Our world is globalized, meaning that ideas, businesses, technology, and even people are spreading around the world. Immigration is an impressive thing from an outsider’s perspective, however second generation immigrants such as myself will disagree with this first glance appearance. What happens when an old culture is introduced to a new one? Is there adaption, assimilation, or is it simply mixing oil with water? Being a second-generation female immigrant from Egypt, I can vouch that it’s very much like mixing oil with water.
Many second generation immigrants from middle eastern countries immerse themselves in the cultures that they are born into, while their families fight against this in an attempt to maintain their honor and respect as a people who continuously follow their tradition; contributing to a shift in culture and tradition, as well as potential lethal outcomes for those women who disagree. I will be pulling from Madumo: A Man Bewitched by Adam Ashforth, Four Hundred Thousand Swedish Perverts by Don Kulick, Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage by Renato Rosaldo, and Bianca Dahls lectures.
Women within Eastern cultures are seen as teachers, we are expected to have children and to teach our children what our mother taught us. However, immigration abruptly stops this because a new culture with different traditions and morals are introduced. Families’ fear this, as the daughter, the future teacher of their descendants will not have the exact knowledge passed on to her, she will have varies aspects of the culture that she was born into. Not only are women seen as teachers within their Eastern cultures, they are almost viewed as objects of pride.
A woman who is able to maintain her values, be respectful, modest, and fit their perfect ideology, however if she slightly deviates from this, for example changing her cultural dress, way of speak, and so on she could become the victim to honor killings at worse. Why can’t these families just accept that they brought a child into a new world? A vast majority of the time, immigrants move to a new country with only what they know about it being from television, which is obviously a terrible educator.
For example, my parents were under the presumption that North Americans were very immodest, in terms of the fact they only dress in extremely revealing clothing, they are constantly sexual active, and they’re also violent. Rosaldo captured this misunderstanding beautifully in his article, Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage. He described how he felt being immersed in the culture of the Ilongot in the Philipines and when it came to certain aspects of their culture, he simply states, “you either understand it or you don’t” (2), and this is him discussing beheadings.
He is right though, because Eastern parents either understand the new world their children are in, or they don’t. However, the major difference between Rosaldos approach and Eastern parents, is that he tries to understand. Before he finally understands the reasoning behind the murders, he continuously comes up with theories as to why the Ilongot choose to behead people when they are grieving.
Unfortunately, a majority of the time Eastern parents do not try to understand, especially in my own personal experience it boils down to my mom shouting “you either do it how your grandparents taught me or you’re in trouble”, and testing what trouble is, is out of the question. To contradict my mothers belief as Professor Dahl had written on slide 3, in lecture 6 “society is like an organism; when one part changes, the rest adapts too”, the society my mother was raised in no longer exists.
Due to immigrants and emigrants, it is no longer the same, however she’s come to a new country and culture with an adamant belief that this is not the truth. That it is her responsibility to pass on this concrete, never changing truth to her daughters, who will continually pass this unchanged knowledge down. There is hope though, as the Ilongot culture changed due to the law passed, making beheadings illegal, they began adapting new ways to cope with their grief. Eastern immigrants do have the potential to adapt.
We can empathize that it’s common for new cultures to not be understood for people who are new to it, as seen by Rosaldo, but another perspective needs to be understood. Much like how the Ilongot were reduced to murder when they lose someone, some Middle Eastern cultures consider their daughter immersing herself in another culture, a loss much like death and they too, can be reduced to murder. This is called an honor killing, as removing the dishonor to the family restores the family’s respect within its community and family.
Of course, this is just as disagreeable as the beheadings were in the Philipines, however it is just as important in the culture of the Middle East, although I must clarify that I am not trying to justify it. Now this brings me to another reading, Madumo: A Man Bewitched, where it is clear that Madumo is in the middle between his Christian faith and witchcraft, yet there’s another character, MaMfete who is in a similar position in terms of her beliefs, however she is able to find a balance between the two.
MaMfete is the ideal incorporation of two contradicting beliefs coinciding, on page 45 MaMfete describes her experience with witchcraft but then immediately dismisses it because she was raised Catholic. This dismissal would make it seem she does not believe in witchcraft, however Adam asked her specifically about her personal experience with it, so for her to believe she had experienced it must signify that believes in it to a degree. Adam describes MaMfete still practicing her cultures non-Christian beliefs when she needs to on page 49, yet she maintains her Christianity.
She represents the product of second-generation immigration, such as myself. The ability to draw from both cultures, from back home and the one we are born with and be able to proudly draw on them when we need to. In my position, I am able to speak Arabic fluently, yet I can also speak English, I can cook middle Eastern foods as well as North American foods, and so on. Many other second -generation immigrant women are able to maintain this, however they families do not see it like that, instead they only see the North American aspects intruding on the Eastern and even beginning to replace it.
A woman in Eastern cultures identity is similar to the way Kulick describes those who indulge in the sex trade in Sweden. Similar as in, their sexuality is their label, once an individual becomes a client they become a pervert and stay a pervert, even as they are playing with their children, getting married, nursing their parents, and so on (206). With this label of a client, is the assumption that they are perverts, which is not always true. In the East, once a child is labeled as a girl, her behavior is assumed, that she will be modest, submissive, and obedient, and that she will be heterosexual and have children .
It wouldn’t matter if she was a wrestler, a stripper, or an outlaw, she would still be expected to be those three things somehow. This comes back to how the family expects the daughter to maintain what they taught her and expect her to not absorb the culture around her, because they believe that she is submissive and obedient enough to do so. If not? Then of course she’s being disobedient, which is a massive dishonor within Eastern cultures and again, could lead to an honor killing.
As I mention honor killings a second time, I’d like to point out that many of those Eastern immigrants who believe in this practice are inherently religious, be it Muslim, Christian, etc. Obviously, murder is a massive sin within the more common religions in the East, so why is it practiced? Adam similarly questioned contradictions between religion and culture, when it came to Madumo who was blamed by his church for practicing witchcraft in order to kill his mother, he states “I wanted to know more about these people who, in the name of Christianity, could condemn a man to perdition of social death as a perpetrator of witchcraft” (146).
Clearly, the tone of this line is very questioning and upset about the actions that were taken out. What happened to Madumo was not at all Christian, in fact it was more in line with his native South African culture. This mirrors the situation with Eastern women as well, because what happens to them is not a product of the culture they are born into and nor is it actually apart of what their parents believe in, surprisingly.
The concept of honor killing is a product of the combination of both cultures since in contrast to each other; Eastern and Western cultures are polar opposites. I’ve heard my parents discuss what they hear in the news, including honor killings, one thing I’ve repeatedly noted was how my father would explain that that wouldn’t happen in Egypt (his home country), nor would it happen in most Eastern countries. Of course, the west does not condone honor killings, so as I said before, it’s a product of the clashing of both cultures.
Immigration is a difficult thing for families and it’s even more difficult to raise children in a new country that you’re unfamiliar with, especially when it comes to raising daughters. As Rosaldo and Adam described in their works, new cultures are difficult to understand and trying to bring two cultures together is a challenge, which causes difficulties within families and can potentially hurt the daughters specifically, however we must continuously try and understand why this happens and potentially find a solution to it.