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Boundary-making as a destigmatization strategy: The case of Albanian and Bosnian Muslims in Canada

TitleBoundary-making as a destigmatization strategy: The case of Albanian and Bosnian Muslims in Canada
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPrevisic, I.
UniversityUniversity of Ottawa
CityOttawa, ON
Keywordsalbanians, balkans, bosnians, boundaries, canada, external categorization, identification, identity, islamophobia, multiculturalism, muslims, racism, religion, repertoires, whiteness

This thesis studies the experiences of Albanian and Bosnian Muslim immigrants in Canada in the post-9/11 period. It draws upon a boundary-making framework and employs qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the destigmatization strategies of Balkan Muslims, as well the national and cultural repertoires that enable and facilitate their utilization. The study yields several important findings. The quantitative findings show that Albanian and Bosnian Muslim immigrants in general show lower levels of attachment to religion compared to other Muslim immigrants. Also, many members of these ethnic groups appear to have resorted to the strategy of distancing and/or disidentifying from Muslim identification and/or faith in favour of identifying as irreligious as a way of coping with rising Islamophobia in Canadian society. The qualitative findings show that the move towards distancing/disidentification is due to a dissonance between the cultural repertoires of the meaning(s) of "Muslim" in participants' homeland versus that of the host society. Discursively, the process of distancing/disidentification occurs mostly by drawing religious and, relatedly, moral and value boundaries from other, mostly non-European and racialized Muslims. Importantly, despite having been exposed to instances of Islamophobia, participants overwhelmingly reported that their communities have not been significantly affected by anti-Muslim sentiments. I argue that the Albanian and Bosnian Muslims' lack of religious signs, bolstered by their "whiteness" and society's general unfamiliarity with Muslims and the Balkans, have greatly contributed to the perceived lack of religion-based discrimination. This study thus demonstrates that Islamophobia is to a significant extent an issue of racism, and that, relatedly, "race" continues to be a weighty marker of differentiation in Canadian society, where skin colour and appearance function as a religious sign.

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