«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
Regional affiliations are maintained to a certain degree which is a consequence of the structure of the Indian diaspora; each regional group has its own temples and community centres. Further, ethnic subgroups concentrate in certain boroughs and towns. Therefore, the youth grows up in an Indian community characterized by a common origin. This also affects school populations and youth groups. The young people are thus aware of their belongingness to an ethnic subgroup seeing the differences and common grounds with other Indian ethnic subgroups. Sri Lankans were particularly proud of their origin, but also acknowledged that they shared a culture and religion with other Indian subgroups. At the same time, there is a tendency to pan-subethnic identification as Indian among the young British Indians in the diaspora. A number of teenagers acknowledged the similarities in culture, belief and lifestyle with other Indian ethnic subgroups. This depends very much on the ethnic interrelations of a person. Ravanan and Veeran who did not have so much contact to other Indian subgroups articulated pride in their sub-ethnicity. In contrast, Ranjitham and Pradeep formulated rather pan-subethnic sentiments. At university both came into contact with British Indians from other ethnic sub-groups. Pan-subethnic identification however is restricted to ethnic subgroups of Hindu religion.
Furthermore, other new boundaries are created in the diaspora. The observed groups of teenagers would not identify with the “freshies”, as the Brent youth calls those Indians who have immigrated recently to Britain. They are not considered to be part of the imagined community because they do not share the common narrative. The same applies to certain ethnic subgroups in other areas. None of the young people I talked to would identify with South Asians in Southall. Southall represented a different way of being Indian in Britain. The young people I observed distinguished themselves from the South Asian population in Southall less for their different origin but more for their lower socioeconomic position and status in Britain.
The described developments indicate that certain traditional affiliations and identities are loosing significance for the third generation. This is not only true for linguistic affiliations but also for caste identities. Though caste awareness remains particularly among those castes of high social status, it does not have any significance for the young people’s life. This confirms Frübing, 95 the observations on the second generation. The notion of caste as it has been in practice in India contradicts western ideals of equality. It has already lost its implications and praxis in the aftermath of migration.
Three influences on cultural, ethnic and personal identification could be proved: Gender, age and religion. The most important factor for cultural identity turned out to be congregational religious practice. Close attachment to a sampradaya leads to a higher affiliation to Indianness. This is not particularly fostered by religion or spiritual education but rather by the experience of belonging to a like-minded subethnic community. Religiousness and practice encourage a positive identification and ethnic pride. This was evident in ISKCON and more so in the Sai Baba sample. Here reasons of nationality, sub-ethnicity and migratory history also influence group identification.
Identities are always shifting and positional depending on the historic and social situation.
Particularly, in a multicultural and diasporic condition self-definitions are adapted and managed according to social and historical context. In contrast to the second generation the young people in the third generation deny the binary description of hyphenated identities.
Although ambiguities remain, there is no evidence of the identity crisis or conflict much accounted for the second generation. Multicultural freedom and lacking discrimination allows the third generation to take pride in their difference while they feel part of the English society at the same time. However, the young British Indians do not claim to feel British or English. It seems as if this has become natural and does not need special mentioning. They agree to be Indian but in general they are as Indian as English. This indicates that Indianness is more important to them. Hence, they differentiate between their ethnic identity which for instance is Tamil, their cultural identity which is Indian and their national identity which is British. Depending on the situation one of the three is used.
These three however do not constitute any contradictions or conflicts for the teenagers.
Interestingly, religion is not used in order to identify. It seems to have lost significance for self-definition. In conclusion, identities are no longer constructed between binaries but are becoming increasingly fragmented accepting diversity and ambiguity. But at the same time reaffirmation of Indianness and pride in their heritage plays an important role marking their roots and origin.
It has become obvious that social and historic developments in the diaspora play a role in identifications and affiliations. Hence, they also influence inter-ethnic relations. The new pride and self-definition as Indian is also based on the construction of new exclusions and Frübing, 96 inclusions. In this context it has also become clear that young South Asians in Britain do not unite under a pan-subcontinental ethnic identity. The new ethnic and subethnic boundaries show that differences and coalitions are positional and change according to context and situation as they adapt to the realities of the diaspora. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that identities detach from time and space and become “free-floating” as Hall argues. Neither, do they adhere to traditional regional and historical identities. Instead, the youngsters find a middle way which reflects their specific contemporary situation in which some differences loose significance while others gain importance. Aspects of post-diasporic life in Britain are added to selected traditional affiliations which retain significance: especially the religious community and the Indian or Sri Lankan homeland.
The results of the study demonstrate that the attraction of the Indian homeland as a place of roots remains. Particularly, the strengthening effects for personality, identity and belonging have to be underlined. It was evident that a personal experience with their country of origin gives them more security and orientation. Both, the attraction as well as the sense of origin remain significant for teenagers. Particularly, family ties in the homeland give the third generation teenagers a realistic impression of life in the homeland. This helps them to balance cultures and ethnicities because they are able to consider both critically. In addition, ties with the homeland lead to lesser concerns about cultural loss. Unlike the migrated generations the third generation lacks any sense of dislocation. They do not suffer from divided loyalties. They feel at home in Britain and are content with occasional visits to India.
India remains to be their origin with which they identify. Nevertheless, Britain is where they actually come from and where they feel to belong. The common identification with India which unites the diaspora remains without nostalgia or “myth of return” in the third generation.
Furthermore, the diasporic context of the Indian diaspora remains to be important for the third generation. As hybridity, diversity and difference were most signifying concepts for their lives, Mukadam’s concept of “post-diasporic people” describes the situation of the third generation best. While feeling at home in Britain, almost all of the teenagers live in transnational families. Communication and travel maintain family ties and diasporic awareness. This is particularly fostered by the grandparents – the first generation of British Indians. In addition, almost all teenagers I talked to have visited India which has been positive for them because they were able to prove the stories and images they received from parents and grandparents.
Frübing, 97 Thus, in the light of the study and its analysis the thesis that the third generation looses central aspects of their culture favouring English orientations has proved to be wrong.
Rejection of Indian cultural aspects is low. Core values and norms are maintained and the young people have a great interest in their culture and religion. The grandsons of the Indian immigrants hence wish to remember their cultural background. And they are proud of their difference. Nevertheless, they also enjoy a western lifestyle and feel at home in their country of birth. Therefore, if Indian customs and traditions do not fit to western life, they are appropriated. The youngsters show a great ability to adapt their culture to their English way of life as seen with language. This also applies to norms and values concerning gender roles and marriage patterns. However, the underlying core values are maintained with pride such as collectivism and respect for elders. Also constituting aspects of culture and cultural practice like the Hindu religion are maintained and even revitalized as seen with the Pandava Senas.
Still, young people of the third generation of Indians also value the British society showing that multiple alliances are possible without referring to the hyphen. They generally share a very positive image of the society they live in. This of course is the result of significantly decreased racism and discrimination particularly in Greater London. However, as some teenagers critically recall a certain degree of assimilation to the British way of life is necessary in order to be accepted. This predominance of western Anglo-Saxon culture is evident in the lives of the teenagers, as they have to subject to norms and assimilatory pressures from the English society. Pradeep noticed that these pressures are hidden under a surface of equal acceptance of everyone. The young people are conscious and aware of English hegemony and defend their cultural orientations and expressions of difference. In that process however they do not fall into authenticity, essentialism or fundamentalism but allow hybridity and diversity where it is necessary and comfortable. Hence, they agree to adaptations and changes of customs and habits. This is also possible because there is no fear for the survival of Indian and Hindu culture in Britain. First, the communities have become very well organized and settled. (The Indian community also has their own representatives in parliament.) Second, there is neither rejection of Indianness nor of Hindu religion in contrast to Islamophobia. Rather, some cultural exports are becoming increasingly fashionable like Bollywood and ethno style. Official support is also increasing so that Diwali celebrations on Trafalgar square are now organized by the mayor of London (“Diwali in London”). Thus, as Frübing, 98 Indian culture and Indianness has become so fashionable and valued, young British Indians are encouraged to keep their ethnic identification.
The positive image young British Indians have of Britain is not even shaken by Islamophobia which also affects Indian Hindus though they are not the target of this new form of xenophobia. They are sometimes mistaken for Muslims for reasons of skin colour. Despite all teenagers reported not to have been directly affected by racism and discrimination, three comments must be made: First, that racist and discriminatory behaviour is far from nonexistent in Britain. Second, some teenagers are very concerned about the situation with Muslims or the rise of the National Party. Third, prejudices remain and difference is still not fully accepted by postmodern British society. This is often not obvious at first glance.
Deprecatory feelings against the different are not articulated openly but are kept under the surface of a so-called multicultural and cosmopolitan society. Consequently, eurocentrism and western hegemony are not overcome by contemporary forms of multicultural societies.
They do not manage to integrate difference but demand a certain degree of assimilation in order to be able to accept the other. The question of how much assimilation and integration is necessary in order to form a society and in order to be able to live together has not yet been completely answered by sociologists, neither, it can be answered in the scope of this paper. The views that the teenagers had of the matter were divers. Some were more critical about the necessity to assimilate than others.