«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
In this context, meanings and values are attached to social identities. The meaning ethnic group membership has in a society influences the individual’s social position and opportunities. A positively perceived ethnic identity leads to a consolidation of that ethnicity. Therefore, people may attempt to change their identification if an ethnic identity provokes negative connotations. They may try to identify with other groups or to compare themselves favourably to other ethnicities (Rosenthal 1987: 167). Also, negative images may lead to a closure and strengthening of ethnic identity, which can be currently observed among some Muslim groups in the West as an answer to anti-Muslim sentiments. Here negative meanings get new connotations and interpretations within the ethnic group against an “other”. The reason for this is that every social and ethnic group needs to create and maintain a positively valued social identity15 (Ghuman 1999: 44). Thus, the individual only has a limited amount of choice concerning his or her ethic identity (Bronfen 1997: 3-4).
Particularly in the diaspora situation, identity is an amalgam of ascribed features and chosen components (Mukadam 2006: 105).
Next to ethnic and cultural identity there are a growing number of alternative sources of collective and individual identification shaped by diasporic communities, global networks and the media. In today’s world young British Indians are not only faced with the two cultures they live in but also with many alternative and sub-cultural lifestyles, including the increasing importance of identifications through consumption. (Gillespie 1995: 12, 14) In this
context, Stuart Hall argues that:
Frübing, 27 The more social life becomes mediated by the global marketing of styles, places and images, by international travel, and by globally networked media images and communication systems, the more identities become detached – disembedded – from specific times, places, histories and traditions and appear ‘free-floating’. (Hall 1992: 303) However, Gillespie points to the limits of these “free-floating” identities. Globalisation is an uneven and complex process in which several opposing tendencies occur simultaneously.
Pluralisation and differentiation result in a revival of ethnic identities and identity politics.
Hence, Gillespie found that diaspora as well as cosmopolitanism are the important aspects of the youngsters’ identity. Other authors hold the same view. Bausiger confirms that despite the chance to open oneself and “step out in the world” people adhere to local and regional identifications. In particular, in the diaspora the place of home receives special attention and consideration. Thus, as indicated in the previous chapters, greater mobility and spatial freedom reinforce and redefine cultural and emotional boundaries (Gillespie 1995: 17, 2, Bausinger 1999: 13-14). These boundaries constitute the basis for many of the current conflicts. Especially in Britain the revival of ethnic belonging and identity is driving the process of devolution ever further (Gillespie 1995: 17). This contradicts the thesis of global homogenization though media and commerce which is said to contest national identities.
In summary, globalisation and postmodernity does not lead to a common identification of humanity but offers more and more possibilities and positions (Gillespie 1995: 18). These create social identities which are increasingly marked by fragmentation, multiplicity, plurality and indeterminacy. (Gillespie 1995: 12, 14) Stuart Hall argues that globalization has three possible consequences on cultural identity: erosion, strengthening or the emergence of new identities and ethnicities. In the light of global postmodernism, traditional and established identities and meanings break down (Gillespie 1995: 17). Consequently, the amount of choices grows which is represented not only by the communities the individual has contact with but also by the transnational and national media and commerce. This is plenty for individuals who cannot make sense of all the different influences. Also, readymade identity labels do not always allow a happy and successful solution for identity. Thus, individuals are faced with difficult dilemmas over identity. (Gillespie 1995: 205-206, Kroger 1989: 40) Frübing, 28
1.5.2 Personal and individual identity
In the past many researchers have focused on identity crisis in the context of diasporic and bicultural lives. Therefore, terms like “in-between” or “half-way” became prominent to describe the second generation of British Indians, who appeared to be uncertain where to
belong (Ghuman 1994: 22). Such crisis comes from a number of contrasting experiences:
First, young Indians in Britain consider themselves as British for being a British citizen and for having been brought up on the British Isles. However, they have not always been accepted as being British. Here experiences of racism and discrimination play an important role as it is impossible to identify with a hostile group. Second, they are part of two very different cultures having strong affiliations to both. But, they feel that they are neither like their
English peers nor like their parents, so that they do not have any role models. (Bhatti 1999:
238, Gardener 1994: 159, Ghuman 1995: 61-62) Third, British Indian youngsters cannot identify with their country of origin like their parents because they feel strange or have not even been there. Fourth, many have undergone phases of rejection and retention of heritage culture. On the one hand they underline their western English way of life and on the other they have deep interest in their heritage culture. (Ghuman 1995: 61-62) Fifth, it is impossible to abandon ones culture and ethnicity completely, as considered above. It is inherited as part of ones habitus and cannot be extinguished.16 What we have inherited – as culture, as history, as language, as tradition, as sense of identity – is not destroyed but taken apart, opened up to questioning, rewriting and re-routing. (Chambers 1994: 24) This already insinuates that the thesis of identity crisis is debated. Ghuman argues for example that it is true that many kids have a period in which they reject their Indian culture.
Bhatti describes that younger children go through a phase during which they feel ashamed of their parent’s culture and of being different. Thus, rather than a crisis one should consider a phrase in adolescent development (Ghuman 1995: 63, Bhatti 1999: 107-108). I support that view believing that the self-image depends on the child’s social and economic backgrounds. Children who grow up in an area where the majority is Indian are less likely to develop negative feelings about their heritage because they lack the feeling of being different. (Ghuman 1995: 63) Further, such feelings depend on the prejudices and values connected to a certain ethnicity in a society. This shows that not even the experience of culture clash must necessarily result in conflict. According to Avtar Brah cultural interaction and fusion are more likely (Brah 1996: 41).
Frübing, 29 More factors influence individual identities. For example gender, class and religious affiliation play a role. Also the “myth of return” has consequences for the youth’s identity.
Children who grow up with this myth are less likely to identify with Britain then children whose families do not consider returning to India (Stopes-Roe 1991: 183). This seems to contradict my earlier argument that the “myth of return” does not hinder integration.
Following Esser’s model of integration, which breaks integration into several aspects, a personal identity based on the homeland and a successful social, political and economical integration do not exclude one another. This has also become obvious with the perpetrators of the 7 / 7 London attacks who were socially, economically and politically “exceptionally well integrated” (Suleaman).
Further, if one understands identity as changing and flexible, like ethnicity and culture, the thesis of crisis cannot be supported. Identity is plural and should be considered as a process adapting to the historical and social circumstances. (Brah 1996: 195, Gillespie 1995: 141, Bausinger 1999: 13) In this I follow Erikson 17 who perceives identity as a constant construction and a series of social identities, meaning changing self-definitions in different social contexts. (Rosenthal 1987: 158-159, Kroger 1989: 14, 19) Ethnic identification is expected to take the same path (Ghuman 1999: 56-57). Identity conflicts are perceived as natural during adolescence;18 when young people are faced with the task of synthesizing and transcending earlier identifications with the biological and psychological processes of
adolescence in order to meet society’s expectations (Rosenthal 1987: 158-159, Kroger 1989:
In the diaspora identities are plural and shifting as they are determined by double awareness as a spatially defined community, by difference as well as by competing claims and messages. (Gillespie 1995: 16-17, Rosenthal 1987: 158-159) Thus, usually the individual unites several identities which change and adjust according to situation. They are under constant negotiation (Brah 1996: 142, 195). Bausinger supports such an active approach to identity arguing that in complex and plural societies people are able to manage their identities (Bausinger 1999: 13). They act following what Chela Sandoval calls “differential” or “tactical subjectivity”. This means that people act from the most efficient identity and position depending on the situation (Lavie 1996 5). Thus, the second generation of British Indians may support the English football team on one day and the Indian cricket team on another. As I have already pointed out above, such combinations of local and global orientations are a vital aspect for diasporic identities. Consequently, diasporic identity Frübing, 30 formations challenge the idea of a continuous, uninterrupted, unchanging and homogeneous British identity.19 (Brah 1996: 195, Gillespie 1995: 17) I have already described diasporic identities as shifting and syncretised modes of self-definition. Young people select
self-consciously from different the facets of identity and culture they live with (Vertovec 200:
154, Lavie 1996: 17).
In order to solve the dilemmas indicated above, individuals employ different ways. Most youngsters adopt hyphenated identities balancing the different positions with which they are faced. Others focus on religious or regional identities while few identify completely with one or the other culture. Almost all researchers find that most young British Indians successfully create bicultural identities. Identifying themselves as British, they see their
European country of birth as their home despite racism and discrimination (Ghuman 1999:
69, Ghuman 1994: 68, Stopes-Roe 1991: 171). This however does not imply that they just overtake national identities. Rather, they hold ambivalent attitudes to perceived notions of ethnic, national or religious identity (Gillespie 1995: 110). Feeling closely attached and being proud of their origin, British Indian youngsters learn to “maneuver between the diverse facets of their identity.” (Mukadam 2006 122) Thus, nationality and ethnicity coexist comfortably for them. They have flexible and multiple identities which they tactically use according to situation (Lyon 1997: 5, 2, 6).