Półrocznik Językoznawczy Tertium/ Tertium Linguistic Journal

Vol 3, No 1 (2018)

Constructing the Hybrid Identity of the ‘Stranger’: The Case of Greek Immigrants in Canada

Rania Karachaliou, Villy Tsakona, Argiris Archakis, Angela Ralli


The aim of our study is to examine the multiple ways Greek immigrants position themselves in terms of cultural identity. Recent approaches to immigrants’ cultural identities tend to employ the concept of transnationalism to account for their hybridity and fluidity. Here, we intend to show that Georg Simmel’s ([1908] 1971) notion of the stranger is also relevant to the analysis and interpretation of such transnational identities. In this context, and drawing on positioning theory (Davies and Harré 1990), we argue that our informants mainly construct hybrid ‘stranger’ identities as both Greeks and Canadians or as feeling Greek but not when in Greece. Our data consists of 15 semi-structured interviews exploring the immigrant experiences of Greeks who migrated to Canada from the mid-1940s until the late 1970s. The analysis focuses on (a) the discursive means the informants employ to construct the hybrid identity of the ‘stranger’, and (b) the specific purposes they fulfill. It appears that hybrid self-positionings are achieved via the use of (a) the discourses of ‘being’ and ‘feeling’, (b) the disclaimer I am/feel Greek but…, (c) metaphors, (d) small stories, (e) the evaluative phrase this is difficult to answer…, and (f) repair mechanisms. We also argue that, via constructing ‘stranger’ identities, the immigrants of our data claim Greekness, on the one hand, and legitimize themselves as Canadian citizens on the other, while also distancing themselves from the Greeks living in Greece and the respective negative stereotypes.



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