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Self-perception of refugee women in Poland in the context of stereotypes and traditional gender roles and their impact on the identity and cultural adaptation

Project information


Project title: Self-perception of refugee women in Poland in the context of stereotypes and traditional gender roles and their impact on the identity and cultural adaptation

Project No: 2014/15/B/HS3/2462

Project lead: dr Katarzyna Kość-Ryżko

Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016


e-mail: katarzyna.kosc.ryzko@etnolog.pl
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86

Project implementation:

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences





Scientific purpose/Hypothesis


The purpose of the project is the analysis of the course of the work on own identity of women refugees, who live in Poland, as well as the analysis of the way it is reflected in their self- description language and of biographical narration, they construct. The main issues are the categorizations used to describe their status before their refuge and nowadays. I would like to know the relationship between the pictures, the women-refugees construct of themselves, (reflected in their daily functioning and in their interactions with the environment around them); the role of previous culture (including the dissonance caused by norms and expectations, which have their source in the stereotypes and cultural patterns of functioning, depending on the gender), and the process of acculturation and its influence on the identity changes of women-refugees.
The research question concerns the way the process of shaping the identity of women- refugees is influenced by their present situation and by the fact that they are refugees/exiles. I would like to know the role of their original cultures, which they play in their auto-perception, (auto)stereotypisation, low self-esteem and, finally, in their sense of stigmatization. The key to know the women's identity models and pictures of themselves will be the biographical reports, compiled according to the narrative and discursive approach (Taylor 2001).
I hypothetically assume that the "mirror", in which women refugees see themselves most often, is not the "social mirror", reflecting the opinions and convictions functioning within the receiving society, but rather the "distorted mirror" of their own cultures, distorting their pictures of themselves, determining their self-identification and making the acculturation process difficult.


The Influence of Results


The situation of the women-refugees is a unique one in many respects. They possess the enormous integration potential and social capital, which is usually depreciated. In my opinion, if they have the appropriate support, they are able to participate actively in social life. I hope that the proposed research will help to find the answers to many essential questions concerning the women-refugees' adaptation difficulties, their causes and the possibilities of improving the conditions, they live in. The research results will enable to undertake the specific integration actions dedicated to the exiles' environment; this will act counter to their isolation and conflicting relations with the representatives of the receiving society, which more and more often appear in Poland (likewise in the Western Europe countries).
The proposed research studies are innovative, because of their interdisciplinary character, social importance and the possibility of practical application of research results in the education, training and administration sector. I see the crucial character of the project in the fact that the knowledge of the unique situation of women-refugees is really insufficient in our country.
The final result of the project beyond the monograph, articles and presentations at conferences provide practical application of research findings by workers of institution helping foreigners, employees refugee centers, teachers, etc. I also plan to prepare and conduct training for employees of non-governmental organizations on the situation of refugees in Poland, their adaptation difficulties and opportunities to help them. Moreover, the effects of my research may be used in the future to undertake the study on the same problem but in some other contexts, which, in turn, is important for European integration being realized.


The research Method


In order to realize the research, I plan to use ethnographic methods (interviews, participating observation), audiovisual methods (the analysis of photographic and video material) and psychological methods (the basic hope test Questionnaire BHI-12).
I will analyse in great detail the "linguistic self-picture" of the women-refugees, its influence on the way their new identity in the new conditions is being constructed, as well as their cultural adaptation. I use for the analysis the synthetic narrative and discursive approach (S. Taylor, N. Edley, M. Wetherell); I refer to the theoretical and methodological assumptions made within culture anthropology, sociology and social psychology, e.g. to "social mirrors" theory (Ch. Withehead), „looking glass self" theory (F. Znaniecki, Ch. Cooley), shared discursive resources and interpretative repertoires (J. Bruner, N. Edley), the notion of problematic identities (M. Wetherell, M. Fricker), self-perception theory (N. Goldstein, R. Cialdini), linguistic picture of the world (L. Wittgenstein, B. L. Whorf, A. Wierzbicka, J. Bartmiński) as wel as to social interactionism (E. Goffman).