Traditional Dance as a Vehicle for Identity Construction and Social Engagement after Forced Migration

Yda Smith
2018 Societies  
The Karen are the largest non-Burman ethnic group in Burma. After decades of violence in their homeland, hundreds of thousands have fled into refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. Over 73,000 Karen have been resettled in the United States. Karen youth in urban areas of the United States have been participating in traditional Karen dance, practicing and performing regularly. This study explored the reasons Karen youth choose to engage in this activity. Interviews were conducted and were
more » ... ted and were analyzed using grounded theory qualitative research methods that were constructivist in nature. One over-arching theme, "If You Don't Know Your Culture, You Don't Know Who You Are", and four sub-themes emerged from the data. Results demonstrate that group members are highly invested in maintaining their social engagement with their Karen community and find strength in Karen identity maintenance. This study demonstrates that those forced to migrate to a foreign country may face challenges to their sense of identity and belonging when immersed in a society that is unfamiliar to them. Local agencies can play an important role in the adaptation process by facilitating participation in meaningful activities that provide in-group social connections and opportunities to participate in familiar culturally relevant activities.
doi:10.3390/soc8030067 fatcat:sis7qgvva5bzdgoo62xvwnaz4m