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«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»

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Veeran: There are now but… Veeran: …and you do find boys and girls… Veeran: No, well… Ravanan: What?! Oh… (He rolls his eyes) Veeran: Now it’s more westernized than ever before but if you go there, it’s really not like here: *…+ like people don’t get married by going out… Nevertheless, both agree on the educating effects that visits to the subcontinent have.35 All other interviewees also confirmed the “touching-on-the-roots” effect of a trip to India. Thus, regular visits to the subcontinent strengthen cultural affiliation, ethnic identity and religious belief. They provide explanations, orientation and understanding of one’s heritage. This is also influenced by the fact that nobody in the study has negative memories of the subcontinent apart from minor troubles with mosquitoes and illnesses. There have been no accounts of cultural shock, which were described in the literature (Gardener 1994: 156).

Hence, willingness to visit India and even to stay for a longer period of time was high. The idea to stay for a year has found a slight majority among the youngsters who filled out the questionnaire. But, again there are significant differences between the samples. The teenagers in the Sathya Sai Baba sample are most willing to spend time abroad. More than 60% agreed that they would like to spend a year on the subcontinent. Among the ISKCON sample more than half were unsure about such an idea. However, refusal to the idea is as low as among the Sai Baba youth. Among the Brent sample rejection is much higher. Still, a majority remains willing to spend a year in India. This indicates that interest in India is very high and teenagers would like to spend a longer period of time on the subcontinent (Appendix 6.4).

The particularly strong connection young people in the Sai Baba movement have to India can be explained though their special spiritual relation to the country. Sai Baba lives in southern India and families regularly pilgrimage there in order to see him. Children obviously enjoy these visits. Life in the ashram and youth programmes such as youth conferences give teenagers a real perspective for spending time there.

Because I go and see my guru, most of the time I stay in the ashram, so there is no need for me to have no family or have friends. *…+ For me I find it quite convenient coz *…+ everything’s provided… (Ranjitham) Frübing, 59 To know and to have such provisions may play a role. Travels to India for reasons of pilgrimage are not as common in the Hare Krishna Movement. Although the movement also has important centres in India, well-known devotees travel the world visiting and lecturing at temples.

Furthermore, all youngsters in the Sai Baba sample were of Tamil origin; their parents and grandparents have come directly from Sri Lanka. Consequently, the memory of the home country is more vivid as we have seen with Ravanan and Veeran. In contrast, more than half of the adolescents in the ISKCON sample have their roots in East Africa. Therefore, memories of life in India are older and less vivid. However, as the close spiritual affiliation to India remains, many are undecided on the question. In contrast to the sampradayas the percentage of those who reject spending a longer period of time in India is much higher in the Brent sample. While rejection is lower than 10% among the sampradaya samples, it amounts to 35% in the Brent sample. Nevertheless, here a slight majority also favoured the idea to spend a year in India. Unfortunately, the sample was too small in order to confirm further factors that influence the willingness to spend more time in India. More research needs to be done on this matter. In general, however the results confirm Buddhdev Pandya’s statement: “The attraction of India still remains.” Following, the teenagers have been asked in the questionnaire whether they would prefer to spend their holiday somewhere else. Surprisingly, the teenagers answered contrary to the question before. From the data presented so far one would expect that they would like to spend their holidays in India, but the majority would rather go somewhere else on holiday.

For the Sai Baba sample agreement was particularly high. Here it is likely that they would favour Sri Lanka as their holiday destination. In the Brent sample 45% agree that they liked to spend their holiday elsewhere while 20% disagree. However, a great number of respondents ticked “undecided” indicating that the question is not very appropriate. They may feel that they cannot influence their family’s decision about the holiday destination; or the teenagers may have never considered the choice. It has to be kept in mind that Indian families generally have a more authoritarian structure than western families. Here also divided loyalties may play a role. They cannot decide between India and traditional English holiday destinations like Spain and France. In summary, though uncertainties remain, it has become clear that the British Indians in the third generation have a strong interest in their homeland. The teenagers feel very attached to their country of origin, up to adhering to idealizations and romantisations of diasporic nostalgia. Visits to India or Sri Lanka have a Frübing, 60 strong influence on the youngster’s identity as they learn about their heritage culture, way of life and religion in its original place, where Indian cultures are not in a minority position and do not have to adapt to a predominating culture. Thus, visiting India makes them discover their roots, which has a stabilizing influence on identification with one’s subcontinental ethnicity and one’s ethnic identity.


Caste awareness and caste identity are considered to be indicators of retention of Indian norms and values. Several authors have mentioned that caste does not function in Britain.

Consequently, it was expected to decline and loose significance with generation.

Theoretically, all teenagers have the same chances in the British society and school system.

Further, through the process of migration and through adaption to the Britain society, the caste system got confused and has lost its function (Gillespie 1995: 32). However, Vertovec shows that although caste cannot govern social, economic and ritual relations in Britain anymore, caste awareness and identification still play a considerable role concerning social networks, marriages and status (Vertovec 2000: 92, 136). Castes and sub-castes have created caste associations and organizations in Britain which defend their interests. Some of these also have youth wrings (Ghuman 1994: 208-210). Further, some castes set up their own temples and community centres. Particularly, marriages are still arranged on the basis of caste in some families. Some castes show more caste awareness than others. Thus, in how far caste matters influence the lives and attitudes of teenagers, depends on the caste and sub-caste their families belong to. Earlier research indicates that caste awareness is maintained particularly in the lower and higher castes. Some castes of lower status maintain caste solidarity as a shield against abuse from higher castes and as a consequence of double exclusion: from the British majority and from the ethnic community for being untouchable (Nesbitt 1994: 127, 137-138). In contrast, higher castes try to maintain their social status and their influence over the Indian communities in Britain (Vertovec 2000: 136). This was proven

by my study. Particularly, Ravanan and Pradeep explicitly described their high descent:

I trace my family tree back lots of generations, so my great granddad’s great grandmother was a queen of a certain kingdom in *…+ my homeland except when the English came and invaded, you know, we lost everything. (Ravanan) While indicating his family’s high status, Ravanan is criticizing English imperialism. Though a certain degree of exaggeration may be present here, the tracing-back of the genealogical Frübing, 61 tree aims to prove pureness of caste and status. He obviously takes pride in his lineage as this is his first comment on the question of caste. Pradeep articulated similar views. Knowing that the caste system is viewed critically in the West and that the high castes are in the position to change the system, he first focuses on his family’s commitment to social change before going into detail on their exclusiveness.

…My family is very limber; *…+ they would never treat someone badly because of whatever caste he is. In fact, *…+ my grandmother’s father was a great man within his village for pioneering better caste relations. I’m from a very high caste, from Rajput caste, which is a very high caste, but *…+ he was a pioneer for that. But even still, I mean my mother was the first person … – you can trace my family lineage back for at least two thousand years on record and that’s even on paper, the boli36 goes even further back. But my mother was the first person to have married not only outside of caste but also outside of country. *…+ My grandmother was a little bit unhappy and even though I am not even fully Rajput she’d still – if I got married – *…+ want me to marry Rajput (laughs) girl. So, in a way, caste system still does have an impact on me but in Britain it’s not so much emphasized, you know, unless you are from a higher caste. If you are from a higher caste, you keep it. If you are from a lower caste, then everyone forgets. (laughs) (Pradeep) The questionnaires also confirmed that caste awareness generally continues in the third generation. The youngsters know which caste they belong to. This may create a caste identity or consciousness, as with Pradeep and Ravanan. Again however, there were great differences between the samples. This time the differences illustrate that caste has a smaller significance in Sri Lanka (Appendix 6.5). Therefore, it does not have any implications for some youngsters, like for Ranjitham and Veeran. For others caste suddenly plays a role when it comes to marriage. Despite, showing a limited knowledge about caste, Sheela and Madayanti are aware that they are expected to marry within their caste. However, they do

not consider caste-endogamous marriage for themselves:

Interviewer: Do you know which caste you are?

Madayanti: Yes, I think we are Kutchi.

Sheela: Yeah there are a lot of different castes; you got Kutchis, Brahmins, Swaminarayan. *…+ Yes, I think I’m Kutchi.

Interviewer: And does it matter to you *…+?

Frübing, 62 Sheela: No, It matters to our parents coz when you get married *…+ some parents wish that you get married to your own caste, so that different castes do have different beliefs and stuff, as well.

Interviewer: Do you think that’s important?

Sheela: Well, I don’t feel that it’s important but my parents do.

Sheela mixes up regional, caste and religious communities. This shows that she and her friend do not know the differences and categories that characterize ethnic subgroups in their area. In summary, all interviewees confirmed that caste does not have any significance in their lives. Many also rejected to marry on the basis of caste. Hence, cultural change can be expected here despite continuing caste awareness.

Gender roles and relations

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