Constructing and reconstructing identities : transnational practices of Bosnian young adult immigrants in Winnipeg

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Ciriviri-Gjuric, Vera
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The study explores the process of (re)construction and maintenance of multiple identities among young Bosnian adults who migrated to Winnipeg from 1990 to 2000 as a result of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Data were obtained through participant-observation, a questionnaire and in-depth interviews. A circumstantial/situational approach that utilizes the theoretical frameworks of transnationalism, diaspora and refugee studies is applied to the analysis of identity-creating processes among Bosnian immigrants. All three ethnicities-Croat, Muslim, and Serb-are presented and their voices expressed through lengthy excerpts from the interviews. This study views the (re)construction of multiple identities among immigrants as a process of self-making and being made in relation to nation-states and transnational processes. Depending on their lived experiences and their present position in Canada, some Bosnian immigrants have developed a cosmopolitan perspective, while others have retained and developed an ethnonational perspective as a primary reference point. Nevertheless, they all take part in ongoing processes of identity negotiation on several levels-individual, familial, community, and national-as members of their adoptive country and of their home country, and as members of an emerging transnational social field. The data have shown that transnational migration does not erase differences among immigrants. On the contrary, it reproduces gender and class inequalities and ethnic differences. There are limits to the extent and significance of transnational activities among Bosnian immigrants in this study, The relatively short period of time spent in exile, conditions in Canada, and the negative attitude of the Bosnian government toward the refugees are seen as factors that have a limiting impact on the character of Bosnian transnationalism. Although the small sample covered in this research does not allow generalizing to the wider Bosnian refugee population and far less to the refugee population in general, the study findings are relevant to the study of migration and may be helpful for policy makers and institutions that deal with immigrants in Canada.