CULTURAL IDENTITY IN THE CONTEXT OF TRAUMA AND IMMIGRATION FROM A PSYCHOANALYTIC PERSPECTIVE

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Abstract

The experience of interpersonal violence among immigrants is influenced by pre- and postmigration sociocultural factors. Although psychoanalytic theory has made significant contributions to a complex understanding of traumatic stress and of intrapsychic experiences of immigration, the experience of interpersonal violence in an immigrant context has not yet been adequately addressed. This paper addresses the development of cultural identity in the face of interpersonal violence and immigration from a relational psychoanalytic perspective. Specifically, I explore the losses incurred in the migration process and how they intersect with an individual's experiences with interpersonal trauma, such as physical and sexual violence. Racial and ethnic discrimination directed against immigrants is thought to complicate survivors’ negotiation of cultural identity in a new environment. Additionally, the complexity of multiple cultural identifications has implications for the therapeutic relationship, as the client's and the therapist's narratives of self and of each other are influenced by their respective sociocultural histories and circumstances. Cultural identity development, trauma, discrimination, and the multiplicity and hybridity of subjective experience in the immigrant experience are discussed in more depth through a case illustration.

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