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A border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman’s Journey is about understanding one’s identity in the context of their environment. It’s important to note that Ahmed experiences varying identities as well as varying degrees of identity throughout her life. Often one does not consider the fact that identity can have varying degrees. Identity is seen as a label, a word; it’s discrete, not a gradient. But Ahmed communicates, using herself as a case, that one’s self-defined identity is blank at birth, and it’s the environment into which one is born, and more accurately what aspects of that environment one is exposed to, that is responsible for the original and subsequent formations of self-defined or introspective identity. This notion that one’s identity can be, and likely is, affected by their environment is important to understand in the study of history because accurately interpreting the actions of individuals based on motives involves understanding their perception of their surroundings, which is dependent on their identity. The two, that is, environment and identity, live in a sort of symbiosis (mutual dependence), so such a task can be difficult. On a more reader-personal level, Ahmed’s story also stimulates reader introspection: it forces the reader to question the extent to which their self-defined identity is a product of their environment and try to recall a time when their identity was different from what it is now. The alienation described by Ahmed when she is in Cambridge highlights the fact that intellectualism does not preclude the possibility of discrimination (that is, the acknowledgement of differences among people, not necessarily the maltreatment as a consequence of such an acknowledgement). Ahmed makes the point that while this discrimination does not result in maltreatment, it still does instill an unnecessary, uneasy feeling of displacement that prevents seamless comfortable acclimation. This all boils down essentially to the point: identity can lead to marginalization.


What are the advantages of identity? Do they counterbalance this possibility of marginalization?

Is Ahmed’s primary intent to bring attention to the importance of considering how one’s environment impacts their identity from a historical point of view or a personal point of view?