Old Dreams, New Realities: Symbolic Capital and Identity Development Among DR Congo Migrants

Immigrants and refugees from the Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo represent one of the largest migrant groups coming to the U.S. Yet little has been written about this unique group of migrants, particularly regarding their experiences of identity development and cultural integration. Therefore, this paper critically investigates how migrants from DR Congo conceptualize their lives in the U.S. We use notions of identity and language investment as defined by Norton as well as Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural, social, and linguistic capital to analyze interview data from 15 migrants currently living in a small community in the Midwest. Using the tools of qualitative data analysis we argue that while DR Congo migrants believe acquiring various forms of capital will help them achieve their imagined identities, their new experiences are burdened with unforeseen obstacles, both obvious and hidden, which impede the process of integration into U.S. society.