A heuristic study on successful Ethiopian refugees in British Columbia : identity and the role of community




Cheboud, Elias Assefa

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This is a heuristic study about successful Ethiopian refugees in British Columbia. Heuristic research is another building block of phenomenological inquiry; it permits the researcher to discover his/her lived-experience within the phenomena. This research explores and discovers the lived-experiences of participants as articulated feelings and views on their sense of identity. Each participant's stories stand for the realities of who they are and how they made the transition of reconstructing their identity as a means of assimilating into Canadian society. Furthermore, their stories describe the patterns and processes of negotiation and re-negotiation of their identity in order to become successful in their new social environment. This research highlights ten participants' processes of adapting into a new environment, reconstructing their identity, and embracing change. Although the explored experiences represent only those who made a successful transition and reached a high degree of adaptation and assimilation in Canadian society, the results of this study provide a deeper understanding of Ethiopians in general, the integral role of culture, and its influence on individual identity to most immigrants. The study provides imperative information, as told by Ethiopians, to community, practitioners, professionals, and scholars as well as adds new knowledge about the complexity of Ethiopian immigrants' stories as no one had asked them before this study. The study found that participants whose tribal background was considered to be of a minority and experienced oppression and discrimination by the dominant tribe in Ethiopia, coped well with reconstruction of identity as well as with barriers in the Western world. Those who were rooted from the dominant tribe in Ethiopia, experienced adaptation and assimilation in the Western world difficult and at times intolerable. Similarly, the individual definitions of success and failure are associated with the strength of, or in-depth knowledge of one's sources of identity and the degree of connectedness and interdependency. The findings are comparable to explanations of identity patterns (individual, cultural, social, and political) found in similar studies of immigrants or refugees. However, one may notice that none of the participants in this study were from the same tribe and each participant's experiences and meanings either in Ethiopia or Canada are different. Nonetheless, the general sense of identity, roles, and influences of community found in this study validated the explanations and definitions posited in the literature (i.e., associated factors for self definition as well as influences on social and cultural identity). Furthermore, the extracted meanings also have confirmed sources of identity as being congruent to the adopted theory of this research as it linked to their roots, exposure to diversity, and creativeness not only in determining their skills of accepting or rejecting their new social, cultural, and economic values, but also allowing them to select (filter) values and beliefs that are desirable to become a member of the community in their new country.



Ethiopians, British Columbia, Refugees, Ethiopia