Polka Dancing and Poppyseed Kolache: How Czech Families View Their Ethnic Identity

Date of Graduation

Spring 2004


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Charlene Berquist


Although many immigrants from Europe came to the United States over a century ago, ethnicity still plays a large role in the lives of European Americans. The family system is a vehicle that reinforces and transmits our beliefs, values, and behaviors, which are influenced by our ethnicity. Two ways in which family members communicate their meaning of ethnicity is through stories and rituals; thus, the purpose of this study was to explore how different generations of family members view their ethnicity and to explore intergenerational transmission within one specific culture, the Czech culture. Systems theory and symbolic interactionism provided a solid framework for looking at intergenerational transmission of ethnic identity. Twenty-nine individuals of first, second, third, and fourth generation Czech immigrants were interviewed using an in-depth interview structure. Themes that emerged from the data include Music, Food, Naming, Language, Preserving Cultural Heritage, Pride, Better LIfe, Sense of Family, Connection to Culture, and Awareness of Culture, all of which support the research questions addressed. Data showed that Czech immigrants still maintain their ethnicity, however, each generation of immigrant views their ethnic identity differently.


ethnicity, identity, intergenerational transmission, family, rituals, stories

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© Kai M. Janovsky