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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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Diaspora consciousness and hybridity are expressions of resistance to assimilation, discrimination and fixed categories. In the diaspora Indian communities are often in a minority position; thus, they are forced to justify their beliefs and practices. One can no longer just be Indian but has to cultivate Indianness7. This provokes a consideration of the Frübing, 14 own culture and religion and its role in the public space. The minorities make themselves visible with the effect that the minority position and the need of explanation lead to a heightened cultural and religious awareness. Therefore, diaspora reinforces faith and leads to “a redefinition of boundaries through the manipulation of symbols and the expansion of their cultural contextualization so as to include as many Asian Indians as possible under a single religious identity.” (Radhakrishnan 1996: 207, Vertovec 2000: 150-152) However, in this process of construction of “imaginary communities” binaries to an “other” are constructed in order to define and constitute oneself. Thus, regional or religious differences become “central reference points for the establishment of segmentary identities and social networks.” (Brah 1996: 184, Vertovec 2000: 89) Furthermore, the reactions of the “host society” have a great influence on the diasporic awareness and on processes of community formation. Negative reactions towards a community’s culture often result in retreat from the public space into a defensive identity (Gillespie 1995: 18). In general, diasporic awareness and the need for redefinition lead to a discourse on authenticity 8 within the diasporic community in order to protect and maintain its space, history and culture (Radhakrishnan 1996: 210). Thus, complex processes of inclusions and exclusion take place in the diaspora and the formation of diasporic communities.

Identities are constructed and reconstructed on the basis of such memories and narratives.

Thus, they are neither pre-given nor fixed. The individual narrative becomes part of the collective memory though merging into it. In this way a collective “we”, an “imaginary community” is constructed. Thus, a common history and narrative is crucial for the diaspora and the individual diasporic communities. The common memory has to be maintained over generations. If this is not provided, identifications with the homeland and its culture may dissolve. Home and the story of migration however are central points of identification because they are the content of the group-constituting narrative which helps to maintain a sense of distinctiveness and to preserve and regenerate distinctive identities.

Diasporic identities are local and global at the same time as they include the identification with worldwide and local communities. As a conscious identification this may even bridge the local and the global. Thus, the diaspora today becomes a critique of discourses of fixed origins. (Rapport 2006: 180, Brah 1996: 183-184, 196-197) In the aftermath of migration identities, experiences and histories are dislocated, decentred and distributed across the globe (Chambers 1994: 52, 67-68). In the constant “multi-locality” and “double Frübing, 15 consciousness” of social relations in the diaspora identities are multiple, fluid and constantly transforming. Stuart Hall underlines hybridity, heterogeneity and diversity as defining characteristics of diasporic identities. Especially, among the younger generations whose socialization takes place across cultural spaces hybridity is constituent. (Hall 2003: 119-120, Vertovec 2000: 154) Diasporic identities are more than hyphenated identities which maintain the binaries of migration from one place to another. Thus, identity is fragmented “articulat*ing+ minority constituencies across disjunctive and differential social positions *so that] political subjectivity as a multi-dimensional, conflictual form of identification *…+ is mobilized and able to build coalitions.” In that Homi Bhabha’s third space evolves. (Lavie 1996: 16) Concerning the third generation of Indians in Britain it is questioned in how far it is legitimate to speak of a diaspora situation. Though the diaspora certainly influences the lives of these young people, Mukadam and Rex criticize the use of the term. They argue that applying the idea of diaspora to the subsequent generations, reinforces difference and negates the full participation and acceptance of them in the British society. It denies them the choice of homeland jeopardizing their full integration into the British society. The author follows Safran’s definition of diaspora, which focuses on the idea of a common homeland and the prospect of return (Mukadam 2006: 108-109, Tsagarousianou 2004: 54-55). But, the affiliation with the homeland and the idea of return may be more abstract. The concept of diaspora is flexible: it may include multiple or new homes. Thus, diaspora also describes a cultural affiliation different from that of the majority which stems from a history of migration. Diasporic experiences may be very divers depending on numerous aspects and conditions (Tsagarousianou 2004: 55-56). Following Clifford the diaspora is a fluid and dynamic condition which still determines the lives of young Indians in Britain. Nevertheless, the concept of “post-diasporic” individuals which Mukadam proposes for the subsequent generations of the Indian diaspora is helpful because it avoids juggling with definitions.

“Post-diasporic” individuals have not participated in migration and consider their country of birth as their home. They feel to be equal citizen and do not aim to move to their country of origin. They are loyal and active citizens in their country of birth although they appreciate

their ancestral culture. Thus, they create new hybrid cultures and identities (Mukadam 2006:


Frübing, 16

1.3 Culture and cultural change

In the diaspora children are only socialized into their religion and culture outside the school in their family or community. Culture and habitus9 are transmitted in the domestic sphere whereby women play an important role ((Bhatti 1999: 2, Afshar 1989: 265). For that reason woman are often seen as the preservers of culture and cultural values (Vertovec 2000: 93).

However, in Britain where this transmission is not supported by the wider society parents often neither have the knowledge nor the time to impart minority culture systematically.

Temples and communities have set up special classes but these have not been very successful in teaching the young generations (Ghuman 1995: 62-63).

We are afraid we may lose all our identity and culture. It is getting less and less.

Over the years it would just be brown colour and nothing else. That is the danger… I lost a lot. *…+ I regret now that I didn’t learn about my language and culture. When I was young I used to say I want to be westernised. *…+ I was rebellious as all

teenagers are. But now I wish I had learnt more about this or that (Ghuman 1995:


This second generation Asian school teacher articulates a phenomenon which is ever present for minority cultures: The fear of loosing parts or even the whole culture. This concern is typical for culturally different communities in a diaspora or exile position. In general, Asians have been keen to preserve their authenticity, culture and cultural identity by maintaining

their religions, family patterns, customs and languages (Anwar 1998: 99, Stopes-Roe 1991:

157, Modood 1997: 356).

In some cases diasporic communities tend to be stricter in preserving cultural values than people in the homeland. Especially, in India’s urban centres customs and traditions are changing fast. Gillespie finds that sometimes elder Indians in Britain tend to be more conservative than their relatives in India. (Stopes-Roe 1991: 183, Gillespie 1995: 80) By focusing on authenticity and fundamentals, ethnic groups try to avoid and conceal hybridity and mixture. This move comes from the community itself but is also caused by domination through the majority culture. Thus, on the one hand authenticity functions as a protection, but on the other hand there is the risk of creating essentialisms and fundamentalisms. (Lavie 1996: 11-12 Radhakrishnan 1996: 210-211) It invariably entwines with nationalist myths in the creation of an “imagined community” thus silencing alternative discourses (Chambers 1994: 74).

Frübing, 17 Cultural difference is important for personal and cultural identification and belonging and community. Here particularly the social and cultural meanings attached to that difference are significant. They depend on the various communities and on those who attribute and construct such differences (Brah 1996: 234,235). The South Asian cultures have been perceived to be quite different from western cultural systems. Thus, in the diaspora the retention of cultural values and their expressions has not always been without conflicts for the society and the individual. Western and eastern cultures clash in some basic orientations. For example, eastern cultures have a rather collective orientation while western cultures focus on the individual. Furthermore, models of cultural difference find differences in the definition of social hierarchies, gender roles, coping styles etc. These cultural differences result in disparities in behaviour. However, although such differences are empirically observable, they remain to be simplistic and such models run the risk of stereotyping. They are often based on static definitions of culture, which will not be applied in this paper (Ghuman 1994: 14, Gillert 2000: 20-23, Phinney 1987: 202-206).

In today’s postmodern and globalised world culture must no longer be understood as a closed static system. If cultures were perceived as monolithic entities, cultural clash is an obvious consequence – keeping in mind these differences which determine people’s understandings and views (Gillespie 1995: 206). But, there are more influences on cultures, communities and individuals which cannot be pressed into binary oppositions. Worldwide flows of cultural objects, images and meanings also have an impact on cultures; they challenge established national and cultural boundaries and identities. People are forced to appropriate, integrate or contest these influences. Thus, in our time of globalisation tendencies of homogenization are matched by simultaneous tendencies of diversification, fragmentation and pluralisation (Gillespie 1995: 3-4). Accordingly, I stick to the perception that culture is a process under constant modification. As a system of signifying practices and beliefs the process of culture is permanently influenced by regional and world-wide social and political developments (Ghuman 1995: 64, Brah 1996: 234). Gillespie even speaks of a tautology when stating that culture always changes (Gillespie 1995: 4). Thus, no culture is ever pure and hybridity is a basic characteristic of culture. This of course contradicts the essentialist idea of native and homogeneous national cultures10 (Bronfen 1997: 17).

Especially, in the diaspora where cultures live together sharing territory and society syncretic, creolized and translated cultural forms evolve. (Vertovec 2000: 153-154). In Frübing, 18 particular, Indian cultures have been subject to numerous cultural influences over the centuries (Brah1996: 41).

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