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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Bicultural Identities in Contest: The Struggle of ‘we’ and ‘other’ from within

Christina Kakava.

Postmodern theorists such as Bourdieu and Giddens have posited that identity is not something static but fluid, and have encouraged us instead to think of a group of identities which emerge in different situations based on the different positions we take in our communicative events. This paper will build on this notion of fluidity of identities to examine how two bicultural and bilingual people struggle to balance their affiliations and identifications with two cultures (in this case Greek and American) when political actions, moral and cultural practices and ideologies from their respective worlds come into conflict. Using an interactional sociolinguistics framework of discourse analysis (Goffman 1982, Tannen 1987, Schiffrin 1994), the paper will qualitatively examine two different types of discourse contexts: a tape-recorded conversation among friends and a tape-recorded undergraduate classroom discussion. It will demonstrate how two Greek-American participants position themselves and are positioned as ‘we’ and ‘other’ in social interaction and their effort to resolve their emergent dilemmas: accepting one set of ideals and practices endangers the other set, which consequently creates partial alienation and dissonance.


Christina Kakava  (United States)
Associate Professor in Linguistics
Department of English, Linguistics, and Speech
Mary Washington College

Christina Kakava is Associate Professor in Linguistics at Mary Washington College, VA, USA. She received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University. Her research interests are conflict talk and language and identity in intra- and interethnic communication. Her work has appeared in Journal of Pragmatics, The International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Georgetown Round Table on Languages and Linguistics, and the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, among other books and journals.

  • Identity
  • Bicultural
  • Social interaction

(30 min Conference Paper, English)