Volume 20 Thirty-Five Years of CRIL
Graduate Working Papers

Narrative and Identity Construction among Ethiopian Immigrants

Weldu M. Weldeyesus
University of Colorado Boulder


  • narrative, identity

How to Cite

Weldeyesus, W. M. (2007). Narrative and Identity Construction among Ethiopian Immigrants. Colorado Research in Linguistics, 20. https://doi.org/10.25810/f4kj-bz84


The main objective of this study is to analyze narratives by Ethiopian immigrants in the Denver metropolitan area, as they share their immigrant experiences while attempting to integrate into the host culture. More specifically, this paper attempts to see how Ethiopian immigrants use narrative as a vehicle for constructing their identity as mainstream citizens in the United States. Focusing on the issue of language socialization, this study investigates the contrast between a former and a current self exhibited in the narratives and describes the sources of the disparity between these two identity positionings. Two main issues are addressed. The first is constructing the current self as a more socialized individual, in contrast with the former-self, representing a less socialized one characterized by linguistic insecurity, nostalgia, and lower self-esteem, among other things. This is exhibited through humorous recall, laughter, code-switching, and at times explicitly stating how one is different currently from who she/he was earlier. The second is the identity that less socialized immigrants construct through negotiation with more socialized immigrants or citizens of the host country making narrative a collaborative enterprise. Constructed around linguistic disfluency, these narratives work to project a more assimilated self who is fluent and capable both linguistically culturally.