The Interface of Global Migrations, Local English Language Learning, and Identity Transmutations of the Immigrant Academician

By Hutchison, Charles B.; Quach, Lan et al. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Interface of Global Migrations, Local English Language Learning, and Identity Transmutations of the Immigrant Academician


Hutchison, Charles B., Quach, Lan, Wiggan, Greg, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Abstract

As global migrations of both teachers and students have increased, so has the need to re-learn English in response to local parlances. Thus, the use of formal and informal language styles, the masking of accents, and the understanding of the differential use of certain specific words, expressions, and the like become critical for teachers and students. For international, cross-cultural educators who also face pedagogical culture shock, issues related to the differences in teaching and learning styles, curriculum, and assessment must also be addressed. Concomitantly, therefore, the identities of international educators become reconstituted into academic cosmopolites. Using data collected from 55 student evaluations as supporting evidence, this paper contends that international educators undergo personality differentiation in response to local forces, including socio-linguistic pressures. The hybridization of migrant academicians' native states with cross-cultural forces precipitates new permutations of international, transmuted identities, brewed in the crucible of educational cross-culturalisms.

I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and my windows to be stuffed; I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people's houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

-Mahatma Gandhi, 1921

Introduction

In a U.S. (National Public Radio) program called "This I Believe" (January 16, 2006), Dr. Pius Kamau, a Kenya-born medical doctor related an arresting experience: When he first arrived in the United States, it dawned on him that when he was working in the hospital, he was seen as a "Doctor." However, when he was outside the physical limits of the hospital, he was racialized and given the identity of "Black," and was thus subjected to predetermined race relations prescribed by the American sociological machinery. (This machinery included the factors which defined the nature of the society in which he lived, including how different groups of people viewed each other.) He also reported an encounter with a White supremacist who had a swastika tattoo on his chest. Although this person was rushed into his hospital coughing up blood, the White supremacist refused to be treated by him; a Black doctor. This man would rather have died than to be treated by the "wrong" kind of person. On the other hand, many international people report of the warm welcome they experience as immigrants in the U.S., and how they are viewed in a positive light.

When immigrant educators arrive in the classroom, however, they encounter peculiar problems which are pedagogical in nature. (1) The kinds of experiences noted above bear the beacon for the broad range of issues--including linguistic and identity development--that ultimately define international educators. In this paper, academic cosmopolite identity denotes the personality that evolves as the resulting product of psycho-social forces to which the immigrant academic worker is subjected. The confluence of forces that emerge during global migrations are hereby discussed, with an emphasis on how academic cosmopolite identity is developed in light of the pressure to conform to the local parlance. Using data collected from 55 student evaluations as supporting evidence, this paper contends that academic immigrants undergo personality differentiation in response to local socio-linguistic forces.

Defining the Structural Forces Shaping Academic Cosmopolite-Immigrant Identity Development

People who engage in any form of international or cross-cultural travel necessarily subject themselves to certain kinds of structural forces. Such forces lie primarily on the axis of the socio-cultural, and define the norms and conventions of a society. According to Bodley, there are several domain-specific aspects of culture, including the topical, historical, behavioral, normative, functional, mental, structural, and symbolic aspects. …

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