«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
The cultural differences shaping the lives and identities of young British Indians are perceived clearly by the young people. However, they are described as matter of facts and are not perceived as fundamental. Consequently, Stopes-Roe finds that there is no feeling of cultural clash or confusion implied ((Stopes-Roe 1991: 174). Rather, young Indians in Britain experiment with the identifications offered to them. For instance, Gillespie shows how television programmes are used in order to test and negotiate these identities (Gillespie 1995: 25). The newly evolving hybrid identity constructions, which some authors like Lavie call “third time-space” referring to Homi Bhabha’s concept of the “third space,” can become collective identities when they are shared with others. Such identities refuse closure because of their openness and fluidity (Lavie 1996: 17). However, as this concept remains to be quite theoretical, I avoid this terminology. The problem is that the young people continue to be bound in social structures which are not always open and tolerant. The different identities must be accepted by the wider society in order to function and survive. (Bausinger 1999: 18Hence, the lack of tolerance makes it hard for the young Indians to develop their own identity constructions and through that accommodate to their bicultural surroundings.
Frübing, 31 Therefore, hybrid or bicultural identifications are not easy for all groups: Gardener argues on the example of Bengalis 20 that those who are excluded from the British society attach great importance to their roots and cultural heritage. They identify with India or Bangladesh
although they, and sometimes their parents as well, have never been there (Gardener 1994:
159, Nesbitt 1994: 136). In this context, the refusal of western English culture appears to be a safety measure. It functions as a protection against the rejection from other groups for reasons of colour, religion, customs or traditions (Stopes-Roe 1991: 172, 173).
There are also differences in accepting bicultural identities within the religious groups.
Ghuman finds that Hindu children are much more willing to adapt bicultural identities than Sikh or Muslim youngsters (Ghuman 1994: 122). It is assumed that there are also differences in the various Hindu religious groups and sects; some are more liberal towards change and more open towards foreign influences than others. This is examined in more detail in the second part. Religion appears to be important for identification. It is often a distinctive factor and thus becomes a “cornerstone of ethnic identity”. (Gillespie 1995: 30) Ghuman found that young British Indians rather tie their identity to religion then to region of origin or skin colour. This also accounts for adolescents who do not practice their religion.
Because they feel like strangers in their country of origin, they cannot identify with the region or society (Ghuman 1994: 31-32, 68-69, Ghuman 1999: 72). Consequently, regional affiliations loose their significance while religion becomes the defining factor of difference.
Other authors observed that the adolescents tie their identity to the ethnic, local and diasporic communities they belong to, in addition to the identification with the British state and culture (Gillespie 1995: 164). Indians retain a strong sense of ethnic identity feeling closely affiliated to their ethnic and religious group as well as to the British state21 (Modood 1997: 292, 329). Being very aware of the differences between the ethnic subgroups, British Indian youngsters do not identify as Asian or British Indian. However, this does not mean that these terms are not used by the adolescents. They use them in certain contexts, for example in order to designate school populations (Hutnyk 1997: 6-7). Nevertheless, they feel that these labels are imposed by whites on the basis on skin colour (Ghuman 1999: 72). In the same way they also deny the category “black” although the shifting nature of identity would enable British Indians to identify themselves as black. They may do and have done so when facing racism. People only identify with a pan-ethnic category for a special purpose, like the construction of a community of response to racism. Therefore, pan-ethnic categories tend to be unstable as only the purpose binds the group. (Brah 1997: 129, Shukla 2003: 218, Frübing, 32 Lyon 1997: 7-8) Nowadays, Indians indentify rather with “particularistic conceptions of cultural difference” than concentrating on a common opposition to white dominance. Gilroy refers to a “retreat from racial solidarity” (Hutnyk 1997: 11-12).
1.6 Generations of diaspora In this paper I use the term “generation” in an open manner. There is a third generation of Indians in Britain, whose grandparents have migrated and whose parents have already been born in Britain. However, in London the majority of British Indian teenagers actually belongs to the second generation. Their parents were born in India, East Africa or Sri Lanka and moved to Britain in the 1970s or 1980s. Still, it is appropriate to use the term “third generation” in this context. Following Karl Mannheim’s definition, I recognize generation as a social movement under the influence of historical events and circumstances. As a social group a generation unites on the basis of shared characteristics, experiences, interests and consciousness. These are influenced by the social and historical situation in which people grow up and live. Hence, generation is formed through the interaction of cohort and age with the existence of generational consciousness, “an identity of responses [to the existing social and historical situation+.” (Shukla 2003: 214, Majce 2002: 185-186) Thus the time span which differentiates generations is flexible and subjective. In the context of a diasporic situation the term generation is often used in order to refer to the shifting relations to the homeland, nationality, integration and acculturation (Shukla 215-216).
The generation of teenagers subject to this study differs from the previous generations of Indian youngsters in Britain, like those who went to school during the 1980s or 1990s.
Although most of the interviewed children’s parents were not born in Britain their situation was rather one of a third generation. The situation in which British Indian youngsters grow up today is different from the one twenty years ago. Therefore, they make different experiences than the previous generations. They are provided with an existing subculture which the generations before set up (Archdeacon 1990: 45-46). Racism and discrimination is no longer an obvious daily experience. Instead, new forms of xenophobia exist like the growing anti-Muslim sentiments (Mukadam 2006: 111). Further, today young British Indians face very different circumstances at British schools than twenty years before. An increasing number of British Asian teachers, a revised curriculum and an increasing concentration of Indian teenagers in some schools cause different conditions than previously. Parents have no language difficulties, get involved in all aspects of the English life and are open to change Frübing, 33 and compromise. Most of the parents grew up in Britain; they went to school or university here. Thus, they understand the pressures their children face. In addition, many families have significantly improved their economic condition so that they are able to provide their children with more possibilities and opportunities. Also the cultural and community centres as well as the temples have profited from that. They have developed a professional structure and organization and have finally adapted to the needs of younger people adjusting for example thematically to life in Britain and offering prayer and books in English. In summary, young British Indians today grow up in a different social context which is consequently denominated as third generation. Despite the open usage of the term generation it is possible to apply generation theories in this paper.
1.6.1 The second Generation: “Caught between two cultures.” 22
The second generation – those British Indians who grew up between the 1970s and 1980s – lived in and with two different worlds. According to Marcus Lee Hansen, the only historian who has systematically considered the relationship between generation, integration and identity, the conflicts and the difficulties that result from being different make the adolescents try to break away from their difference, to forget their background and to “overcome foreignness.” Consequently, the second generation is not interested in their country and culture of origin; the indifference also includes the stories and feelings of their parents (Hansen 1938: 7, 10). Hansen is writing about European immigrants to the United States of America. Though generally comparable, the situation for Indian teenagers in Britain in the second half of the 20th century has been different. They cannot ignore their difference for reasons of skin-colour and cultural disparity.
Thus, the second generation of British Indians struggled with the two different worlds in which they lived and often neither parents nor teacher saw and understood these difficulties (Bhatti 1999: 1).
Here the different value systems constitute a big problem:
We teach girls to be independent and critical thinkers, but at home they are taught the virtues of collective responsibility and unquestioning respect to the elders in the family … naturally this creates tension in the youngsters (Ghuman 1994: 86).
Under the influence of British culture and belief adolescents demanded more freedom for themselves than is usual and typical in Indian culture resulting in increased tensions in families (Stopes-Roe 1991: 41). These problems are further influenced by deteriorated family structures. As a consequence of migration the upper levels of the family hierarchy were Frübing, 34 missing because grandparents had remained in India. This is decisive for changing customs and identities because the continuity of family and tradition is broken and the youngsters only had scarce resources for the establishment and confirmation of traditional patterns (Stopes-Roe 1999: 59). This situation does not however account to all British Indian teenagers. East African Indians migrated in whole family units and many parents took their parents to Britain in order to live with or care for them.
Having been born in Britain the second generation in contrast to their parents, did not have strong ties neither to India nor to relatives there. Their relations to the homeland were mediated through their parent’s memory (Stopes-Roe 1991: 131, Brah 1996: 194). The youngsters also had fewer connections to their ethnic community relying not so much on the social support of the group. Second generation Indians were not in close contact with their ethnic community and showed little confidence in their community leaders. They neither felt understood nor supported by Indian organizations, and their facilities did not meet the
interests of the young people (Stopes-Roe 1991: 135, Commission for Racial Equality 1978:
49-50). In addition, adolescents showed an ambiguous relation towards traditions, morals
and customs based on a general confusion. This is described vividly by Carey:
The young girl merely looked sceptical, and said that Indian society wasn’t so marvellous and anyway all that was left of her parents’ culture were sheds and patches of tradition – the food, her mother’s sari, and the picture of the elephantheaded god Ganesha in the kitchen. Her parents were stuck for words, but their daughter had a point: she could not believe in the parents’ religion because no one had explained why she should believe. *…+ The tradition was not accessible: it was locked in a pious adult world which had little or no meaning for one who was precariously placed between two cultures. (Carey 1987: 92) The alienation from and criticism of the own ethnic group is a “critical move” because it involves diminishing reliance on the ethnic group towards a stronger orientation on the majority society (Stopes-Roe 1991: 135). However, integration into the British society posed quite substantial problems such as language difficulties (Bhatti 1999: 103-104). Because parents only had limited knowledge of English, their children had to translate when dealing with the school or officials. Thereby, children gained power and responsibility and got into roles and positions not adequate for a young person (Bhatti 1999: 108).