«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
The previous chapters showed that the vast majority of the young British Indians enjoys Indian cultures. Also, in contrast to previous studies, the respondents enjoy wearing traditional dress. Particularly, in the temple, religious and community activities many young Indians wore traditional dress or a combination of western and eastern styles. This again
implies an affirmation of Indianness as clothes express ethnicity and identity (Gillespie 1995:
178). It would further be interesting to consider the importance of the British Asian youth culture which developed in the 1980s with Bhangra music and films. Unfortunately, a Frübing, 81 detailed research and analysis about this topic could not be done in the limited scope of this work.
Britain, Britishness and the British society All the teenagers are very positive about their country of birth, apart from Pradeep. They particularly value the multiculturalism, open-mindedness and democratic structure of Britain and its society. Their answers to the question “What do you particularly like about Britain?” were very much influenced by their personal experiences. The younger interviewees valued the amount of activities and freedom the British society offers to young people for their free-time. In addition, the two Tamil boys valued freedom of speech and the rule of law. In comparison to other places in the world Veeran particularly acknowledged the comfortable life in a “rich nation” such as Britain with its welfare and educational system. Such an awareness of freedoms, lawfulness and social needs is untypical for a teenager of sixteen. It shows that they have made different experiences in their homelands and overtake their parents’ or grandparents’ views about that. Surely, the conflicting and unstable political situation in Sri Lanka influences their positions.
Ranjitham, who lacks a connection to her country of origin, concentrates on her personal
experiences in London when stating:
I really like just generally the open-mindedness of the people, of British people in particular. *…+ We’re such a multicultural country; we’ve got all kinds of life, all backgrounds of people in this one place, particularly in London. I mean within London it’s huge array of religions and cultures and it’s really nice because in some ways it gives you an opportunity to learn about other people’s cultures, learn about other people’s religions and just become less ignorant *…+ I think that’s something you don’t necessarily find in other countries, that sense of freedom… (Ranjitham) Her views were contrary to Pradeep’s who is much more critical about the openness of the
… So there is nothing really which binds me to Britain, *…+ But I mean the one thing that I used to appreciate was that London was so cosmopolitan. But I’d been doing a lot of studies in kind of like anthropology, sociology and actually understanding how the culture works... So what *…+ appeared cosmopolitan on the outside – like *…+ London it’s most divers in the world even more so like New York – *…+ in fact then is not. The expression of culture isn’t as divers as the make-up of the people. In Frübing, 82 fact, there is only one culture which is kind of sense-gratification, money-making.
There is no real like distinct cultural expressions here. So they may look different but in fact everyone is the same culturally. I used to really think that multiculturalism was something I liked about London, maybe not about Britain, but about London. But even having seen that that’s only surface-deep, it’s very superficial. (Pradeep) With his observations Pradeep challenges theories on the city and metropolis. Chambers describes the metropolis as place of diversity, hybridity and heterogeneity in which customary boundaries and dualities collapse and create new transitory structures (Bronfen 1997: 17, Chambers 1994: 14, Rapport 2006: 185). In particular, Pradeep contests the idea of mixture and merging of diverse cultural forms which Rapport describes. He denies the creolisation of cultures and people through “reciprocal” and “dialogic exchange” in the metropolis (Rapport 2006: 186, 188). The exchange takes place but remains at the surface of cultural expressions. Instead only one culture remains: that of finance and commerce. These thoughts need further consideration. I will go into more detail on this matter when talking about racism and discrimination. Pradeep’s insight and criticism is not only enabled by his studies but was probably sparked through his strong attachment to ISKCON and the Hindu religion. He rejects the capitalist and materialist structures of the British society which impede the concentration on the non-material world of Hindu enlightenment.
Integration into the society The third generation of British Indians is very well integrated into the society. We have already seen that they also feel British, despite their strong affirmation of Indian culture and heritage. The second and third generation of a diasporic community always has greater possibilities for integration because they have acquired language, habitus and contacts in the school system. However, integration is again influenced by a number of aspects. This means that in the following generations a greater degree of integration is likely but not automatically provided (Esser 1990: 76, 78, 99-100). Such factors are the interaction with individuals from the majority society, racism and discrimination among others.
For British Indian Hindus in London integration has been successful in all the four fields Esser distinguishes. British Indians in west London are quite well-off in comparison to other ethnic groups. They speak English and identify with the British nation-state. Indian children are doing well in the British school system because they are determined to succeed. Families see Frübing, 83 education as one of the main goals and possibilities to improve as I have pointed out before.
Hence, education plays a central role in the lives of the teenagers. At least half of the interviewees went to public schools and their parents further encouraged their education.
Education is the most important thing for us coz [parents ] are so obsessive about education coz in India education is your wealth and when they came over here as well the only people who survived in this country were the people who’d education.
If you didn’t have education, you couldn’t like get anywhere here. So like everyone Tamil children always joke that Tamil parents’re obsessed with tuition. It’s like I have Math tuition, French tuition, Science tuition, everyday of the week I have tuition. *…+ (Veeran) Despite lamenting about the amount of tuition, Veeran and Ravanan take pride in their community’s educational and professional attainment in Britain. The national statistics confirm these observations: Indians are getting better GCSE results than all other ethnic groups apart from the Chinese (National Statistics: 2006). Consequently, British Indians have successfully integrated in educational and professional structures.
Furthermore, there is no ghettoization in London. Young British Indians grow up in ethnically mixed areas providing social integration. Agreement on questions concerning mixture was high confirming Ghuman’s findings on the topic (Ghuman 1994: 119, Ghuman 1991: 130). All interviewees enjoyed mixing with other ethnic groups.
I mean in my friends it was more because we played sports; so I had Indian friends but it wasn’t because they were Indian. I mean I got my friends because we played Rugby; we went out to the same kind of places. So yeah I had, Jewish friends, white friends, Indian friends, black friends, Greek friends, like pretty much everything, you know. (Pradeep) Thus, in general peer groups are ethnically mixed. The three Tamil respondents however experienced ethnic concentration in school. Veeran and Ranjitham went to Tiffin and Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston upon Thames, at which about half of the pupil’s population belongs to ethnic minorities, particularly Tamils (Ofsted Reports).
When I went to secondary school it was a huge difference, it was predominantly Asians, in fact predominantly Sri Lankan Tamils. I kind of grew up my teenage years being surrounded by girls *…+ of just Sri Lankan Tamils. *…+ In some ways it was nice coming to school, talking about temple or whatever religious culture … (Ranjitham) Frübing, 84 But in my experience in school *…+ everyone is very multicultural in my year. In some classes there are more Africans or Asians. In my old class there’re more Tamil people than whites in the whole class. (Veeran) Mixture is generally considered as normal. Therefore, the statement “I would like to have more white friends” did not make sense to the questioned teenagers. Some commented that they had enough white friends. The youngsters disagreed that ethnic concentration would be good for their community. Particularly, among the Brent sample there was a high willingness to expand interethnic relations. In comparison, people in the sampradayas hesitated about further mixture. This confirms the results about common interests with the English. However, among the Sai Baba sample the majority was uncertain about the question of cultural mixture (Appendix 6.10). On the one hand the youngsters enjoy cultural mixture but on the other they feel comfortable in their close ethnic community which is even continued in the schools. Further, the stronger concentration on cultural heritage and religion among the sampradayas plays a role. But for the youngsters affiliated to ISKCON the situation is different than among the Tamil community of the Sai Baba Centre in Merton because ISKCON is ethnically mixed. There young people know that the survival of their religion and cultural heritage is not endangered by interethnic relations.
Interestingly, the majority of teenagers enjoyed to have many Asian families in the neighbourhood despite interethnic relationships and mixture. Being predominantly populated by people originating from the Indian subcontinent, especially the Brent sample and the ISKCON sample affirmed this. Thus, the third generation of Indians in Britain still enjoys living in their ethnic group, as Peter Smith also confirmed. Both Ranjitham and Veeran explained that although their friends were mixed, they were particularly close to Tamil friends because they shared the same family and cultural background. Of course, this depends on the individual’s affiliation to Indian culture and Hindu religion.
Racism and discrimination Experiences of racism42 and discrimination have a great influence in all aspects of life making integration into the society which discriminates impossible. An ethnic community which is discriminated against closes itself against the rest of the society in order to protect itself. The consequence is marginalization which often leads to alienation from the majority and radicalization, essentialism or even fundamentalist movements within the ethnic community (Bhatti 1999: 4, 242, Ghuman 1994: 136). Further, the young people’s sense of belonging is Frübing, 85 problematized through racism and discrimination because they encounter exclusion from the society of which they feel part (Gillespie 1995: 110).
Britain’s history of immigration is marked by racism and discrimination which culminated in open racial conflict in the 1980s. While in general racism and discrimination against coloured people has decreased thanks to Race Relations Legislation and campaigning, discrimination and racism are far from non-existent in the British society. In addition, a new form of collective antipathy has developed and become very influential since 9/11: Islamophobia (Modood 1997: 358, Mukadam 2006: 111). At first glance Islamophobia was expected not to become a topic in this study but it turned out that young British Indian Hindus were also affected by this new form of culturally motivated racism. Still, daily experience of racism and discrimination particularly at British schools, which has been described by researchers in the
past, no longer determine the lives of the third generation of Indians in London (Bhatti 1999:
109, 170-174, Anwar 1998: 37-38, Ghuman 1994: 65-66).