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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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In the questionnaire the teenagers were ask about their opinion on the statement: “I feel rather British than Indian.” About half of the teenagers disagreed while the rest were to Frübing, 76 equal parts unsure or agreed. Considering these results in more detail several correlations can be confirmed. First, girls are more likely to feel Indian than British. This hints at the preserving role of women in Indian culture. Girls spend more time with the family and in the community because they grow up more protected than boys. At the temples girls participate more actively. Girls are generally more encouraged to join in traditional and religious activities rather than spending their time with peers. Furthermore, girls suffer more than boys from conflicting sets of values and norms particularly concerning gender roles and sexual relationships. I have pointed that out in the previous part. Second, the results again confirm that with increasing age young people turn towards their culture of origin. All respondents over 18 years disagreed to identify themselves as Indian while the respondents under 15 felt rather British. However, there generally was a great group of respondents who ticked “undecided” which may imply that they feel as British as Indian (Appendix 6.8). They cannot decide to identify completely with one of the two cultures. This could imply the use of hyphenated identities which have been very prominent among researchers who dealt with the second generation of Indians. However, none of the interviewed youngsters accepted a hyphenated identity despite feeling both Indian and British.

Interviewer: Do you feel rather Indian or rather British?

Sheela: both *…+ coz *…+ when you are here you do a lot of British stuff like celebrate Christmas and stuff. And then with your family you celebrate like Diwali and other stuff, as well. *…+ Vikram: I feel both because my parents *…+ and relatives they are more Indians and therefore, both *…+ Interviewer: *…+ If someone would ask you what are you? If you, like, had to identify yourself, what would you say?

Madayanti: Indian Rajesh: Indian Interviewer: *…+ So, you wouldn’t say I’m British Indian or I’m British Hindu or something, you wouldn’t say that?

Madayanti: No.

Sheela: No, I just say Indian.

The identification with India was quite surprising as all four were more in favour of western values and habits. Further, there is a contradiction between feeling attached to both cultures but only identifying with their Indianness. It has to be kept in mind that identity is a Frübing, 77 very flexible concept that is constantly changing according to situation. Thus, constructing the situation of being ask for their identity in Britain, may imply their Britishness as logical. It does not need special mentioning. If I had asked them in India, they would have answered differently probably focusing on their British background. Other interviewees confirm that their Indian origin has a greater significance for their identification.

Ravanan: Sri Lankan *…+ I’d say my ethnic origin is from Sri Lanka but my nationality is British.

Veeran: Yeah, I’m a British citizen but I’m Tamil. I speak the language, I follow the religion, I’m brown-skinned. So, everything about me is Tamil but that doesn’t mean I live in a Tamil place and go to school with Tamil people. I live here but I still think I’m Tamil coz like outside the school everything I do is with like my community a whole lot of things. So I’m Tamil, yeah.

Veeran‘s statement implies that the distinctiveness from “western white English” is so important that it does not allow them to identify with it seriously. Still, they feel British in the sense of nationality and citizenship. In Veeran’s argument the idea of diaspora is present. He detaches the idea of being Tamil from Sri Lanka and South India being aware of the world-wide Tamil diaspora. Veeran comes from a diasporic family as already mentioned.

In the diaspora identity becomes disconnected from place and attached to customs, belief and way of life. He indicates that diasporic individuals can choose how to live and with whom to identify. Interestingly, he was the only respondent who implied race awareness in the discussion of identity. In stating to be “brown-skinned” he differentiates himself from the white majority and from the black communities. Furthermore, he defines himself as Tamil on the basis of language and religion. Although none of the youngsters would identify himself as Hindu, religion appeared to be a very important reason for identification with the ethnic group. It was also used in order to distinguish oneself from other South Asian religious communities. Apart from the teenagers interviewed at the Dudden Hill Centre Veeran was also the only one who explained his identification on the basis of language. I have already mentioned that most youngsters have only limited command of their communities’ language.

Language, religion and skin colour are traditional factors for identification. However, the diaspora also produced new factors for identifications and new differentiations within ethnic groups. Peter Smith informed me that young British Indians in Brent feel superior to those who have recently arrived in Britain. These are called “freshies”. Though these feelings are Frübing, 78 usually only mentioned as a joke, they mirror existing feelings. Further, young people in Brent differentiate themselves from British Indians in other parts of London. I was repeatedly advised to visit Southall in order see a different Indian community. This shows that identifying as Indian does not include the identification with the whole Indian community in Britain. Further, it again illustrates the flexibility of social and personal identities.

The various factors that influence identity are the result of all the influences and experiences of the individual as well as his or her values, opinions and affiliations. Not only age, gender, family, skin colour, religion and discrimination play a role. Connections to the homeland like a “myth of return”, contacts to relatives and visits to the subcontinent affect identity as much as the interaction with the own and other communities in Britain. Interestingly, Ranjitham was the only interviewee to identify rather with Britain than with her cultural


I think I’d say I feel more British than Sri Lankan, having been born in this county, been brought up in this country. But I feel that despite being British I still keep in touch with my religion and my culture… (Ranjitham) Ranjitham feels very attached to Britain. She has no relatives in India or Sri Lanka, and her family is very open-minded. Her accounts of life in London are overwhelmingly positive as we shall see in the following paragraphs. Although being very attached to her religion and culture of origin as well as to certain values, she is very acculturated to British life. This has become obvious in her opinions on marriage and courtship. Nevertheless, she wants to pass the Indian tradition on. She has found a way to incorporate her religion and its norms into her western life. The great degree of acculturation is probably influenced by the lack of family connections to the homeland and her parent’s open-mindedness and acculturation. In comparison to Veeran who also does not have relatives in India or Sri Lanka, her identification is completely different. This shows that mechanisms of identity as well as ethnic and cultural orientation are very complex. In order to discuss these correlations in full detail more research is necessary.

In conclusion, it is obvious that all youngsters hold bicultural identities though they would not use hyphenated identity markers. Almost nobody in the survey identified him or herself on the basis of religion. For Sri Lankans national affiliation remained important. They were very conscious of being Tamil and Sri Lankan, terms they used synonymously. New Frübing, 79 distinctions influence the youngster’s identities as they situate themselves in London’s cosmopolitan boroughs.

Cultural preferences Which culture dominates in the lives of the teenagers? What do they particularly like about living in Britain? Or what aspects of Indian cultures do they prefer? The answers to these questions do not only give information about cultural preferences but also tell us about the youngsters’ general interest and adherence to one of their cultures. I hypothesized that the youngsters are assimilated to English culture and only maintain Indianness in the context of family and community. However, the results which have already been presented indicate that this could not be proved. On the contrary, the young people are very interested in their culture and heritage. They are keen to maintain their heritage culture knowing that they need to practice their cultural habits in order to maintain them. They generally enjoy aspects of their culture. However, they do not exclude English cultural items from their lives as they do not consider them as competition. In contrast, they enjoy both cultures and their products picking according to situation.

*…+ I’d watch a Bollywood film with my Indian friends and then I’d watch a Hollywood film with my English friends and that’s the only difference. But aside that we’d go about doing things the normal way … (Ranjitham) Hence, questions concerning cultural habits hardly presented clear data in the questionnaires; rather there were numerous contradictions, and a great amount of people could not decide to vote in favour of one or the other culture. Particularly, preferences in film and television, the most consumed media among young people, were balanced. Nearly 40% ticked “undecided” in both questions confirming Ranjitham’s statement that cultural products from either culture are equally enjoyed. Gillespie also found that Indian teenagers in Southall have contradictory views on Indian film (Gillespie 1995: 85-86).

Furthermore, the teenagers had to state their opinion about the statement: “We have few common interests with white teenagers.” Here again differences between the samples appeared. Particularly, among the Sai Baba sample agreement on the statement was high. In contrast, among the Brent sample the majority disagreed with the comment. Among the Pandava Senas opinions differed significantly. While a slight majority disagreed to the statement, insecurity was high. These findings demonstrate the influence of a close ethnic community and a strong affiliation with it (Appendix 6.9). The Sai Baba Centre is almost Frübing, 80 exclusively Tamil. The Shree Ganapathy temple and its regulars, particularly in the adhered Sai Baba Centre, form a close community in which many families know each other. With its vivid cultural and spiritual life the Sai Baba Centre in Merton offers a great amount of activities not only to young people but also to the whole family. Temple activities do not only take place at the weekends so that the young people spent a lot of time in the centre.

This differentiates their interests and activities from those of their white peers. They are very aware and proud of these differences. This also showed in the interviews when talking about family values and norms. Further, religious activity was considered to be a significant difference between Indian and white British teenagers. Nevertheless, these differences in interests and habits do not hinder integration and social mixture.

Teenagers in the Brent and ISKCON sample are to a lesser extent part of such a close community. Especially, the Brent sample feels closely connected to their white peers. In general, everyone underlined the great degree of mixture in London schools and peer groups. Indeed, observing groups of teenagers on London’s streets, they are often mixed.

Veeran explains:

…There’re some things you share with Tamil people that you not share with other people but at the same time you could say you hang out with someone coz they’re in that same sports team or coz you play violin with them or something like that. So it’s about common interests but also common culture. (Veeran) Interestingly, the question on common interests seems to have no connection to the youngsters’ identification. Logically, it was expected that those who feel rather British also state to have common interests with white teenagers. But the data from the questionnaire ascertains that there is no correlation between the items on common interests with British teenagers and identification as British. This hints to an understanding of Britain and Britishness which I will consider in the following paragraph.

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