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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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Frübing, 103 Obviously being identified with the spiritual movement, we’re not supposed to be so much attached to like place of origin, place of birth because these are constantly changing. *…+ I mean even in the material sense: I was born in the United States, my father is from sixth generation polish American, my mum’s Indian-British. I was born in the States and then moved to Britain and now I am gonna live in India, so I can’t really say like I feel particularly attached anyway, even on the material sense. And obviously my spiritual background is that I’m supposed to be the soul, I supposed to see *…+ the eternality in everyone. I have eternal spiritual identity. But I guess if I was to if I was to attach myself to any country, it would have to be India, definitely, definitely… (Pradeep) Frübing, 104 Notes There are no appropriate terms to describe ethnic groups originating from the Indian subcontinent. The term Indian is heavily contested because being a very divers country India is home to numerous cultures, traditions, ethnicities and religions. Further, the term often tends to include people from the neighbouring countries on the Indian subcontinent like Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans or Nepalese. Despite nationalism and postcolonialism no alternative terms have gained acceptance; so that I am forced to work with such imprecise terminology. Also the term British Indian is debatable. The young people would not use the hyphen for themselves, as I will show in the second part of this paper. It would probably be right to speak of British citizens of Hindu religion and of South Indian, North Indian or Sri Lankan origin. Of course, for legibility’s sake I was forced to shorten such descriptions so that British Indian remained as the only possibility. Such terms are widely used in the literature and none of the teenager I talked to objected to the label Indian. Hence, I herewith define that whenever in this work I speak of British Indian I am referring to Britons of Hindu religion who originate from the north, west or south of India or Sri Lanka and currently live in England.

Though Alibhai-Brown criticizes the use of the term minority referring to the growing numeral strength of immigrated groups in Britain, I still find the term appropriate. I base this view on an understanding of the concept of minority which must not be based necessarily on numbers. More important than numbers are the conditions under which a cultural group can represent itself and its identity, though those are often connected.

The involved relations are influenced by hegemony. Thus the minority is forced to articulate its identity within the symbolic order of the majority culture (Bronfen 1997: 12). The minority position also has still has further very practical consequences for the Indian minorities, like “political disenfranchisement”, “social manipulation”, “ideological domination” and for some groups also “economic exploitation”. Actually the term minority has only been introduced as a polite substitute for racial denominations. However, it has not changed power relations. (Brah 1996: 188, 186) The Indian community is very divers consisting of numerous culturally, linguistically, religiously or regionally defined groups. These are defined as ethnic subgroups as Indians in the West are often considered as an ethnic group. In that I follow Mukadam. Identifying Indian Hindus as an ethnic group it appears sensible to consider Tamils or Gujaratis etc. as ethnic subgroups. The identifications and limitations of ethnic subgroup are not fixed and change according to situation. In the course of this work I will try to stick to these definitions. (Mukadam 2006: 115) (See also chapters 1.1 and 1.4) For a more detailed definition of the term diaspora and more information about the debate on the concept see: Tsagarousianou, Roza. “Rethinking the concept of diaspora: mobility, connectivity and communication in a globalised world.” Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. Vol. 1,1 (2004): 52-66. 07 June 2008.


The term has been coined by Muhammad Anwar. See also Anwar, M. The Myth of Return. London:

Heinemann, 1979.

In social and cultural sciences integration is again a very debated term. In this paper I follow an idea of integration which allows people to be part of the society without assimilating – becoming culturally the same – themselves to its way of life, values, norms and beliefs. Nevertheless, a certain degree of adaptation is necessary in order to live as part of the society, but differences can be maintained. There is a constant debate about how much acculturation is necessary for integration into the society and how much difference a society can bear. The outcome of this discussion depends very much on the society and its history, values and beliefs. I particularly support Esser’s theory. Hartmut Esser differentiates between cognitive, structural, social and “identificatory” integration. (Though calling it assimilation his understanding rather corresponds with Frübing, 105 integration). These four aspects of integration are dependent on one another. (Geenen 2002: 247-249, Esser 1990: 76,78) The term Indianness was created out of necessity for a short description of Indian identity and culture. It denotes the totality of Indian cultural habits, norms and values. The Indian subcontinent is ethnically, culturally and linguistically very divers. Nevertheless, there are some basic characteristics that unite subcontinental cultures. In this essay the term includes the Hindu religion though in reality of course Indianness is not exclusively Hindu.

In postcolonialism a culture is described as authentic if it is not influenced by the colonizer. This often implies the search for the indigenous which involves the danger of essentialism. Hereby, often hybrid cultural forms are rejected and a supposed original cultural form is “iconized” which involves the danger of essentialist positions. These are static and ignore cultural change. (Ashcroft 2000: 21) Bourdieu’s term is quite useful here, because what children learn is not culture in its broad sense but the group-specific knowledge, behavior and actions. These then differentiate Indian children from others who have learnt a different habitus. The habitus is unconscious.

Because culture is always changing and mixed as it lives with and trough the people who constantly produce and reproduce it, culture has no essential center. Understanding culture as process does not exclude the existence of cultural artifacts such as traditions or works of arts, which survive over generations despite changing backgrounds. Surely there is an “ongoing reassamblance of the familiar, a re-enactment [but] that performatively changes as it repeats.” (Brah 1996: 234) Originally played at harvest festivals in Punjab, Bhangra was mixed with various western styles like house music, hip hop or rock. It became the music of the second generation of South Asians in Britain.

Ethnicity is often racialised which according to Brah has its roots in colonialism. In general, ethnicity is a new concept in comparison to the discourses of minority, nationalism or race. Nevertheless, ethnic groups are embedded in the same structures of hegemony (Brah 1996: 162-163). Still, the term ethnicity challenges biological definitions of race and assumptions about the ethnic homogeneity of nations because it constructs social categories on a variety of characteristics (Gillespie 1995: 8).

This is similar to the concept of cultural identity. But speaking of cultural identity a collective is created on the basis of common culture. This includes a common history and ancestry, experience and cultural codes.

Thus, the boundaries between the two terms are not clear (Hall 2003: 110). Cultural identification can take place with a greater group which transcends ethnic boundaries while ethnic identity is based on the ethnic group. Cultural identity provides common experience as the basis of identity on the basis of common frames of reference and meaning (Hall 2003: 111).

The term multiculturalism may denote quite different concepts and ideas. It is a very controversial intellectual and social idea often applied to postcolonial and immigration-related contexts. In general, multiculturalism refers to the coexistence of different cultures and cultural and ethnic milieus in one society.

These different cultures live together and therefore share relations which are often not without conflict. The

different cultural communities in a multicultural society tend to seek equality and recognition. (Hettlage 1996:

175, Joppke 1996: 449)

This correlation has been described in the “social identity theory” by Henri Tajfel. For further detail see also:

Tajfel, H., Turner, J.C. “The social identity theory of intergroup behavior.” Eds. S. Worchel and W.G. Austin.

Psychology of intergroup relations. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986. 7-24.

Frübing, 106 These conflicts are particularly relevant among those communities who have low social status or caste like the Valmikis. They experience exclusion from both societies. They are discriminated among Indians in Britain for their religion and caste; they are also not part of the white British majority (Nesbitt 1994: 157).

Erikson conceptualizes and defines identity as interplay of individual and community cultures. Identity is semiconscious and gives life a sense of continuity and sameness. Erikson’s model is criticised for a number of inexactitudes. But most problematic is the bipolarity of Erikson’s theory: if identity is not successfully developed on a certain stage of life, the consequence is role confusion. This means that the individual cannot successfully complete his or her roles in society (Kroger 1989: 14, 32, 34).

When developing from a child to an adult during teenage years, young people are faced with numerous tasks and changes. In adolescence people start to question parental values, norms and authorities in the light of becoming increasingly able to deal with abstract matters (Ghuman 1994: 29-30, Rosenthal 1987: 157). The individual’s relation to groups is complicated. While children are ascribed to groups, adolescents are expected to create their own affiliations and identifications. They have to re-orientate themselves among peer-groups, they have to take professional decisions and overtake new social roles. All these tasks amount to the formation of personal and social identities. Through negotiating their identity the young generation has the possibility to influence new ethnicities and cultural change. It is still debated whether these tasks are internal or whether they are created by social circumstances. In fact, in modern western societies adolescents have more time and freedom for these developments than elsewhere and before. (Ghuman 1994: 29-30, Kroger 1989: 1-2, Gillespie 1995: 2) Such an identity has actually never existed. Britain is shaped by regional affiliations and identifications. Also in England identifications have always differed greatly depending on gender, class, ideology and region.

Of the South Asian communities in Britain Bengalis have the most difficulties to adapt. In all areas they are worse off than other groups. They struggle economically and have low levels of education.

Modood uses data from the 1990 census. When ask what they considered most important for their selfdescription 73% of Indians referred to religion and only 37% to race. These numbers differ greatly from the Afro-Caribbean communities in Britain who rather define themselves on the basis of skin colour. When asked to identify themselves, 62% of Indians agreed to feel British and 91% agreed to feel Indian (Modood 1997: 262, 329). It has to be kept in mind that these numbers contain all Indians regardless of age. Pakistanis where not included. New statistical data from 2002 shows that the amount of Indians who identify as British has increased to 75 % (National Statistics 2005: 7).

See Commission for Racial Equality 1987: page 7.

Being an immigrant nation there have been more investigations on the correlations between generation and integration in the USA. Many of these also refer to Hansen’s thesis (Archdeacon 1990: 49).

This however does not apply for all ethnic groups. For example, Bengalis or Bangladeshis are still structurally disadvantaged. Muslims in general suffer from growing islamophobic sentiments. But, this paper focuses on Indian Hindus who have reached comparatively privileged positions over the last 15 years.

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