The process of acculturation among Suroye (also known as Arameans, Assyrians, or Syriac Orthodox) in Sweden provides the larger framework for my dissertation. The focus is on how this process affects the meaning-making patterns of values, attitudes, beliefs, and practices among three generations of Suroye. This topic is further developed in the study of meaning-making among the three generations. Attention to investigation of a meaning-making process is placed in the context of the participants’ social relations, identification, and religious or other belief systems. Special focus is placed on the third generation. This study has used an inter-disciplinary approach. First, from the main discipline, the psychology of religion, theories of Pruyser’s approach to religion and van der Lans’ approach to meaning-making have been used. Second, from ritual theories, concepts from Bell’s approach to ritualization and Driver’s approach to communitas have been used. Third, from acculturation theories further concepts, such as multiple identities and identity development, have also been used. The character of this study has necessitated a mixed model approach. Through a sequential mixed model study design, whereby a quantitative approach was followed by a qualitative one.
The statistical results show that generation more than gender as a status variable shows statistical significance within the different categories of this study. Two different patterns of meaning-making can also be depicted along generation and gender, one with a stronger emphasis on rituals and symbols of religion and kinship, and the other with a stronger emphasis on issues of identification. Religious practices decrease among the adults and youth, while kinship affiliation is very strong among all three generations. Swedish affiliation, though from a low level, increases among the adults and youth. Religious rituals and symbols play a central role in Suroyo culture with a meaning-making function. However, in early youth the participation in religious rituals decreases, mainly due to other interests and to the political schism among the Suroye. Instead they search for an individual form of religiosity. The issue of identification among the youth is very crucial in their life development. They use several designations to identify themselves, such as Aramean, Assyrian, Suroyo, Syrian, Swedish, and immigrant, either separately or combined. These identifications can be interpreted from the perspective of practice, through the features that are characteristic for practices in general, being situational, strategic, embedded in misrecognition, and reproducing a vision of a redemptive hegemony. Within the process of acculturation, the youth strategically use the different identification patterns with the purpose of differentiating themselves from others and in order to negotiate their identity. However, at the same time as the identification patterns create a communitas with others who identify in a similar way, they also isolate them from those who identify differently. The identification patterns also legitimate a dominant hegemony by producing and mediating power relations between different groups and individuals, both within the ethnic minority group and in relation to other ethnic groups. This hegemony takes place on three levels: first, through cultural institutions that legitimize identities, such as school, family, and church, among others; second, through identity ideologies that prioritize certain interpretations, such as Aramean, Assyrian, Swedish, or immigrant; and thirdly, through linguistic/discursive descriptions of identities, which not only describe reality but also construct it, control it, and dominate it.
Acculturation, meaning-making, ritualization, religiosity, identification, mixed-model study, Suroyo, Assyrian, Aramean.