Sameness and Difference: Asserting Cultural Identity Through Multicultural Experience and Negotiation

Sarah I. Han


Multiculturalism “seeks to use cultural diversity as a basis for challenging, revising, and relativizing basic notions and principles common to dominant and minority cultures alike” (Turner 1993, 413). This paper explores the assertion of ethnic minority Baloch women’s cultural identity through the lenses of marriage, nationalism, and education. Drawing on linguistic analysis, it shows that Baloch women in Al Ain construct their multicultural identity by navigating between the structures of tradition and personal agency: they replace kin endogamy with marriage with those who are culturally similar; develop a sense of nationalism that negotiates between their country of origin and their country of adoption, regardless of their citizenship; and pursue complex paths involving education and marriage among the opportunities presented by family and state support. The displaced Baloch community in the United Arab Emirates, underrepresented in academic research, contributes uniquely to conversations of multiculturalism, ethnic minorities, nationalism, and gender in the Middle East, a non-white, Muslim-majority context, with implications for global mass movements of refugees, women’s rights, and ethnic and racial minorities.


multiculturalism; displacement; nationalism; kinship; Middle East; gender

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