The Variation, Salience, and Meaning of National Identity: Understanding National Identity of Indonesian Students in American Higher Education

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Vincent Lyon-Callo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Douglas Davidson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Timothy Ready, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Mahendra Lawoti, Ph.D.


Imagined community, indonesian national identity, national identity, nationalism, social identity theory


Scientists still do not have a clear agreement on the concept of national identity and how it should be measured. However, the role of national identity and the connection to their country has been proven to affect social, political, and economic life, at the individual, national, and even international level through the history of mankind. Despite the complexity of understanding and conceptualizing national identity and nationalism, the study of national identity will be valuable to understanding the dynamics of social, political, and economic policies. This dissertation aims to investigate national identity among international students using Social Identity Theory in the attachment of their national identity under the perspective of national identity as an imagined community within a category of social identity.

This study aims to analyze the variation of salience and meanings of Indonesian national identity among Indonesian students at two selected universities in the United States. As international students, this group had experienced exposure to a variety of national identities, cultures, and systems that may contribute to their attachment to Indonesian national identity according to social identity theory. Ethnicity, religion, the duration of the study and living in the United States, gender, age, and social interaction including media access were the focus in online surveys and in-depth interviews.

The dissertation’s findings show the complexity of studying national identity, the importance of participants’ experience in the process of nation-building, Indonesian employment status, and the close connection to family and cultural elements of Indonesia in students’ perceptions of and connection to Indonesian national identity. Overall, there is no clear difference among participants in terms of salience and meaning of national identity related to the selected factors except for age and patterns of social interaction as well as media access. However, the Chinese descendants were more likely to describe nationalism as civic rather than ethnoreligious linguistic meaning, older students tend to express a higher degree of national identity salience, and being surrounded by other Indonesians as well as exposure to Indonesian news tends to strengthen nationalism.


Fifth advisor: Kevin Corder, Ph.D.

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