Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cross-Cultural and Transnational Identity: A Case Study of Bulgarian Immigrants in Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cross-Cultural and Transnational Identity: A Case Study of Bulgarian Immigrants in Canada

Article excerpt

After highlighting concepts such as diaspora, acculturation and integration of immigrants, transnational identity, and multiculturalism policy, the authors present results from a case study of 16 Bulgarian emigrants to Canada. The aim is to investigate what changes have taken place in their perception of national and self-identity, and to what extent these changes are dependent on factors such as age, education, reasons for emigration and length of stay. The participants were interviewed as to what bonds they have retained with their country of origin in terms of observation of traditions, range of social contacts and participation in the Bulgarian community in Canada, and what ideas, customs and behavioural modes they have absorbed from the host country. Their responses provide insight into what it feels to be a transnational citizen in today's increasingly globalising world.

Keywords: diaspora, Bulgarian immigrants in Canada, identity, transnational experience


The aims of this article are to present the findings of a case study with firstgeneration Bulgarian immigrants in Canada in relation to issues of diaspora, diasporic discourses and what experiences and notions Bulgarian Canadians discard, adopt, marginalise (after Clifford 1994); to what extent they are bound to their country of origin and to their host country (after Schiller et al. 1995); and whether they are transcending cultural boundaries and acquiring hybrid identities (after Castles 2002). And does the Canadian multicultural model facilitate their integration, alienate immigrants, promote diversity within a large cultural framework or actually result in the insulation of separate cultures?

The article is part of a larger project conducted by members of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies (CEACS) and funded by the Canadian government. The objectives and outcomes of the project were a literary anthology with selected writings by expatriates from the CEACS region (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, and Slovenia) living in Canada who have published accounts of their immigrant experience (Lopicic 2010); second, a database was created of recorded interviews with members of the respective diasporas with the most informative interviews published in a separate volume (Albu 2010). The aim is for the database to be utilised for future studies within different fields: linguistics, sociology, ethnography, political science, history and so forth.

The concept of diaspora

Since the early 1990s, the issue of diaspora has become essential in international politics and has acquired a new place in public discourse. The disintegration of the bipolar power structure and the breakdown of national barriers with the end of the Cold War laid the ground for a massive short- or long-term movement of people. As advances in technology made travel and communication easier, and the world began to be seen as a global village, the traditional concept of diaspora needed redefining.

Dufoix (2008) distinguishes three kinds of definitions of diaspora: open, categorical and oxymoronic. Open definitions offer a non-discriminating view of the object of study, such as that of Sheffer (1986: 3): 'Modern diasporas are ethnic minority groups of migrant origins residing and acting in host countries but maintaining strong sentimental and material links with their countries of origin.' Categorical are definitions that place the object of study within strict criteria which must be fulfilled in order to be designated as diaspora. According to Safran, who first attempted to construct a closed conceptual model with multiple criteria (1991: 83-84), diasporas are expatriate minority communities that are dispersed from an original centre to at least two peripheral places; that maintain a memory, myth and vision about their homeland; that believe they are not fully accepted by their host country; that consider their home country as a place of eventual return, and have a continuing relationship with the homeland. …

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