Ethnic Identity: The Cambodian Experience

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This thesis research contributes to the literature on Cambodian Americans, and in particular the second generation, which has attracted limited scholarly attention. It examines how these individuals make sense of their Cambodian ethnic identity in North Texas. Individual interviews were conducted with twelve second generation Cambodian-Americans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This study focused on the ethnic identity of second generation Cambodian-Americans by examining cultural practices, knowledge of one's family history, language and peers that may serve as significant factors. These factors were determined by looking into past research and finding common themes. A typology was created using data collected on these factors to measure the level of significance each factor had on ethnic identity. It was found that peers did not determine if my participants' sense of identity heighten or lessen, while the other three factors did. The most influential factor in determining how these individuals feel about their "Cambodian-ness" was their knowledge about Cambodian history and their family background. Results from this study indicate that individuals who were aware of their cultural background, especially their individual family's experience in the war, had a heightened sense of ethnic identity. Furthermore, these findings suggest that parents who forced their child to speak Khmer had their sense of ethnic identity lessened, while those who had more freedom to speak both Khmer and English had their sense of ethnic identity heightened. Findings show that there were several factors that greatly influence the way these individuals view their own ethnic identity. This study offers valuable insights into the process of identity construction among second generation Cambodian-Americans.

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The findings are insightful and counter intuitive at times. I actually got to meet the beautiful author and she was very kind in answering some of my questions.

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