole is mostly
committed to her Hmong identity. Most of the people she
knows are because of her ethnic identity {90-95 %) and
all of her friends and close friends are a function of
her ethnicity. She stated that it would be difficult to
withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole, but not the
role of a Hmong person. Though she makes a point to
state that while it would be easy to withdraw from the
Hmong role she tries very hard to uphold her Hmong
traditions and values.
Shame
Two questions were asked to inspect Erving
Goffman,s (1967) concept of wface-" The first question
asked participants how important it is to portray a
positive self -image to others. Ail, but one respondent
(Nathan) felt that it was important at some level to
portray a positive image to others, confirming Goffmanfs
(1976) idea of the importance of wface.w Jake
responded:
60


I think it's very important. If you don't
portray yourself as positive, people wonft try
to know you.know who you are and what your
values are. They wouldnt get to know you as
a person. They just see what#s out there on
the outside, you know, I always think about
what am I doing and how is that going to look
on me and my family and my friends and being
Vietnamese.
Several respondents commented that it is important to
portray a positive image to the young, Julie stated/
''.you never know who^s watching you and like you don#t
want a bad rap and especially in front of kids you don^t
want to show them the wrong way.^ Moreover, Diana
answered, ''Important, because you become a role model to
younger generationsMark noted,'Its. .pretty
important to me.to portray a positive image to. other
people especially around people younger than you*w Mark
continues to cominent on the importance of image on his
culture, MI do want to portray a good imagef because I
am representing my culture." Like Mark, many
respondents answered the above question with references
to their family and culture, Laura feels that it is
''really important...what would my parents thxnk?/#
Contrary, Nathan responded that it is Mnot very
61


important-" He would ''rather be honest than positive./iP
The second question related to Goffmans (1976) idea of
shame tapped into the importance culture has on ''saving
face" by asking participants if their culture has placed
great emphasis on maintaining a positive self image or
'face. All participants, but Scott responded with an
affirmative, yes. Julie commented on the importance of
not wanting to tarnish her parent/s reputation,
especially in front of her parent7s friends:
Yea, like if I see my parentfs friends, I
always have to bow and be polite. They always
expect me to be polite and have good manners.
t puts disappointment on them and embarrasses
them 'cause it makes them look like they
raised me wrong. That/s a big thing my mom
always says. One reason I don^ hang out with
my race for the fact that I don, t want to hurt
my parentis rep and donft want it to get
back to my parents ifldidsomethingwrong.
I went out with my friends and my dad/s friend
drove by and the next day my dad was like why
were you in this car with this person.
Mark also noted the emphasis of ''saving face" placed on
him by his parents:
Oh, yea, that/s very important Parents teach
you to have respect.and properness.have your
manners, so you donft disgrace or disrespect
your culture. I think my parents would be
really embarrassed. ' I might just feel bad
afterwards, maybe a little. Not as
62


embarrassed as my parents They would look
down on me, lose their respect. They pride
themselves on me doing good.
Eric feels that it is extremely important to maintain
'face in his culture. He talked about earning respect
from the community and having respect for his parents:
I was taught that we should do something to
get respect from other community members,
other people. If you do something wrong,
[parents] yell at you, 'you are my son, you
shouldn't be doing this,what would people
say?1, Itf s about respectfor my parents.
On the other hand, Scott explained that even though his
parents raised him with Asian values, such as attaining
a good education, they did not emphasize ethnicity as
much as they did with having an open mind. Scott did
not feel the strong emphasis of culture on maintaining
face.
To further explore shame, two questions were asked
to investigate.Christine J. Yehf s and Karen Huang^s
views. Participants were asked to comment on the
importance of conforming to the dominant society in
order to avoid shame or embarrassment of being
different. All but one participant (Nathan) reported
that either they used to conform when they were younger
63


or if they conform now they do it only sometimes and in
certain situations. As a child, Beth wanted to fit in
and conformed more to do so, but as an adult she feels
it is easier to be herself:
When I was younger I would 'cause I would want
to fit in, but now that I^m older with
education and the people around me, theyf re a
lot more mature now. It's a lot easier to be
yourself and be open. Whereas when I was
younger I wanted to fit in, didnft want to
be the outsider. So I did when I was youngerf
but now I could care less about being
different [from the dominant culture], you
know.
Julie has been greatly influenced by the American
culture and considers herself to be more American,
However she has also kept her Korean heritage in mind:
I don^ think you should ever be ashamed of
who you are. I know living here so long I/m
basically American* I lost my whole
background 'causes all I#ve been around is
American and not so much Korean students or
Asian students. I did change into a typical
American person, but in some things I stay
with the culture. I^ll be polite and I know
my manners and I know everything my parents
taught me still. Everyonef s scared of being
different or not being welcomed or fitting in,
I think itfs more ike I'm Asian. I was
raised differently and brought up differently
I went through different things and my parents
expect different things from me,
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Mark noted the importance of adjusting to fimerican
culture, stating that it is ''somewhat important" to
conform to the dominant society:
Canft be totally Vietnamese here [in America].
You have to kind of adjust to the American
lifestyle. That^s why consider myself
Vietnamese American.show that you are
American. Not just acting like how Vietnamese
people act* You still have to be Americanized
in some way. So I guess, adjust or be like
other people,
Mary remarked she conforms to the dominant society in
certain situations, but asserted that she is not
uncomfortable with the situations:
There are situations at work where I have to,
but they^re not situations that I^m
uncomfortable with, I donrt do anything that
I^m uncomfortable with. They're just things
that I may do differently if I'm at home, but
no, there aren^ t things I would compromise
just for the sake of being accepted into the
dominant culture.
A similar question exploring Yeh^s & Huang's (1996)
views on shame asked participants how important it is to
conform to one's own culture in order to avoid shame and
embarrassment in the family or among other Asians. All
but one participant (Nathan) responded that it is
important or that it is a factor to be considered. One
65


respondent, Beth, felt that it is ''more important^ to
conform to her own culture than to the dominant society*
She said:
There7 s a lot of adults In our culture that
look up to the young adults who do good. So I
would do a lot more just to impress my own
culture. A lot more important in my own
culture than the dominant culture-
Mark stated that it is somewhat important. He commenteci
on the significance of not losing ''where you came from,
'cause people around you, friendsf your family's
friends, they might look down on you for that.w He
continued to explain the importance of conforming to his
own culture by giving an example of a high school
experience:
Back in high school if you didn^ hang around
the same people of your own ethnicity, you
were being called, I guess, a sellout-outcast
or something. People look at you differently
'cause youre not conforming to your own
culture.
Jake explained the reason for conforming to his own
culture to avoid shame:
I think it/s very important 'cause like thats
who you are and you canrt deny that. And to
66


just totally not know who you are and what you
have to do, then thatfs not right*
Jake emphasized that he conforms because of the
realization of who he is. He also understands he
conforms to his Vietnamese culture to please his
parents:
In a way, yea, I just do 'cause they told me
to and they expect me to. And I donft want to
say no to them because that would break their
hearts. In a way I donft want to do it, but I
would say I have to do it.
Mary emphasized that conforming to her own culture to
avoid bringing shame to herself or her family is
prevalent in her daily thoughts^ ' definitely value it
and consider it, definitely all the time7 However, she
remarked it is not an overwhelming factor that takes
over her decision making process,'I don't let it make
my decisions- I don't let that be a determining factor
on how I live my lifC To assert both of her earlier
statements, Mary added,t's a factor, but not a
determining factor ' Nathan stated that he does not
conform to the dominant society or to his own. He does
not believe in conformity rather it is a matter of what
is right and wrong and he will do the right thing.
67


In sum, shame has played a significant role in the
lives of these participants. All respondents, but
Nathan feel it is important to portray a positive self
image to others and allf but Scott realize the great
emphasis put on them by their culture to maintain face-
Many commented on the pressure that parents place on
them to portray a positive self image to other family
members and friends within the ethnic community in order
to avoid bringing shame and embarrassment to the family.
Respondents felt it more important to conform to their
own culture than the dominant culture,.however they
still emphasized the importance of conforming to
American society, whether in certain situations-or if
the conforming was done as a child,
Self-Esteem
Five questions were asked to tap into the self-
esteem of the participants. The first question asked
participants for an evaluation of their culture. Two
respondents, Jake and Eric, had strong positive
responses to this question. No comments of negativity
68


were given even when probed. Eric remarked, ''I think
[the culture] is very interesting.I do like it, I mean I
love it. You learn so many different things. How we
act around people-thatfs very importantAll other
respondents had high evaluations of their culture, but
mentioned a few negative aspects. Mark commented on
many positive aspects of his culture, like how a lot of
Asians and Vietnamese are graduating in the top ten of
their class and how there are some Vietnamese who have
such great pride in their culture that it makes him
proud to see it and makes him want to have more pride.
He also comments on the ..negatives of his culture,
specifically how Vietnamese gangs have portrayed his
culture in a bad light. Mary remarked, ''It's a
beautiful culture. Its a beautiful culture as far as
the values and the intentions/7 Mary also remarked that
she admires and respects family and the ''cohesiveness of
family. While most of her views about her culture are
positive, she goes on to talk about an aspect of her
culture that she does not agree withf a beautiful
culture, however there are many things specifically with
69


the role of women that completely cannot accept and
have always felt that way about it," Both Nathan and
Laura coinmented on how westernized Korea has become and
how the culture has changed because of it, Male and
female roles are not as defined and strict as they used
to be.
The second question asked participants for an
evaluation of themselves in the role of Asian American.
Seven of the twelve participants viewed themselves
positively in the role of Asian American. One
participant (Beth) was neutral in her evaluation. Julie
initially commented,'I think Im good," however she
proceeded to negatively evaluate herself in the role of
being Korean and made note of how this negativity can be
seen in all Asian cultures:
Sometimes think Imore of a
disappointment. I'm not the top student of my
class. not the little piano player, the
doctor. I think thatfs with every Asian
culture. You should be that top person, then
if you#re not then you^re a disappointment.
If yoWre not good at something that [parents]
can show off to their friends then you^re a
big disappointment.
70


Nicole wants to be the best Hmong person she can be and
does a lot to explore her culture, but feels that she
can be better. Scott feels that he does not stack up to
the Taiwanese/Chinese role and that he is not doing
enough to promote his ethnic identity, though of late he
has developed a drive to show support for his ethnic
group.
Participants were then asked how important the
identity of being Asian is to their self-image. All
participants, but Julie and Nathan, felt that it was
important. Several commented that it is who they are.
When asked about the importance of her Korean identity
to her self-image, Julie commented with an uncertain
neutral response. Nathan feels grateful for his Korean
identity, but does not focus on it. The last two
questions asked participants about roles that are
important to their self-image and the evaluation of
themselves in the roles'. The roles that were most
mentioned were daughter/son, sister/brother, student,
and friend. Other roles that were less mentioned were
female, mother, wife, boyfriend, and co-worker. Roles
71


that were part of the family were most important to the
participants. All participantsf but Julief evaluated
themselves in the roles important to their self-image
positively. Julie felt that she was ''average" in her
roles:
I think Irm average but everyone can be
better* Everyone wants to be someone else.
Everyone strives to be the best. It's hard.
I wish I was a better daughter, I wish was
a better sister and a better student and a
better friend. I think being a student is the
most important 'cause if I was a top student,
4.0 it would make mv parents happy, care
more about my parents then anything else
'cause that^s who made me, that's who raised
me and that#s who took care of me all my life.
Nathan was not entirely positive in his evaluations of
his roles either. He did not evaluate himself very
highly as a brother, but feels that he tries his hardest
as a boyfriend and feels that he is a good son and
friend.
In conclusion, respondents overall, except for
Julie, seemed to have high self-esteem related to their
ethnic identity. For the most part, Nathan, Nicole, and
Scott express high self-esteem in relation to their
ethnic identity- Self-esteem can be examined using an
72


innumerable amount of measures. This paper used the
ideas of Sheldon Stryker (1980) to examine self-esteem
related to identity, specifically ethnic identity. The
responses suggest that most of the participants who feel
positive towards their ethnic group will have high
identity salience as well.
73


DISCUSSION
Most respondents have generally shown consistently
high levels across identity salience, commitment, self-
esteem, and the role of shame. One participant has been
consistent in showing lower levels of the concepts
explored* Julie has demonstrated lower levels of
identity salience, commitment, and self-esteem,
suggesting that she does not place great emphasis on her
ethnic identity and has not ''introjecte^ her Korean
identity to her personal identity. She is unlikely to
adopt or continue her ethnic identity and will not
promote, internalize, or maintain this identity across
different situations. Shame seems to play an important
role in most of these participants lives with most every
one agreeing that their culture places great emphasis on
it, Nathan was the only one that did not agree with
portraying a positive image to others or conforming to
any society.
These results suggest an inter-connection of
identity salience, commitment, and self-esteem with
74


shame having great importance- However with the small,
exploratory nature of this study, the results cannot be
generalized to the larger Asian-American population nor
can they be generalized to a specific ethnic group- The
study was done using respondents from different
ethnicities, presuming that all ethnicities in the Asian
culture are the same. When in actuality the different
ethnicities could vary greatly. The scope of this
study had its limitations (similar to previous work done
on ethnic identity) and was not able to capture
information from one specific ethnic group, but hopes
this important factor will be taken into consideration
in future studies leading to interesting and useful
data.
Another valuable strength of this study is that it
utilizes a qualitative method that adds a deeper
understanding to an area that has mainly focused on
quantitative research. It reveals the usefulness of
such work and also that much is sti1 needed to
understand fully how these processes work together in
ethnic identity development, in particular Asian-
75


American ethnic identity. With the utilization of
theory in empirical workr progress can continue in a
much needed arena.
The previous work done in symbolic interactionism
has focused mainly on microsociological processes
(Cerulo 1997, House 1977 n recent yearsr
developments in symbolic interactionism has paid more
attention to macro-elements in society. The new focus
has been on the social structure and xts effects on
social psychological processes (Banaji & Prentice 1994,
Stryker 1987 Yeh & Huang (1996) have demonstrated the
importance of moving from psychological processes to
macro-sociological structures in examining identity
formations of Asian Americans. As American society
moves into postmodernism, it is vital to keep up with
changing times when studying identity. It is necessary
to study identity, especially Asian American identity,
in regards to the collective, but it is also vital in
symbolic interactionism and ethnic identity studies to
recognize future influences to identity developmental
processes, such as new communication technologies. The
76


changes occurring in communication technologies have
changed interactional processes and must be taken into
consideration for future research and theorizing of
identity formation (Cerulo 1997)*
Empirical research in ethnic identity studies
especially those guided by a theoretical framework are
limited (e.g., shame) and too often inconclusive {e-g-f
self-esteem). White & Burke (1987) propose ethnic
identity as being influenced by an interlocking set of
processes. Future research should implement a
theoretical basis and utilize the many different
processes (identity salience, self-esteem, commitmentf
and shame) that may affect identity formation. In a
society where multiculturalism is seen as the trend, the
multicultural individual with multiple social identities
is its main component (Wrong 2000).
77


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Full Text

PAGE 1

THE ANALYSIS OF ETHNIC IDENTITY THROUGH THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM by Lanine Baccam B.S., Iowa State University, 1999 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology 2002

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Lanine Baccam has been approved by .. R/ChardAilde r son Russell Endo

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Baccam, Lanine (M.A., Sociology) The Analysis of Ethnic Identity Through the Theoretical Framework of Symbolic Interactionism Thesis directed by Department Chair Candan Duran Aydin tug ABSTRACT Current ethnic identity studies do not provide clear conceptual models and lack a theoretical foundation necessary for the development of a comprehensive model of ethnic identity that is testable. Furthermore, ethnic studies have concentrated on black identity, while the identity of Asian Americans has just begun to take hold with social scientists. This exploratory analysis tries to understand ethnic identity, in particular Asian American identity, by utilizing the theoretical basis of Symbolic Interactionism. Identity salience, commitment, shame, and self-esteem are four concepts central to Symbolic Interactionism, especially Identity Theory and will be the theoretical processes studied in connection with ethnic identity. In-depth interviews with twelve ethnically diverse Asian Americans reveal the importance of shame and suggest a connection between identity salience, commitment, selfesteem and ethnic identity. This abstract accurately represents the context of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Candan Duran A ti1ntug lll

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DEDICATION I dedicate this thesis to my mother and father for their never-ending and immeasurable love and support throughout my academic years and throughout my life. Their strength and endless days of hard work have in turn given me strength and determination. Their countless "bits of motivation" sent my way has been the driving force for me to persevere and succeed in school.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Countless thanks to my advisor, Candan Duran Aydintug, for her patience and understanding during these past three years. She has kept me on my toes and has been an enormous factor in my finishing school. I also wish to thank Richard Anderson (Dr. A) for all of his help, his light-heartedness, and his cornucopia of knowledge in statistical matters. Many thanks to Russell Endo for all of his help and guidance and for sharing his wealth of knowledge in Asian American Studies with me. Special thanks to Gregory D. Lee for his generosity in helping me find my research participants. And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my research participants for volunteering their time and sharing their experiences with me.

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CONTENTS Tables ........................................................................................................................... viii SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM AND ETHNIC IDENTITY 1. INTRODUCTION ....................... ; .... ; ............................................................................ l 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.; ............................... .................................... 3 Symbolic InteractionisiiL. ................................................................ 3 Ethnic Identi ty .......................................................................................... 6 Identity Theory .......................................................................................... B Previous Empirical Studies ....................................... ll "Ethnic Group and Ethnic Identity Defined ................................................................................................ 17 Identity Salience ...................... ........................................... 18 -Commi tment ..................................................... ; ................................ 20 Shame ...................................................................................................... 22 Se 1 f-est eeiiL. .. ................................................................................. 2 5 3. METHOD ........................................................................................................................ 30 Participants ............................................. ; ........ ; ......................................... 30 Measure ............................................................................................................... 33 -Procedure ......................................................................................................... 3 6 -4. RESULTS ................................................................ ..................................................... 39 Identity Salience ................................................................................. 39 vi

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Commi trnent ...................................................................................................... 52 Sharne .......... .................................................................. : ......... ........... .................. 60 Self-esteern .. ; ................................................................................................ 68 5. ...... .............................. -...................................................................... 7 4 CITATIONS ................................................................... ; ................................................................... 78 Vll

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TABLES Table 1. Characteristics of Respondents ............................................................... 32 viii

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SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM AND ETHNIC IDENTITY INTRODUCTION Over the past decade ethnic identity in the United States has evolved in new and different directions. The evident changes have been seen through immigration of new ethnic groups, increasing marriages and births across ethnicities, and perhaps the increasing visibility of racial and ethnic conflict, violence, and politics (Jaret & Reitzes 1999) ethnic identity studies provide clear conceptual models and lacks a theoretical foundation necessary for the development of a comprehensive model of ethnic identity that is testable (White & Burke 1987, Phinney 1996). Furthermore, ethnic studies have concentrated on black identity, while the identity of Asian Americans has just begun to take hold with social scientists (Jaret & Reitzes 1999). Therefore, the identity of Asian Americans will be the ethnic identity studied in this .. analysis. This paper ethnic specifically Asian American identity by utilizing I

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symbolic interactionism, a sociological paradigm of social psychology that relates the individual to the larger social structure (House 1977). Identity salience, self esteem, commitment, and shame will be presented as the theoretical processes behind ethnic identity development. 2

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REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Symbolic Interactionism The term symbolic interactionism was first introduced by Herbert Blumer who was interested in explaining social psychology's interest in the development of the individual in a social context. Symbolic interactionism is considered a part of the sociological paradigm of social psychology (House 1977). (1969, p. 2) comments on the nature of symbolic interactionism by asserting three basic premises. The first premise is that human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them. These things include all that is recognized in a person's world,. such as physical objects, other human beings, institutions, ideals, activities of others, and daily life encounters. Secondly, the meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, .the social 3

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interaction that one has with others. The third premise is that these meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he [or she] encounters. Unlike previous and more traditional social-scientific perspectives that viewed human beings as passive and reactive to their environment, symbolic interactionism views individuals as dynamic and active agents (Lal 1995, House 1977). Blumer (1969, p. 14) avows the fundamental difference of how symbolic interactionism views the human being: The human being is seen as social in a much more profound sense-in the sense of an organism that engages in social interaction with itself by making indications to .. itself and responding to such indications. The individual is able to be an acting organism by possessing a self. Self is not something that we are born with rather: Something which has development ... arises in the process of social experience and-activity, that is, develops in the given individual as a result of his [or her] relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process (Mead 1934, p. 135.) 4

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Much of the work on the self can actually be traced back to George Herbert Mead who was a professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago (House 1977). Along with Mead and Blumer, who was a student of Mead, many others such as William James, JohnDewey, Robert E. Park, William I. Thomas, and Charles Horton Cooley have impacted and guided the direction of symbolic interactionism in its early stages (Blumer 1969, Lal 1995, House 1977). these social scientists still influence symbolic interactionism, other theorists have come to the forefront. These include individuals such as Erving Goffman, Norman Denzin, Sheldon Stryker, John Lofland, Tomatsu Shibutani, and among others (Lal 1995). Symbols and their shared meanings in social interactions are used by individuals to not only define their situation and the behavior of others, but also to develop an identity for themselves. Identity is seen within the symbolic interactionist approach as part of the many shared meanings an individual attributes to the self (White & Burke 1987). 5

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Ethnic Identity Ethnic identity can be seen within this framework as one of the many identities of the self (White & Burke 1987). Current theories of ethnic identity tend to view individuals as passive. This differs from social psychological datathat suggests individuals to be dynamic. Another downfall of current ethnic identity theories is their oversimplification of the developmental process of identity formation. Ethnic identity theories have mainly taken a developmental approach in which a series-of conflicts occur that must be resolved before the next stage of identity formation is reached. These stage models of ethnic identity are linear and do not allow-for "the malleability of identity within its social context, a conceptualization of self that is particularly relevant for Asian Americans" (Yeh & Huang 1996, p. 645). The little work that has been achieved in ethnic identity studies and utilizes a symbolic interactionist approach-faces problems of conceptual clarity and clear conceptual models (Phinney 1996, White & Burke 1987). 6

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The study of ethnic identity encompasses a definition of ethnicity that is broad and inconclusive. With the increasing change in demographics in the United States, debates on what is an ethnic group have increasingly centered around race and color, (Phinney 1996). Many times the only ethnic groups examined are of black. identity and white identity and with increasing numbers, Latino/Latina identity. Too often theories of ethnic identity combine together all minority groups to explain their identity development. The definition of ethnic groups itself varies greatly depending on the usage and situation. They mean anything from small, isolated kin and. culture groups to large categories of people defined as such because of one or two shared characteristics (e.g., Hispanics or Asian Americans) (Yinger 1985). These limitations pose several problems because there have been clear distinctions discovered between individualistic and collectivistic groups. Asian Americans have just recently been analyzed as more collectivistic in their identity formation versus those who originate and develop an individualistic nature (Yeh 7

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& Huang 1996). An example of the latter group would be of North American or European ancestry (Yinger 1985). While empirical research has been done on ethnic identity, it lacks the theoretical basis necessary for the development of a comprehensive model of ethnic identity that is testable (Phinney 1996, White & Burke 1987). Symbolic interactionism can shed light on the analysis of ethnic identity, specifically that of Asian Americans, by giving it a social theoretical foundation that can add deeper theoretical understanding and lead to additional research. Identity Theory The concept of identity has a long history in philosophy and became widely used in the sociological literature in the 1950s (Wrong 2000). Identity studies are marked by the works of Mead and Cooley. Studies focusing on the individual dominated the field through the 1970s (Cerulo 1997). Identity formation has moved from being conceptualized as a static, psychological development to a more social process involving the 8

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interaction of individuals (Wrong 2000, Huang 1996, House 1977). This-change-in the perspective of identity can be paralleled with the central ideas of symbolic interactionism. Structural symbolic interactionism and Sheldon Stryker's identity theory, both being influenced by James, Cooley, and Mead have come into great consideration within studies of identity formation (Stryker 1980, White & Burke 1987). Stryker (1980) contends identity formation is a process of interactions occurring in.and greatly_ constrained and defined by the social structure. Roles in_the social structure become an important-aspect in identity (Stryker 1980, McCall_ & Simmons.197e). McCall & Simmons-(1978) argue that "identification of persons and of other 'things' is the key to symbolic interaction; once things are identified and their meanings for us-established, we can proceed with our strivings, but not before" (p.62). McCall & Simmons (1978) continue-to establish a definition of roleidentity "as the character and the role that an 9

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individual devises for himself as an occupant of a particular social position" (p.65). A problem arises when speaking of the self only through terms of existing roles in the social structure (White & Burke 1987). Morris Rosenberg (1979) adds to the notion of role-identity by discussing the relevance of groups in the social structure on social identity (White & Burke 1987). It is the socially recognized categories (e.g., race, religion, nationality, sex, status, and so on) that make up an individual's social identity. Rosenberg (1979) defines the many groups that arise out of society as membership groups. His analysis of groups, statuses; and categories as social identity provides a necessary link between structural symbolic interactionism and the concept of ethnic identity. "The source of meanings associated with a social identity lies not only in a role or counterrole, but in the group one belongs to and the countergroup" (White & Burke 1987, p.312). In order for one to develop an ethnic identity, traits or meanings associated with the 10

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identity and counteridentity of the ethnic group must be internalized by the individual (White & Burke 1987). Previous Empirical Studies Of late there have been several empirical studies conducted using symbolic interactionism as its theoretical perspective, specifically identity theory. However, this comes in recent times. The case has been that extensive theoretical development on identity progressed while empirical research lagged behind (Burke & Tully 1977, Callero 1985, Nuttbrock & Freudiger 1991). Several empirical studies have been conducted in the renewed interest of self and symbolic interactionism (Stryker 1987). The relationship between role commitment and identity salience has been measured using college students. Peter J. Burke and Donald C. Reitzes (1991) examined the college student role and focused on linking a person to a stable set o self-meanings rather than to consistent lines of activity, other role partners, or organizations. The connection of a person 11

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to a stable set of self-meanings in turn links the person to actions, organizations, and other persons. Burke & Reitzes (1991) viewed their study based on identity theory as an addition to the theoretically and empirically rich tradition that explores commitment processes. In conclusion, Burke & Reitzes (1991) stated, results of our analyses are in accord with the expectation that people pursue lines of activity which sustain and support their identities to the extent they are committed to those identities. Commitment emphasizes that individuals are active agents who make their own decisions. Other studies have linked role commitment and identity salience. Jon W. Boelter (1983) examined two potential determinants of identity salience using a structural symbolic interactionist (identity theory) approach. Data and analysis of 378 college undergraduates supported his two hypotheses: identity salience is positively affected by 1) the degree of commitment to its respective role and 2) the degree to which its respective role is positively-evaluated with regard to one's performance (Boelter 1983). RichardT. 12

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Serpe (1987) also utilized a symbolic interactionist approach in his empirical study of role commitment and identity salience. He studied the relationship between interactional commitment, affective commitment and identity salience. Five identities associated with co1:lege life were examined: academic (coursework), athletic/recreational, extracurricular, personal involvements, and dating. Serpe (1987) was interested in examining stability and change in self-structure and collected data from 320 freshmen at three time points throughout a semester. The analysis suggests a pattern of stability across identities and change is seen within those identities that can be characterized as "open" social structural contexts allowing a chance for choice behavior. Serpe (1987, p.54) concludes, "This research provides some.empirical support for the theoretical formulations of self which assume stability as a major criterion for the explication of self-relevant social processes." Peter J. Burke and Judy C. Tully (1977) developed a measurement of role identity that is theoretically 13

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complex and provides a numerical score for quantitative analysis. The Burke & Tully (1977) method has been the measurement used in numerous empirical studies to explain a variety of behaviors from a symbolic interactionist perspective (Callero 1992). Peter L. Callero (1992) modified the Burke-Tully technique and addressed three general problems that challenge the validity and reliability of the-Burke-Tully method: 1)the identification of counter identities, 2)the use of adjectives to assess meaning, and 3)cumbersome and lengthy implementation and construction procedures. Callero (1992) applied an empirical test of the modified measure that demonstrated relatively strong construct validity and a predictive power equivalent to the BurkeTully technique. PeterL. Callero (1985) has done other empirical work with identity theory, specifically connecting identity salience with the act of voluntary blood donation. He gathered data from 658 respondents and tested the relationship between role-identity salience and 1)self-definitions, 2)relations with others, and 14

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3)behavior. Callero's (1985) goal was not to explain blood-donation behavior, but to examine certain hypotheses focusing on role-identity salience. Callero (1985, p.214) makes note that $ingle role-identity represents only a piece of a very complex selfstructure." Furthermore, future research concerned with examining self-structure and its connection to behavior should focus on understanding how all role-identities interact together as a single structural unit (Callero 1985) Few empirical studies exist that assess identity theory spe6ifically formulated by Sheldon Stryker (Nuttbrock &-Freudiger (1991). Larry Nuttbrock and Patricia. Freudiger (1991) examines Stryker's original version of identity theory by testing the salience of mothering identity. Nuttbrock and Freudiger (1991) focused on Stryker's ideas of self-structure (identity prominence and identity salience), role commitment (extensivity and intensivity), and role behavior (selection and performance). This research generally supports identity theory and can be associated with 15

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first-time motherhood, but Stryker's hypotheses connecting identity salience with mothering identity are supported weakly for the most part. Nuttbrock and Freudiger (1991, p.153) conclude that little is known about the complex associations of self, society, and behavior," but with Stryker's identity theory as a framework, the empirical support it has received so far, and much needed conceptual refinement further analyses of such associations can be conducted. Clovis L. White and Peter J. Burke (1987) investigated ethnic role identity utilizing a structural symbolic interactionist approach. They empirically investigated the relationship of ethnic identification with self-esteem, identity salience and identity commitment. The study gathered data from 73 black and 139 white undergraduate students attending Indiana University (Bloomington) during the 1983-1984 academic year. The quantitative study investigated several hypotheses based on identity theory. White & Burke's (1987) study confirmed the relationship of ethnic identity (black and white college students) with 16

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salience, self-esteem, and commitment. Their study of ethnic identity using a symbolic interactionist approach greatly influenced the research conducted in this paper. Ethnic Group and Ethnic Identity Defined Four concepts central to symbolic interactionism and particularly identity theory will be discussed in this paper. Identity salience, self-esteem, commitment, and shame will be related to the notion of ethnic identity. First, two definitions will be presented: one of ethnic groups and the other of ethnic identity. J. Milton Yinger (1976) describes ethnic groups as a of a larger society whose members are thought, by themselves and/or others, to have a common origin and to share important segments of a common culture and who, in addition, participate in shared activities in which the common origin and culture are significant ingredients" (p.l59). Language, religion, race and ancestral homeland with its related culture all play a relevant part in defining an ethnic group and ethnicity 17

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(Yinger 1985) In this study, the concepts of ethnic group and ethnicity are interchangeable. Phinney (1996) understands ethnic identity as complex construct including a commitment and sense of belonging to one's ethnic group, positive evaluation of the group, interest in and knowledge about the group, and involvement in activities and traditions of the group" (p.144). It is important to note that the process of ethnic identity, similar to the concept of identity in symbolic interactionism, is dynamic and ever changing (Charon 1998, Phinney 1996, Yeh & Huang 1996, Wallace & Wolf 1995). Identity Salience An important aspect of Stryker's (1980) identity theory is identity salience. Identities within the self are organized into a hierarchy of salience or importance. McCall & Simmons (1978) note that the self, or hierarchy of prominence, aids one in choosing among diverse projects of action" (p.80). Furthermore, besides only having an self," selves 18

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are distributed among a hierarchical arrangement of role-identities depending on their prominence in a person's thinking about himself or herself. of his [or her] identities are more important to him [or her] than are others, and the contents of these identities afford persisting priorities and dispositions that lend continuity ofdirection to the person's life" (Me Call & Simmons 1978, p.-84). Some individuals have altogether rejected a part of themselves (e.g. ethpic identity). Rosenberg (1979) proposes they have developed a of pride" in their group, specifically their ethnic group. In contrast, others have their ethnic group as an integral and inseparable part of their identity. Others yet, consisting mostly of later generations of an ethnic group do not lack pride in their group or deny that it is a socially important category they belong to. However, they do not particularly feel it is important to their personal identity. self-concept component (race or culture) [or religion or status for that 19

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matter] may rank low or high in the individual's hierarchy of self-values" (Rosenberg 1979, p.179). Commitment Similar to identity salience is the idea of commitment to an identity. Stryker (1980) refers to commitment as an investment in a given role or group. One's relationship to others varies along degrees to which one is dependent on being a certain type of person with certain identities (Stryker 1980). The more relationships an individual has that affects a particular identity (e.g. ethnic identity) the more it is a defining component of the individual's commitment level to that identity (White & Burke 1987). Stryker and Serpe (1983) posit two concepts in studying commitment: extensiveness and intensiveness. Extensiveness is the pure number of persons an individual knows as a result of their ethnicity and intensiveness refers to the closeness of relationships that are a function of the ethnicity. Stryker (1980) connects commitment to identity salience by proposing 20

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that the greater the commitment to role/group identity, the higher that identity will be in their hierarchy of salience. This will encourage one to activate and utilize that identity consistently across different situations (White & Burke 1987). Identity salience can be seen as operating within ethnic identity. If one has many ties to the ethnic group (e.g., family and friends) and has a strong sense of commitment, they will more likely identify with that group and use that ethnic identity across situations. Perceiving ethnic identity as important to one's self image may encourage that individual to further explore their ethnicity. In turn, they may bring it into interactions with others (in their group as well as those outside of it). McCall & Simmons (1978) understand commitment as having "bound oneself." An individual commits privately and publicly and in doing so places emphasis on the existing social structure. An individual's commitment will make it difficult to use withdrawal mechanisms to distance oneself from that group in fear of losing face (McCall & Simmons 1978). 21

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Shame Shame, though having a long history in sociological works, has just recently been applied to ethnic identity, specifically that of Asian Americans (Yeh & Huang 1996). Christine J. Yeh and Karen Huang (1996) analyze ethnic identity by placing emphasis on the role of shame in the identity formation of Asian Americans. Shame plays an important social controlling mechanism in Asian cultures. It is used to reinforce familial and cultural obligations, societal norms, and socially accepted behavior. We live in a world of social dealings where face to face or mediated contacts with other persons occur. Erving Goffman (1967) contends that individuals will act out what is called a line or a pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts by which the individual conveys his or her view of the situation and therefore the evaluation of the participants, especially of himself or herself. Goffman defines face as the positive social value a person claims for him or herself based on the line others believe he or she has taken during the 22

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interaction. Furthermore he delineates different types of face: A person may be said to have, or be in, or maintain face when the line he [or she] effectively takes presents an image of him [or her] that is internally consistent, that is supported by other participants, and that is confirmed by evidence conveyed through impersonal agencies in the situations (Goffman 1967, p. 6). A person is in wrong face when information is attained that shows a difference in a person's social worth and the line he or she is taking. A person is out of face when he or she is in a social contact and is not ready to assert a line that is expected of individuals in such situations. When a person feels that he or she is in wrong face or is out of face, he or she will likely feel embarrassed and ashamed because of what has happened in the interaction due to his or her line taking and is concerned about his or her reputation as a participant in the social encounter. Goffman places emphasis on face and views it as the most fundamental mechanism of social control which keeps individuals in line by regulation of their own actions. We care how others see us and hope 23

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to present ourselves in a positive light. Asian culture produces individuals who are highly sensitive to the reaction of others. They do not want to lose face and will go to great lengths to maintain their positive image (Yeh & Huang 1996) Tiu lien (loss of face) in Chinese culture is extremely important for the loss of it would mean condemnation of society and the loss of confidence in the individual's integrity and character. Life in Chinese culture is built on a foundation of trust and to break that trust would result in dire consequences of rejection from family members, friends, community, and the society as a whole (Yeh & Huang 1996) It is like honor and yet not honor. It cannot be purchased with money. It gives a man or woman material pride. It is hollow and what men fight for and what women die for. It is invisible yet by definition exists by being shown to the public ... It is this hollow thing which men [and womenj in China live by (Yeh & Huang 1996, p.648). This extreme sense of "tiu lien" is passed on from generation to generation and is used as a negative reinforcer in child rearing (Yeh & Huang 1996) Asian Americans growing up in the United States yet being 24

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influenced by the traditional Asian culture will still feel the effects of shame and will maintain face in order to spare their family and themselves extreme embarrassment, guilt, and feelings of inferiority. Yeh and Huang (1996) view shame and the feelings associated with it as intrinsic to ethnic identity, specifically Asian American ethnic identity. For an individual who has these feelings ingrained in them since childhood, maintaining face influences their sense of self. The collectivistic nature in which they have been raised will determine many of their thoughts and actions. "As a result, for many Asian Americans, the answers to questions about self and social identity come from the social outside, not the psychological inside. Therefore, the avoidance of shame may contribute greatly to Asian American ethnic identity development" (Yeh & Huang 1996, p. 648). Self-esteem Similar to the previous concepts of identity salience, commitment, and shame is the idea of self-25

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esteem. Self-esteem has proven to be an important concept in identity (Banaji & Prentia 1994). It refers to how an individual evaluates oneself. Self-esteem can be divided into two components: group and personal. Group-esteem refers to how the individual feels about his or her ethnic group membership. Personal selfesteem refers to the individual's evaluation of oneself that is generated in distinction of the feelings of being a member of an ethnic group. Personal self-esteem is a general evaluative view of the self (Porter & Washington 1993). Morris Rosenberg (1979) defines self-esteem as a motive in which one wishes to think well of oneself. It connotes a positive or negative orientation towards something. High self-esteem is characterized as having self-respect and self-worth. Characterizing a person as having high self-esteem does not necessarily deem that person as arrogant or conceited. Instead a person with high self-esteem realizes and appreciates his or her qualities while also recognizing faults to overcome. A person with low self-esteem considers oneself as lacking 26

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in worth and is unsatisfactorily and deficient as a person. Rosenberg (1979) also discusses the impact of self-esteem on the individual's negative_attitude towards his or her group or what he calls group rejection. Three aspects of group rejection are group pride, introjection, and importance. _Rosenberg (1979, p.190) contends that identification is not purely accidental. People are motivated to protect their selfesteem, and they consequently tend to introject those groups of which they are proud but not those of which they are not." The work done on self-esteem among Asian Americans has focused on group image, or how the individual evaluates his or her ethnic group identity. Self-esteem can be further understood as how an individual evaluates oneself in relation to different identities comprising the self-image. The self _contains several different identities; therefore an individual internalizes many different evaluations of the self (White & Burke 1987). Stryker (1980) views self-esteem being associated with a role or group (e.g. ethnic identity) and is dependent on 27

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the degree to which an individual incorporates and sustains the attributes associated with the given role or group. Human beings wish to have a positive self-image of themselves. If an individual evaluates themself highly, he or she is more likely to adopt or continue an identity that contributes to the highly evaluated image. Thus, an individual who feels positive towards their ethnic group is likely to internalize, and maintain this identity' (White & Burke 1987, p.314). According to Stryker (1980) the more positive the self of an identity (e.g. ethnic identity) the the of salience. Thus if one perceives their ethnic group in a positive light, or in Rosenberg's (1979) term, that identity, the inqiy,idual will regard ethnic identity as important. The individual will activate and maintain that identity across different situations. White & Burke (1987) assert that identity does not exist in isolation, but that it is part of an interlocking set of processes relating ethnic identity, 28

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salience, commitment, and self-esteem to each other ... [Furthermore] the identity processes themselves do not work in isolation, but they vary by position in the larger social structure" (p. 327). Yeh & Huang (1996) contribute to this analysis with their work on the concept of shame. It is important to recognize the role shame plays in collectivistic groups such as Asian Americans. 29

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METHOD Participants Participants were found for this project by the snowballing technique. I initiated the recruiting efforts by requesting assistance from individuals with contact to Asian Americans at universities within the Denver Metropolitan area. The individuals had contact to primarily undergraduate students and staff at the university, therefore my snowballing technique led me to mainly undergraduate students enrolled in an American_ Studies class and to undergraduate students who worked on campus part time in a pre-collegiate office. My own direct contacts through another Denver-located University led me to students enrolled in a graduate program and also involved in the Asian American student organization. The participants are twelve self-perceived Asian Americans consisting of seven females and five males. Four identified their ethnic background as_Vietnamese, 30

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two as Hmong, one as Cambodian, three as Korean, and two as mixed Asian. Table 1 shows the characteristics of the respondents. 31

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Table 1. Characteristics of Respondents Pseudonym Age Country of Father's Mother's Year SelfFirst Primary Birth Country of Country of Parents Identified Language Language Birth Birth Immigrated Ethnic Spoken at to U.S. Group Home Beth 20 USA Laos Thailand 1979 Hmong Hmong Hmong and English Julie 19 USA Sotith Korea South Korea 1978 Korean English English Mary 26 Cambodia Cambodia Cambodia 1981 Cambodian Cambodian, English Khmer Diana 18 USA Vietnam Vietnam 1975 Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnamese Sharon 21 Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam 1990 Chinese Chinese Chinese and English Laura 23 Korea Korea Korea 1990 Korean Korean Korean Ul N Nicole 18 Thailand Laos Laos 1987 Hmong Hmong Hmong Jake 20 USA Vietnam Vietnam 1981 Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnamese and English Eric 23 Vietnam Vietnam VietnaJill 1985 Cambodian Cambodian English and Chinese Nathan 26 Korean Korean Korean 1986 Korean Korean Korean and English Scott 23 Taiwan Taiwan Taiwan 1989 Taiwanese Chinese Chinese and Chinese Mark. 20 USA Vietnam Vietnam 1975 Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnamese

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Measure In-depth interviews were conducted with the ten Asian Americans. An interview guideline was used to assess the participant's identity salience, commitment, shame, and self-esteem-. An interview guideline was used because it is more flexible than an interview schedule. These four theoretical concepts have not been extensively examined in previous studies involving Asian American ethnic identity, therefore, an interview guideline will allow the flexibility to explore other concepts the researcher (myself) may be unaware of while still being able to examine the four central concepts of the project. The questions asked in the interviews were open ended and investigated identity salience, commitment, shame, and self-esteem. Identity salience questions were generated by utilizing Sheldon Stryker's (1980) idea of identity salience, George P. McCall & J.L. Simmons (1978) idea of hierarchy of prominence or ideal self, and Morris Rosenberg's (1979) idea of the hierarchy of self values, "lack of pride", and 33

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"introjection". To investigate Sheldon Stryker's idea of identity salience, participants were asked how important it is for family members, friends, and people in general to think of them in terms of their ethnicity (Stryker & Serpe 1983). McCall & Simmons (1978) idea of the hierarchy of prominence or ideal self was captured through a question that asked if the of Asian American aids one in choosing among diverse projects of action. Two questi-ons were asked to examine Rosenberg's (1979) idea of the hierarchy of self values and "lack of pride" and "introjection":_ How important is the identity of Asian American to your personal identity? and, Is it a socially important category for you to be a part of? Sheldon Stryker's and RichardT. Serpe's (1983) concepts of extensiveness (How many people do you know as a result of your ethnicity?) and intensiveness (How many of your friends and close friends are a function of your ethnicity?) were used to explore identity .. .. commitment. To investigate McCall & Simmons (1978) idea of having "bound oneself" two questions were asked: How 34

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difficult would it be to withdraw from the role of Asian American? and, How difficult would it be to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole? Erving Goffman's (1967) concept of "face" was examined by asking, How important is it to portray a positive image of yourself to others? and, Has your culture placed great emphasis on maintaining your positive self image or "face"? To look into Christine J. Yeh's & Karen Huang's (1996) views on shame two questions pertaining to the importance of conforming to avoid embarrassment were asked. The first question on conforming asked, How important is it to conform to the dominant society in order to avoid shame or embarrassment of being different? The second question pertaining to the importance of conforming to avoid shame asked, How important is it to conform to your own culture in order to avoid shame and embarrassment in the family or among other Asians? Several questions were asked to examine selfesteem. Stryker's (1980) views on self-esteem led to questions asking about the evaluation of culture, the 35

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evaluation of oneself in the role of Asian American, the importance of being Asian to self-identity, and the evaluation of roles that are important to one's self-image. Procedure In-depth face to face interviews for my research were approved by the Human Subjects Committee at the University of Colorado at Denver prior to-the start of interviewing individuals. Interviews lasted approximately one to two hours and were conducted by myself, the researcher. They were held in a setting that was comfortable and convenient for the participant, such as a location on-campus. Most of the interviews took place on-campus in a public setting such as a coffee house, cafeteria or large informal study area. Other interview settings included private offices and an outside sitting area on-campus. Participants were first asked to read and sign the consent form. The consent form explained the purpose of the research project as an examination of Asian American ethnic identity. 36

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Participants were notified that the in-depth face to face interview would last approximately oneto two hours and I, the Research Investigator, would write down brief notes supported by an audio tape of the entire interview. The consent form stated that direct quotes would be used in the final research paper, but that real names would not be used and every effort would be made to ensure confidentiality: Participants were assured that all of the data collected would be destroyed immediately after aggregation and only amassed data would be kept for three years. Issues concerning the sensitivity of the-research-topic were Participants were given counseling options in the event embarrassment, psychological discomfort,.or-social ostracism occurred. Individuals were told that their participation was-entirely voluntary and withdrawal from the study could take place at any time during the interview process. The results of the research were discussed in the consent form by stating that it would add a theoretical foundation to Asian American ethnic identity studies for use in the Research Investigator's 37

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Master's Thesis and ultimately for use in future research and the development of a clear and comprehensive model of ethnic identity that is specific to Asian Americans. Finally, the consent form listed contact informat-ion for myself, the Research Investigator and also for the Office of Academic Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver should the individual--have questions concerning the study or his or her rights as a research participant. A copy of the consent form was given to the participant and any questions or concerns were addressed before the interview started. Demographic questions were asked at the beginning with the identity questions following. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. Transcriptions were read and reread for analysis of the open-ended data. 38

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RESULTS Identity Salience Stryker's (1980) view on identity salience produced questions and answers that focused on the ethnic identity of the participant and the people important to him or her (Stryker & Serpe 1983). Three questions with three different groups of people who may be important to the participant are used to measure identity salience (White & Burke 1987). The first question asked the participant how important it was for their family to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. All participants agreed at different levels that it is important for their family to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. One female Cambodian respondent, Mary, stressed that it is "very, very important". Furthermore, she said, ... vi tal, in some senses. For [my family's] behalf." Most respondents reported that parents have instilled in them the importance to maintain their 39

PAGE 48

culture, realize their background, and not lose their heritage. Mark, a male Vietnamese respondent said: Somewhat important. [My family] want to know where I came from. Where my culture has come from. They don't want me to lose where I came from. They want me to realize that I'm kinda lucky because the way they grew up, they didn't have as many opportunities. Along with the importance of maintaining culture and heritage, language has also played a role. Mark went on to comment about the importance of language for his family by saying that still want me to speak Vietnamese at home." Another.respondent, Julie also comments on language. She said, think they wish I spoke it more and understood it more. But they're happy that I learned English and that I understand everything and that I do good in school." Laura, a Korean student who moved to the U.S. when she was eleven years old stressed the importance her parents placed on her to maintain fluency of the Korean language. She had to speak Korean only and was not allowed to speak English to her brother at home. Even though they were in the U.S. they were still Korean. 40

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Beth, a Hmong female student, commented on the elders view versus --her parents view on how important. it is to keep tradition. The elders stress it more than her parents, but she still realizes that both place great emphasis on her to keep her Hmong heritage. She said: I think.Mell for the older people, I think its really important because now we're getting so more Americanized and they see that we're losing our Hmong heritage and background. I think it really upsets them. So it's really important to them, because they emphasize it a lot to us to keep our Hmong tradition. My a lot. Because we're their children they understand a little more. I'm sure deep inside they want us to be more Hmong. I '.m sure. The second question examining Stryker's view on identity salience asked participants about the importance of their friends to think of them in terms of their Half of the respondents reported that it is important for their friends to view them as Asian, Asian American or specifically Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc. Diana,. -a female Vietnamese student commented on the importance of her friends to think of her as an 41

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Asian American and the diversity it brings to their relationships due to the different ethnic backgrounds: Yes, I want them to think of me that way. Like an Asian American. I guess it brings different cultures together, because the majority of my friends are not Vietnamese. They're Chinese, Black, or White. So it just brings more diversity. When asked if it is important for his friends to think of him in terms of his ethnicity, Jake, a Vietnamese student comments on the importance of how he is portrayed to his friends: Yes, I would say so also. [My friends] see me as certain things, you know, you carry as being Asian like that respect that you give everybody and the values and morals that we have andare expected from us and we expect from each other. Mark responded [My friends] think it's pretty important." He goes on to say that many of his friends are also Vietnamese and that kind of offend me when they say I don't speak Vietnamese good." Beth, a Hmong respondent also mentions how language affects her friendships. She said: My friends .. .rnost of them can't speak Hmong anymore. A lot of them are Americanized. They prefer to stick with their American 42

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culture instead of trying to learn ... relearn their Hmong culture. I speak Hmong to them, theyunderstand me, but when they answer me they answer me in English. I like to speak Hrnong. Four respondents did not feel that it was important for their friends to see them in terms of their ethnicity. Eric was born in Vietnam and is of a mixed Asian background (Cambodian and Chinese) He said: I don't think it's really that important, because they know who I am. I have friends from all different kinds of nationalities. It doesn't really matter what I am, just as long asI get along with them. We don't really care what ethnicity you are. Julie also commented on the diversity of her friends and the lack of a role her being Korean plays. She stated, "The school I went to is really diverse so I think they see me more as American." Sharon, a Vietnamese student who was taught the traditions-and language of China, grew up ina predominantly white neighborhood in the U.S. and comments that most of her friends are Caucasian and that she is better able to relate to Caucasians. Similarly, Scott, a full time graduate student, cornrnented that having lived in the United States since 43

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he was in the fourth grade most of his friends are Caucasian. Two participants responded by noting that there is a difference between sets of friends and how important their ethnicity plays a role. Nathan, a Korean graduate student, has a set of friends who are Caucasian and also a set of friends who are Korean. His Korean background does not have as much importance placed on it with his white friends compared to his Korean friends. With his Korean friends it is "inevitable to establish what country" they are from. Being with his Korean and other Asian friends leads them to eat certain foods (Korean food) orto do certain activities (Korean karaoke) When he is with white friends he is simply "Nathan" with no Korean identity attached. Similarly, Nicole, a full time Hmong student noted that it depends on whether she is with her Hmong friends or not: Hmong people, yea it is important 'cause we want to represent ourselves as Hmong, but if I'm around other people that is not Hmong, if they're interested they would think it's important, but if they're not then it's not important to them. I guess they just accept you for who you are whether you are Hmong or not. 44

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The third question examining Stryker's (1980) ident.i.ty asked the participants how important it is for people in general to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. Most respondents felt that it is important for people in general to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. Diana commented: Yes, I think it's important that they think I'm Vietnamese, because it makes me unique and from them. And because you're Asian, the majority of people in general think that you're Chinese or Korean or something like that. So I think it's important that they know that I'm Asian, but also that I'm Vietnamese. Beth also thinks it is important, but she commented that a diverse mind plays a role and some people may not care what ethnicity she is. She said: I think if they have a diverse mind and they like diversity, they think it's important that I keep my tradition, my background. But I think you meet a lot of people who could care less what your background is. I don't think they care at all. Mark at first said no to this question, but quickly changed his mind to say," .. .maybe a little bit, but not as much as my friends or my family." Eric does not think that it is important for people in general to think of 45

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him in terms of his ethnicity. He stated, "No, I don't think it really matters to me. I don't think that is important to them --who I am." Similarly, Sharon, Nathan, and Scott did not feel that it is important for people in general to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. Sharon commented, "I feel I am American"_ and is offended when she meets someone for the first time and is seen as foreign. Scott stated: No, it's not important. It's not important to me at all. I prefer for them to see me as a regular guy or a regular person that they're dealing with instead of some Asian guy, you know, that they have stereotypes about. George P. McCall & Simmons (1978) "ideal self" was examined by asking participants if the role-identity of Asian American aids them in choosing among diverse projects of action. Most respondents stated that the role-identity of being Asian American sometimes aids them in making decisions. Respondents did not answer this question with a whole hearted "yes." Instead they felt that the role-identity of Asian American influenced their decisions only in some situations. Mary said: 46

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In some things, yes very much so. Things that have to do with family image. Even things that have to do with my social life I have to consider what that is going to be like or if someone saw me doing this and that, how-it'll go back to the it'll reflect on the family. So it ranges from simple, basic personal things to bigger decisions like marriage and career. So it has affected every part of my life. Mark feels that the comfort level of interacting with other Vietnamese is important when considering different types of action. He answered: I'd say so, because being around people of my own kind, not just Vietnamese -but, I am closer to Vietnamese people than other Asian ethnicities just because of that comfort level. And yes, it does influence my decision on who I go out with because I usually go out with my friends who are the same ethnicity as me, because we can speak in our own language. Mark states that being Vietnamese influences his decision making, however, he goes on to mention that not all of his actions are influenced by his Vietnamese role, but "there's some American influences too." Similarly, Diana remarked, "I think I combine both sides. Both the Vietnamese and the American side." Moreover, Diana comments on how the Vietnamese side of her influences major decisions in her. life. 47

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Specifically, she mentions how the role of being a Vietnamese female affects what her responsibilities are and how her parents have influenced some major decisions in her life: With roles as being a female Vietnamese person, you take on the responsibility of doing all the cooking and cleaning, taking care of your other siblings, and taking care of your parents when they get old. You always push yourself to do good in school, because that's what your parents kind of push you to. So to do good with academics and you're supposed to be a doctor just like all the other Asians. I've been pushed into my major. My major is biology and afterwards I want to attend dental school because my parents, ever since I was a kid, 'you've got to grow up and be a doctor.' So my career and my academics have been influenced by my parents. Diana spoke in length about the influences her Vietnamese culture and her parents have had on her, but to reiterate her earlier statement that she is influenced by both Vietnamese and American culture, she added, "_most of the decisions or what I stand for in class is more of what I believe instead of pertaining to my Vietnamese culture." Morris Rosenberg's (1979) idea of the hierarchy of self values and his concepts of "lack pride" and 48

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"introjection" produced two questions that were asked to participants. The first question asked how important the identity of Asian American is to personal identity. Most respondents feel that the identity of Asian American is important to their personal identity. Many respondents commented that being Asian is a part of who they are and where they came from. Beth remarked, "Yes, just because it is what I am. So I identify myself as Hmong." Mark commented on how important being Asian American is to his personal identity by including how his parents have played a role: Yes, I would say my Vietnamese culture has a big influence on my personality. I guess I can say that is where I came from. The culture or that's the culture my parents gave me. Where my parents came from. Similarly, Jake responded: I'd say it's very important to me, 'cause if I wasn't Asian, I don't think I would value so many things that my parents went through and sacrificed just to bring me over here. And work everyday just to give me a better life. Say, if they didn't do that I don't think I would appreciate anything that much. I wouldn't work so hard and go to college. 49

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The second question to examine Morris Rosenberg's (1979) idea of identity importance asked respondents if Asian American is a socially important category to be a part of. Most respondents answered affirmatively. Jake said: Yes, I'd say so 'cause we're kind of like a minority, you know, and sometimes we have to stay together to say that we're here. We're not just in the back. We have to become leaders. If we stick together and work towards that same goal, to work towards a better life, then eventually people will recognize us as more than that minority that just came over. So I'd say it's very important. Mark emphasized his pride in being Vietnamese, however he stated that he is part of the category that is American also: I am proud of my culture and wouldn't mind being categorized in that category. I wouldn't mind being categorized as Asian American ... don't mind being called American either, 'cause I am American. I don't really have a preference, but I do have a lot of pride, a lot of Vietnamese pride. In conclusion, identity salience (importance) has been demonstrated across all areas examined, but,with varying Of the three categories, family, 50

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friends, and people in general, identity salience was most significant in the family arena. All participants responded with an affirmative yes when asked if it is important for family to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. Identity salience was less demonstrated with friends. All, but four respondents (Julie, Eric, Sharon, and Scott) feel that it is important for their friends to think of them in terms of their ethnicity. And two (Nathan and Nicole) felt it was important with their own ethnic friends, but not with their white friends. Also a demonstration of identity salience compared to family was the importance of people in general to think o"f one interms of one's ethnicity. While ufriends"and upeople in general" are not as significant to participants as ufamily'' is, both categories are still viewed by at least half of the respondents as important. Respondents feel that the role identity of Asian American aids them in choosing among diverse projects of action, however it is not prevalent all the time, Rather, the role-identity of Asian American affects 51

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their decision making only some of the time and in certain situations. Participants confirmed the importance of referring to their ethnic background and the roles associated with it when making decisions, even though they are not able to use it across all life situations. Identity salience was strongly demonstrated by the importance participants put on the influence their ethnic identity has on their personal identity. Most commented that being Asian is "who they are" and "where they __ came from.;, The participants have "introj ected" their ethnic-identity into their personal identity. The ethnic group is.an integral and inseparable part of their identity. Most respondents feel that their ethnic category is important to be socially connected to, further revealing the salience of their ethnic identity to their personal identity. Commitment The concept of extensiveness (Stryker & Serpe 1983) was examined by finding out how many people respondents 52

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know as a result of their ethnicity. Like Jake, most respondents reported that a lot of the people they know are a result of their ethnicity, "I'd say it's a majority, I'd say like 80%, 85% of the people I know are Asian." Similarly, Beth responded, "A lot ... I would say .. .rnost of the people in my life are Hmong." On the other hand, Julie did not feel that her ethnicity played a big part in who she knows: I think it's because I connect with them, like personality and stuff. Going to the same school and going to the same things. It's not really based oh race or ethnicity. Sharon and Nathan also did not know many people as a result of their ethnicity. Sharon stated, "So ten percent" and Nathan said at the most five percent. Intensiveness (Stryker & Serpe 1983) was examined by asking respondents how many of their friends and close friends are a function of their ethnicity. While half of the respondents reported that a majority of their friends and close friends are a function of their ethnicity the other six respondents said otherwise. Jake reported, "I'd say the majority of them. Most are Vietnamese, but I'd say I know like Laotian people, 53

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Cambodian, Korean, and Japanese." Mary reported, "Six of them [are] my close friends. [That is] 80% of my close friends." Mark declared, "My best friends are Vietnamese. My three closest friends ... they' re Vietnamese." Julie responded to the question examining "intensiveness" as she did to the "extensiveness" question by asserting that herethnicity does not play a part in who her friends are, [My friends and close friends] get along because we get along. It's not because I'm Asian." Eric-did not report that most of his friends are a function of his ethnicity. While it is not a majority, it is, "About 10 -15. 30% -40%." Scott said his friends like him for who he is and ethnicity does not play a role. He reported that he has a couple of Asian friends; but none are close friends. Diana, Sharon, and Nathan stated that "none" of their friends and close friends are a function of their ethnicity. McCall & Simmons (1978) idea of having "bound oneself" led to two questions being asked. The first 54

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question asked participants how difficult it would be to withdraw from the role of Asian American. Most respondents said that it would be very difficult, even impossible to withdraw from the role of Asian American, such as Jake did: I'd say it's almost impossible for me, -you know. Just like I grew up with it, you know. I can't just one day turn my back on it. Like, just say no I'm not going to be Asian no more. Like, I'm going to totally forget what I've learned and what my parents taught me. That wouldn't be right to me ... I don't think I would be the same person. I don't think I would work so hard towards prove someth.ing, you know, like I'm Asian and I'm here for a purpose. Mary commented that in some instances, ... it is very easy to withdraw from." She continues with, "Some things, I can!t -there is no possible way." Eric responded, "It would be very difficult ... no, it's too important. It identifies who are as a person." Similarly, Mark answered: I think it would be very difficult. That is how I grew up. And it would be different if I just didn't eat rice anyrnore .. And not to speak the language and be around the same people. Sharon felt that it would be very difficult to withdraw from the role of Asian-American even with as much as she 55

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rebels or says it doesn't influence her, is rooted deep in me, the way I was brought up." Julie felt differently than most of the other respondents. She reported that it would not be difficult to withdraw from the Asian American role, "I don't think so, just because when I was younger I wanted to be White. And like all my Asian friends wished they were White." Nathan commented that if given the choice he would not take the responsibilities of being Korean. The second question examining McCall & Simmons (1978) identity commitment concept asked participants if it would be difficult to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. Responses to this second question were similar to the first question looking at the idea of having oneself." Most respondents felt that it would be difficult, if not impossible to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. Eric reported, "It would be very difficult. I don't think anyone can withdraw from that. It is who.you are and what you do." Mark commented on the difficulty of losing his comfort level: It would be very difficult to adjust, to be able to live. To adjust [to] not being around 56

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people of my same kind_! might want to be more isolated. So it would be a difficult adjustment. The comfort level isn't there as much. Jake strongly asserted the idea McCall & Simmons call having "bound oneself": I don't think it would be worth to go and associate myself with Vietnamese people. Because I don't think I would fit in if I totally withdraw from [my ethnic group]. Julie feels that her upbringing is important and she would not want to lose what she has learned, however she does not know that many Asians, making it less difficult to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. Similarly, Sharon felt that it would not be difficult to withdraw from the ethnic group because she feels that she does not have one. Her close circle of people are made up of Caucasians. Nicole commented that as much as she tries to maintain her Hrnong heritage and culture, it is hard to do so in the United States. She said that she already feels like she is losing her Hmong background and that it would be easy to withdraw from. All but three respondents (Julie, Sharon, and Nathan) indicated that half to most of the people they know are a result of their ethnicity and six respondents 57

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(Julie, Eric, Diana, Sharon, Nathan, and Scott) stated that a majority of their friends and close friends are not a function of their ethnicity. These findings suggest that half of the respondents are committed to their ethnic identity. The high amount of relationships that the participants have that are affected by their ethnic identity imply a high level of commitment to the ethnic identity. Again, all but two respondents (Julie and Nathan) reported that it would be very difficult, if not impossible to withdraw both from the role of Asian American and to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. The participants' remarks propose that all of them, but Julie and Nathan have "bound" themselves to their ethnic identity. They find it "very difficult" and even "impossible" to utilize withdrawal mechanisms to distance themselves from that group., On the other hand, Julie's lack of relationships that are affected by her ethnic identity, her willingness to withdraw from her role as a Korean, and the lack of connections with other Koreans suggest she has a low level of commitment to her Korean identity. The same can be said of Nathan. 58

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Sharon for the most part is not.committed to her Chinese identity. She does not know many people because of her ethnicity, including having no close friends who are Chinese and commented that it would be less difficult to withdraw from her ethnic group. However she did state it would be very difficult to withdraw from the role of being Asian-American mainly because of the values she has learned and associates with Chinese culture that will always be a part of her. Similar to Sharon, Scott for the most part is not committed to his Taiwanese/Chinese identity. His friends are not a function of his ethnicity and it would be fairly easy for him to withdraw from the role of Asian and to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole. His only answer that is not consistent with the other commitment questions was to the extensiveness inquiry. Scott reported that about half of the people he knows are a result of his ethnicity. But upon closer examination and further probing, he discussed the extent of knowing some of these individuals. Most were based on superficial relationships and not all were necessarily a 59

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result of his ethnicity. Therefore lessening the amount of people he knows as a result of his ethnicity. Dissimilar to Sharon and Scott, Nicole is mostly committed to her Hmong identity. Most of the people she knows are because of her ethnic identity (90-95 %) and all of her friends and close friends are a function of her ethnicity. She stated that it would be difficult to withdraw from the ethnic group as a whole, but not the role of a Hmong person. Though she makes a point to state that while it would be easy to withdraw from the Hmong role she tries very hard to uphold her Hmong traditions and values. Shame Two questions were asked to inspect Erving Goffman's (1967) concept of The first question asked participants how important it is to portray a positive self .image to others. All, but one respondent (Nathan) felt that it was important at some level to portray a positive image to others, confirming Goffman's (1976) idea of the importance of Jake responded: 60

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I think it's very important. If you don't portray yourself as positive, people won't try to know who you are and what your values are. They wouldn't get to know you as a person. They just see what's out there on the outside, you know. I always think about what am I doing and how is that going to look on me and my family and my friends and being Vietnamese. Several respondents commented that it is important to portray a positive image to the young. Julie stated, ... you never know who's watching you and like you don't want a bad rap and especially in front of kids you don't want to show them the wrong way." Moreover, Diana answered, "Important, because you become a role model to younger generations." Mark noted, "It's pretty important to me ... to portray a positive image toe other people especially around people younger than you." Mark continues to comment on the importance of image on his culture, "I do want to portray a good image, because I am representing my culture." Like Mark, many respondents answered the above question with references to their family and culture. Laura feels that it is "really important .. ;what would my parents think?" Nathan responded that it is "not very 61

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important." He would "rather be honest than positive." The second question related to Goffman's (1976) idea of shame tapped into the importance culture has on "saving face" by asking participants if their culture has placed great emphasis on maintaining a positive self image or "face." All participants, but Scott responded with an affirmative, yes. Julie commented on the importance of not wanting to tarnish her parent's reputation, especially in front of her parent's friends: Yea, like if I see my parent's friends, I always have to bow and be polite. They always expect me to be polite and have good manners. It puts disappointment on them and embarrasses them 'cause it makes them look like they raised me wrong. That's a big thing my mom always says. One reason I don't hang out _with my race for the fact that I don't want to hurt my parent's rep and I don't want it to get back to my parents if I did something wrong. I went out with my friends and my dad's friend drove by and the next day my dad was like why were you in this car with this person. Mark also noted the emphasis of "saving face" placed on him by his parents: Oh, yea, that's very important. Parents teach you to have respect ... and properness ... have your manners, so you don't disgrace or disrespect your culture. I think my parents would be really embarrassed. --I might just feel bad afterwards, maybe a little. Not as 62

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embarrassed as my parents. They would look down on me, lose their respect. They pride themselves on me doing good. Eric feels that it is extremely important to maintain in his culture. He talked about earning respect from the community and having respect for his parents: I was taught that we should do something to get respect from other community members, other people. If you do something wrong, [parents] yell at you, 'you are my son, you shouldn't be doing this ... what w.ould people say?' It's about respect ... for my parents. On the other hand, Scott explained that even though his parents raised him with Asian values, such as attaining a good education, they did not emphasize ethnicity as much as they did with having an open mind. Scott did not feel the strong emphasis of culture on maintaining face. To further explore shame, two questions were asked to investigate_Christine J. Yeh's and Karen Huang's views. Participants were asked to comment on the importance of conforming to the dominant society in order to avoid shame or embarrassment of being different. All but one participant (Nathan) reported that either they used to conform when they were younger 63

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or if they conform now they do it only sometimes and in certain situations. As a child, Beth wanted to fit in and conformed more to do so, but as an adult she feels it is easier to be herself: When I was younger I would 'cause I would want to fit in, but now that I'm older with education and the people around me, they're a lot more mature now. It's a lot easier to be yourself and be open. Whereas when I was younger I wanted to fit in. I didn't want to be the outsider. So I did when I was younger, but now I could care less about being different [from the dominant culture], you know. Julie has been greatly influenced by the American culture and considers herself to be more American. However she has also kept her Korean heritage in mind: I don't think you should ever be ashamed of who you are. I know living here so long I'm basically American. I lost my whole background 'causes all I've been around is American and not so much Korean students or Asian students. I did change into a typical American person, but in some things I stay with the culture. I'll be polite and I know my manners and I know everything my parents taught me still. Everyone's scared of being different or not being welcomed or fitting in. I think it's more like I'm Asian. I was raised differently and brought up differently I went through different things and my parents expect different things from me. 64

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Mark noted the importance of adjusting to American culture, stating that it is important" to conform to the dominant society: Can't be totally Vietnamese here [in America]. You have to kind of adjust to the American lifestyle. That's why I consider myself Vietnamese American ... show that you are American. Not just acting like how Vietnamese people act. You still have to be Americanized in some way. So I guess, adjust or be like other people. Mary remarked she conforms to the dominant society in certain situations, but asserted that she is not uncomfortable with the situations: There are situations at work where I have to, but they're not situations that I'm uncomfortable with. I don't do anything that I'm uncomfortable with. They're just things that I may do differently if I'm at home, but no, there aren't things I would compromise just for the sake of being accepted into the dominant culture. A similar question exploring Yeh's & Huang's (1996) views on shame asked participants how important it is to conform to one's own culture in order to avoid shameand embarrassment in the family or among other Asians. All but one participant (Nathan) responded that it is important or that it is a factor to pe considered. One 65

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respondent, Beth, felt that it is "more important" to conform to her own culture than to the dominant society. She said: There's a lot of adults in our culture that look up to the young adults who do good. So I would do a lot more just to impress my own culture. A lot more important in my own culture than the dominant culture. Mark stated that it is somewhat important. He commented on the significance of not losing "where you came from, 'cause people around you, friends, your family's friends, they might look down on you for that." He continued to explain the importance of conforming to his own culture by giving an example of a high school experience: Back in high school if you didn't hang around the same people of your own ethnicity, you were being called, I guess, a sellout ... outcast or something. People look at you differently 'cause you're not conforming to your own culture. Jake explained the reason for conforming to his own culture to avoid shame: I think it's very important 'cause like that's who you are and you can't deny that. And to 66

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just totally not know who you are and what you have to do, then that's not right. Jake emphasized that he conforms because of the realization of who he is. He also understands he conforms to his Vietnamese culture to please his parents: In a way, yea, I just do 'cause they told me to and they expect me to. And I don't want to say no to them because that would break their hearts. In a way I don't want to do it, but I would say I have to do it. Mary emphasized that conforming to her own culture to avoid bringing shame to herself or her family is prevalent in her daily thoughts, definitely value it and consider it, definitely all the time ... However, she remarked it is not an overwhelming factor that takes over her decision making process, don't let it make my decisions. I don't let that be a determining factor on how I live my life." To assert both of her earlier statements, Mary added, a but not a determining factor." Nathan stated that he does not conform to the dominant society or to his own. He does not believe in conformity rather it is a matter of what is right and wrong and he will do the right thing. 67

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In sum, shame has played a significant role in the lives of these participants. All respondents, but Nathan feel it is important to portray a positive self image to others and all, but Scott realize the great emphasis put on them by their culture to maintain face. Many commented on the pressure that parents place on them to portray a positive self image to other family members and friends within the ethnic community in order to avoid bringing shame and embarrassment to the family. Respondents felt it more important to conform to their own culture than the dominant culture, .however they still emphasized the importance of conforming to American society, whether in certain situations-<>rif the Conforming was done as a child. Self-Esteem Five questions were asked to tap into the selfesteem of the participants. The first question asked participants for an evaluation of their culture. Two respondents, Jake and Eric, had strong positive responses.to this question. No comments of negativity 68

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were given even when probed. Eric remarked, "I think [the culture] is very interesting ... I do like it, I mean I love it. You learn so many different things. How we act around people-that's very important." All other respondents had high evaluations of their culture, but mentioned a few negative aspects. Mark commented on many positive aspects of his culture, like how a lot of Asians and Vietnamese are graduating in the top ten of their class and how there are some Vietnamese who have such great pride in their culture-that it makes him proud to see it and makes him want to have more pride. He also comments on the __ negatives of his_ culture, specifically how Vietnamese gangs have portrayed his culture in a bad light. Mary remarked, "It's a beautiful culture. a beautiful culture as far as the values and the intentions." Mary also remarked that she admires and respects family and the "cohesiveness of family. While most of her views about her culture are positive, she goes on to talk about an aspect of her culture that she does not agree with, "It's a beautiful culture, however there are many things specifically with 69

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the role of women that I completely cannot accept and have always felt that way about it." Both Nathan and Laura commented on how westernized Korea has become and how the culture has changed because of it. Male and female roles are not as defined and strict as they used to b.e. The second question asked participants for an evaluation of themselves in the role of Asian American. Seven of the twelve participants viewed themselves positively in the role of Asian American. One participant (Beth) was neutral in her evaluation. Julie initially commented, "I think I'm good," however she proceeded to negatively evaluate herself in the role of being Korean and made note of how this negativity can be seen in all Asian cultures: Sometimes I think I'm more of a disappointment. I'm not the top student of my class. I'm not the little piano player, the doctor. I think that's with every Asian culture. You should be that top person, then if you're not then you're a disappointment. If you're not good at something that [parents] can show off to their friends then you're a big disappointment. 70

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Nicole wants to be the best Hmong person she can be and does a lot to explore her culture, but feels that she can be better. Scott feels that he does not stack up to the Taiwanese/Chinese role and that he is not doing enough to promote his ethnic identity, though of late he has developed a drive to show support for his ethnic group. Participants were then asked how important the identity of being Asian is to their self-image. All participants, but Julie and Nathan, felt that it was important. Several commented that it is who they are. When asked about the importance of her Korean identity to her self-image, Julie commented with an uncertain neutial response. Nathan feels grateful for his Korean identity, but does not focus on it. The last two questions asked participants about roles that are important to their self-image and the evaluation of themselves in the roles. The roles that were most mentioned were daughter/son, sister/brother, student, and friend. Other roles that were less mentioned were female, mother, wife, boyfriend, and co-worker. Roles 71

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that were part of the family were most important to the participants. All participants, but Julie, evaluated themselves in the roles important to their self-image positively. Julie felt that she was "average" in her roles: I think I'm average but everyone can be better. Everyone wants to be someone else. Everyone strives to be the best. It's hard. I wish I was a better daughter. I wish I was a better sister and a better student and a better friend. I think being a student is the most important 'cause if I was a top student, 4.0 it would make my parents happy. I care more about my parents then anything else 'cause that's who made me, that's who raised me and that's who took care of me all my life. Nathan was not entirely positive in his evaluations of his roles either. He did not evaluate himself very highly as a brother, but feels that he tries his hardest as a boyfriend and feels that he is a good son and friend. In conclusion, respondents overall, except for Julie, seemed to have high self-esteem related to their ethnic identity. For the most part, Nathan, Nicole, and Scott express high self-esteem in relation to their ethnic identity. Self-esteem can be examined using an 72

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innumerable amount of measures. This paper used the ideas of Sheldon Stryker (1980) to examine self-esteem related to identitY, specifically ethnic identity. The responses suggest that most of the participants who feel positive towards their ethnic group will have high identity salience as well. 73

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DISCUSSION Most respondents have generally shown consistently high levels across identity salience, commitment, selfesteem, and the role of shame. One participant has been consistent in showing lower levels of the concepts explored. Julie has demonstrated lower levels o identity salience, commitment, and self-esteem, suggesting that she does not place great emphasis on her ethnic identity and has not "introjected" her Korean identity to her personal identity. She is unlikely to adopt or continue her ethnic identity and will not promote, internalize, or maintain this identity across different situations. Shame seems to play an important role in most of these participants lives with most every one agreeing that their culture places great emphasis on it. Nathan was the only one that did not agree with portraying a positive image to others or conforming to any society. These results suggest an inter-connection of identity salience, commitment, and self-esteem with 74

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shame having great importance. However with the small, exploratory nature of this study, the results cannot be generalized to the larger Asian-American population nor can they be generalized to a specific ethnic group. The study was done using respondents from different ethnicities, presuming that all ethnicities in the Asian culture are the same. When in actuality the different ethnicities could vary greatly. The scope of this study had its limitations (similar to previous work done on ethnic identity) and was not able to capture information from one specific ethnic group, but hopes this important factor will be taken into consideration in future studies leading to interesting and.useful data. Another valuable strength of this study is that it utilizes a qualitative method that adds a deeper understanding to an area that has mainly focused on quantitative research. It reveals the usefulness of such work and also that much is still needed to understand fully how these processes work together in ethnic identity development, in particular Asian-75

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American ethnic identity. With the utilization of theory in empirical work, progress can continue in a much needed arena. The previous work done in symbolic interactionism has focused mainly on micro-sociological processes (Cerulo 1997, House 1977). In recent years, developments in symbolic interactionism has paid more attention to macro-elements in society. The new focus has been on the social structure and its effects on social psychological processes (Banaji & Prentice 1994, Stryker 1987). Yeh & Huang (1996) have demonstrated the importance of moving from psychological processes to macro-sociological structures in examining identity formations of Asian Americans. As American society moves into postmodernism, it is vital to keep up with changing times when studying identity. It is necessary to study identity, especially Asian American identity, in regards to the collective, but it is also vital in symbolic interactionism and ethnic identity studies to recognize future influences to identity developmental processes, such as new communication technologies. The 76

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changes occurring in communication technologies have changed interactional processes and must be taken into consideration for future research and theorizing of identity formation (Cerulo 1997). Empirical research in ethnic identity studies especially those guided by a theoretical framework are limited (e.g., shame) and too often inconclusive (e.g., self-esteem). White & Burke (1987) propose ethnic identity as being influenced by an interlocking set of processes. Future research should implement a theoretical basis and utilize the many different processes (identity salience, self-esteem, commitment, and shame) that may affect identity formation. In a society where multiculturalism is seen as the trend, the multicultural individual with multiple social identities is its main component (Wrong 2000). 77

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Citations Banaji, Mahzarin and Deborah A. Prentice. 1994. The Self in Social Contexts. Annual Review of Psychology, V.45, p.297-332. Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Burke, Peter J. and Donald C. Reitzes. 1991. An Identity Theory Approach to Commitment. Social Psychology Quarterly, V.54, Issue 3, p.239-251. Burke, Peter J. and Judy C. Tully. 1977. The Measurement of Role Identity. Social Forces, V.55, Issue 4, p.881-897. Callero, Peter L. 1985. Role-Identity Salience. Social Psychology Quarterly, V.48, Issue 3, p.203-215 ---. 1991. The meaning of Self-in-Role: A modified Measure of Role-Identity. Social Forces, V.71, Issue 2, p.485-501 Cerulo, Karen A. 1997. Identity Construction: New Issues,New Directions. Annual Review of Sociology, V.23, p.385-409. Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face to Face Behavior. NY: Doubleday Anchor.House, James S. 1977. The Three Faces of Social Psychology. Sociometry, V.40, No.2, p. 161-177. Boelter, Jon W. 1983. The Effects of Role Evaluation and Commitment on Identity Salience. Social Psychology Quarterly, V.46, N6.2, p.140-147. Lal, Barbara Ballis. 1995. Symbolic Interaction Theories.Arnerican Behavioral Scientist, V.38, No.3, p. 421-441. 78

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Jaret, Charles and Donald C. Reitzes. 1999. The Importance of Racial-Ethnic Identity and Social Setting For Blacks, Whites, and Multi-Racials. Sociological Perspectives, Winter, V.42, p. 711-786. Me Call, George P. and J.L. Simmons. 1978. Identities and Interactions: An Examination of Human Associations in Everyday Life (Revised Edition). New York: The Free Press. Mead, George Herbert. 1934. Mind, Self, and Society. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago. Nuttbrock, Larry and Patricia Freudiger. 1991. Identity Salience and Motherhood: A Test of Stryker's Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, v.54, No.2, p.146-157. Phinney, Jean S. 1996. Understanding Ethnic Diversity: The Role of Ethnic Identity. American Behavioral Scientist,Nov-Dec, V.40, N2, p. 143-152. Porter, J.R. and R.E. Washington. 1993. Minority Identity and Self-Esteem. Annual Review of Sociology, V.19, p.139-161. Rosenberg, Morris. 1979. Conceiving the Self. Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. Serpe, RichardT. 1987. Stability and Change in Self: A Structural Symbolic Interactionist Explanation. Social Psychology Quarterly, V.50, Issue 1, p.44-55. Stryker, Sheldon. 1980. Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version. CA: Benjamin/Cummings . 1987. The Vitalization of Symbolic ---Interactionism. Social Psychological Quarterly, V.50, No.1, p.83-94. 79

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