Reconstructing identities in Australia: Iraqi Muslim women's pursuit of cultural, social and economic capital

Seham Shwayli, Melissa Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


With almost 70,000 Iraqi migrants living in Australia (Australian Department of Immigrant and Citizenship, 2014), many migrants, particularly, females, have chosen to enrol in English language centres as a way to pursue cultural and social capital. Using a narrative case study approach, this study documents the lived experiences of five Iraqi Muslim female refugees studying English in a language centre in Melbourne, Australia. As these women invest in language learning (Norton, 1995) in order to acquire cultural, social and economic capital (Bourdieu, 1977), they reconstruct their identities. The study found that the women were largely invested in studying English due to their previous success in learning English in Iraq and their awareness of the cultural capital that accompanies this achievement. In addition, this study reveals the tensions between language and identity construction as these women pursue acceptance and belonging in their new society while attempting not to devalue their Iraqi culture and Arabic language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

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