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Keywords:

  • acculturation;
  • narrative;
  • identity;
  • Muslim;
  • foreign workers;
  • Japan

Abstract

This article examines the identity and acculturation experience of Muslim foreign workers in Japan. The psychological impact of prolonged stay in a foreign country was studied by eliciting narratives of experiences of 24 male foreign workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iran who had been in Japan more than 5 years. By analysing the narratives they produced, three different styles of stories emerged which explained their experiences and their attempts to maintain or construct a sense of identity.

Accepting the dominant narrative of Japanese society and describing oneself as ‘almost like Japanese’ was one way. Another strategy stressed the rejection of the dominant narrative as well as attempts to maintain the original narrative of the self as educated and active young men. The third narrative showed how individuals re-defined themselves as Muslim by incorporating religious identity into a central part of their self-concepts, and asserting its pervasive effect on all aspects of life.

This study provides a perspective for acculturation research focused on social elements of identity, and derived from experiences in a relatively mono-cultural society recently opening to immigration and in which there is a prevailing ideology of assimilation. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.