The weekly seminar held by the Arab Center for Research and Policy studies, welcomed Randa Serhan, on April 16 2014, to present findings from her research work on the “The Formation of Arab American Identity across Three Eras”. The time periods in question referred to the period before 1924; the period between 1965 and 2001; and finally the post 9/11 era.
Serhan explained that the earliest Arab immigrants arriving to the US before 1924 did not, as expected, lose their identity. Despite the second period witnessing greater numbers of Arab migration, the physical presence did not translate into into an effective Arab political presence and was instead influenced by the emergence of postcolonial nation-states.
Serhan held that the aftermath of 9/11 was the most significant period thus far for the formation of Arab-American identity. Throughout this time, Islamophobia spread in parallel with a more active role for Muslim community associations.
The lecture concluded with a discussion on the mutual influences between Arab Americans and the country of origin, especially in the first migration, the measures required to enhance the role of Arab Americans, the role of academics, and the effects of globalization and other relevant topics.
Dr. Serhan is a social scientist and the director of Arab Studies at the American University in Washington DC. She is a Palestinian of origin who grew up in Kuwait and has lived in Lebanon and the United States. She received her PhD from the University of Columbia, for her ethnography of Palestinian Americans in New York and New Jersey. Her research interests are related to migration, citizenship, and identity politics. She has published a number of papers on Arab Identity in the USA, and jointly edited the book: “American Democracy and the Pursuit of Equality”. She taught at the University of Colombia for 7 years, as well as at the American University in Beirut.
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