Date of Award

12-15-2014

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Caroline Nagel

Abstract

This thesis is a Human Geography perspective on immigrant identity and integration. Using the case of a diverse, multigenerational Middle Eastern Christian population in the Upstate region of South Carolina, I explore how Middle Eastern immigrants and their descendants have negotiated belonging and identity in the United States by simultaneously building new social networks in the Upstate and maintaining ties to the Middle East. The focus on a single case allowed for an in-depth exploration of how geographic and historical contexts have shaped the present-day dynamics of the community (broadly defined) constructed around two Catholic churches, one Latin and one Maronite. Interviews with Middle Eastern members of these churches revealed complex and fluid ethnic, national, and religious identities at multiple scales, which have social as well as personal significance for my interviewees. Historical research and participant observation augmented my understanding of how this community has evolved over time to suit the needs of its members. The result is an inclusive Middle Eastern Christian identity that in various ways has been and continues to be constructed through these faith-based communities. By drawing attention to the contingent social processes underpinning individual and collective identities, I aim to complicate ideas of ethnicity and place-making as they are typically found in studies of immigrants in the U.S.

Included in

Geography Commons

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