Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Gregory Larson

Commitee Members

Joel Iverson, Udo Fluck


communication studies, culture, discourse, diverse organizations, identity, organizational communication


University of Montana


This study examined the relationship between discourse, identity and culture within the diverse membership of the Muslim Students Association, University of Montana. Previous organizational identity research has discussed how identity is fluid, how identity regulation occurs between the organization and membership, and that identity is formed through discourses. Additionally, the literature also shows us how these identity influencing discourses are themselves influenced by culture. This study expands the literature through an exploration of the identity formation of organizational members who share Islam as a religion within a culturally diverse MSA. This study utilizes a poststructuralist lens to explore the discursive identity formation of MSA members in the University of Montana within a diverse setting of multiple cultures and nationalities represented. The research questions for this study were explored using interview data and participant observation data which were collected over the course of six months. A total of 15 participants were involved in the interviews including organizational leaders and regular members while the participant observation involved members present during two organizational events. Results indicated that MSA members viewed and communicated differently between groups outside of the organization and with each other. Results centering on how members viewed and communicated with others show that members conduct themselves under the assumption of a perceived negativity towards the membership. Members also balanced the different expectations between their own religion/cultures and American society. The results focused on how members communicated with each other presented how members emphasized the primacy of religious identity, downplayed diversity within the organization when it came to religious practices, and coped with undesirable differences by framing involvement as temporary and by utilizing national/cultural peer groups. This study expands on the current literature in a few ways. First, the notion of identity as fluid in nature and multifaceted was examined within the context of the study. Current Western-postmodern interpretations of identity were problematized considering the singular nature of the identities represented within the MSA. Second, the study looked at how organizational identity is largely defined by how members balance the tensions that exist between the various influences they draw from. The results of balancing tensions shape the organizational identities of members and in this section. Finally, a potential shortcoming of the current culture-in-context approach to explaining cultural communication is examined as I consider the examples of members being non-negotiable with their practices. With these contributions the study extends and complicates the ways in which we consider the literature on identity, discourse, and culture



© Copyright 2010 Burhanuddin Bin Omar