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Keywords:

  • refugees;
  • resettlement;
  • human capital;
  • acculturation;
  • social identity

Abstract

This article explores the processes of acculturation and identity among refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina who resettled in the Australian cities of Perth and Sydney during the 1990s. We start from the idea that refugees, through the process of forced migration, lose aspects of their identities that were embedded in their former communities, jobs, skills, language, and culture. Upon arrival in a new society, they seek to reconstruct their identity, and we argue that this happens in the context of the process of acculturation. We use two social psychological perspectives, social identity theory and acculturation theory, and the sociological theory of the migration of human capital, to examine our data collected by qualitative research methods from refugees and Australian professionals who work in the government-funded refugee resettlement programme. Our data highlight the loss of identity experienced in forced migration, difficulties in refugee acculturation and identity reconstruction, and collective and individual strategies in acculturation and identity adaptation. We see our perspective as essentially interdisciplinary, and take an interactional view of the acculturation and identity processes, as the characteristics of both the host society and the immigrants affect them. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.