«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
As a consequence of all these difficulties, young British Indians in the second generation often had negative feelings concerning their ethnic background (Bhatti 1999: 106). They Frübing, 35 were unsure of their personal and social identities because they felt situated between two communities. At the same time they were subject to conflicting pressures: they were expected to integrate into the British society while maintaining their separate identity (Ghuman 1994: 12, Allen 166: 1971). Therefore, it would have been important for the youngsters to be recognized and treated equally by the English society (Gillespie 1995: 5).
On the contrary, they faced discrimination and racism, which reached its heights during the 1970s and 1980s. Especially in schools Indian teenagers often suffered discrimination and
racist attacks: A young British Indian tells:
It was going on and on between us for days, in math, in English then in PE Kevin beat me with a hockey stick on my legs during the games lesson. I told him to stop it. After the lesson I asked him why he did it. He said he‘d do it again. So my mate and I hit him. Williams and Hicks [teachers] annexed me and my mate all day. They said they will expel me if I’m caught again! Nobody asked him why he hit me with the hockey stick! These are good racist teachers … huh, and they knew! (Bhatti 1999: 190) Despite all these difficulties, many young British Indians coped by keeping the two spheres, school and home, separated, alienating themselves from their parents and families (Bhatti 1999: 48, 128, 108, 156). And, with time parents adapted and changed gradually. Families learnt that they had to negotiate in order to avoid generational conflict. Thus, many families found a middle way. Nevertheless, parents attempt to hand down Indian values and norms for the fear of loosing cultural habits and traditions, described above (Bhatti 1999: 72, Ghuman 1991: 130). Such anxieties are not unjustified as Ghuman shows in his study on British Indian teachers. Many of these second-generation teachers regret that they did not take an interest and therefore lost aspects of their cultural heritage (Ghuman 1995: 63).
Nevertheless, young British Indians also showed commitment to retain aspects of their culture like religion. While favouring flexibility and mixing, they showed ambivalent feelings concerning various cultural aspects like gender roles. (Ghuman 1994: 210, 70-71, Ghuman 1991: 122) However, the results from Ghuman’s acculturation scale indicate that the teenagers generally hold a more favourable attitude towards English culture than to Indian traditions and customs. This appears to be the natural consequence from weakened ties to the homeland and to the ethnic community (Ghuman 1991: 125).
In general, authors like Rosenthal argue the view of “in-betweeness” and identity conflict, which indeed is a very radical view (Rosenthal 1987: 174-175). Nevertheless, the conflicts Frübing, 36 and contradictions have been reality for the second generation; and the individual suffered personal disturbance and alienation. This is obvious not only in the great amount of research on that topic but also by the treatment of this topic in literature, film and the arts. From the position as outsider of both communities the second generation is further able to question the norms and life of their ethnic community as well as of the white majority. In that way they have been more aware of racism and discrimination (Ghuman 1995: 90-91). Concerning religion young Indians in the diaspora create their own interpretation and consciously take their own decisions (Vertovec 2000: 155).
1.6.2 The third Generation: theories and expectations
Systematic research and theoretical approaches on the third generation in diasporic communities are scarce. The reason for that probably lies in the longer time span under consideration. Further, in European countries the bigger immigrated ethnic communities are only now growing into the third generation. The only theories on the correlation between integration and generation have been made in the 1920th and 1930th in the USA23 (Esser 1990: 73-74). The prevailing approach to the topic has been the “three-generationassimilation-cycle” which describes that the first generation only adapts to the society but remains closely connected to the ethnic community. The second generation then has to go through the “clash of cultures” for being socialized in both communities as I have outlined above. As a consequence of cultural mixture in the second generation the third generation gives up its heritage culture. They assimilate to the majority culture and society; only relicts of their heritage culture remain. These relicts are restricted to the private sphere (Esser 1990: 74).
However, based on the observation that ethnicity and ethnic identity often resist change and assimilation, there has been a lot of criticism concerning this approach. Marcus Lee Hansen’s essay “The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant” has become particularly influential.
He argues that the third generation withstands the loss of culture and identity leading to resegmentation (Esser 1990: 74-75). Hansen writes from the perspective of the immigration to the USA at the beginning of the 20th century, when the majority came from Ireland, Scotland or other European countries. His examples also refer to these communities. But a number of sociological studies on Jewish immigrants in the USA in the 1950s seem to disprove his theory. Also his arguments do not convince and seem to be largely based on personal experience (Weber 1991: 324, 322, 325). In postmodern Britain the situation is different, so Frübing, 37 that it must be doubted that Hansen’s theory is still at stake. As I have already pointed out above cultural differences are greater between eastern and western cultures than between American and European cultures. The differences in values and norms are more enduring. In addition, there are the differences in skin colour. In the past, the tendencies of ethnic revival which Hansen describes could be observed among a number of ethnic communities.
However, according to Esser these are often short, politicized reactions against the disturbing realities of modern universalistic urban life. Hence, the situation and conditions in which an ethnic minority lives play an important role. Discrimination and inequality often strengthen ethnic networks and communities as a mode of protection. This of course reinforces ethnic segmentation irrespective of generation and integration. If however the majority offers equal chances to every individual, ethnic differentiation will gradually disappear towards individualization (Esser 1990: 75). This is happening in London today, where ethnic mixture and antidiscrimination politics provide British Indian teenagers with equal chances. Generally, thanks to continuous campaigning and Race Relations legislation, discrimination has decreased significantly against British Indians. 24 Hence, the third generation of British Indian Hindus in London is not excluded from the white majority which offers them more chances to identify with the western society (Gillespie 1995: 127).
It is true that the third generation does not suffer as many problems and difficulties as the second generation. Over a period of about fifty years, the ethnic communities and families have adapted to the British society. Parents, who themselves have experienced the conflicts and struggles connected with living between two cultures, are expected to be more understanding and supporting (Bhatti 1999: 240). They give their offspring more freedom not being as strict as their parents have been (Stopes-Roe 1991: 67, Commission of Racial Equality 1978: 37-38). Furthermore, parents understand British structures and institutions and do not face any language difficulties. Hence, the gap between the ethnic community and the English society is not as big anymore because mixture has already taken place in the second generation. In summary, this saves the third generation the hardships the second generation has suffered (Ghuman 1995: 30-34).
Although the third generation may take some interest in their culture of origin, its cultural instruction is expected to become very difficult. We have seen that the parents of the second generation already lacked proper understanding of their culture, tradition and religion. How can the second generation hand down values and customs which they do not understand themselves? Of course, grandparents remain to be the agents for cultural Frübing, 38 instruction and retention of heritage; but the question arises in how far grandchildren and grandparents are able to communicate. Their reference systems are increasingly disparate and they are separated by a growing language barrier.
According to Afshar, one of the few scholars who have conducted research about the third generation in Britain, heritage language knowledge is limited in the third generation.
Although parents and grandparents try to teach the community language, children do not learn it properly; they speak English (Afshar 1989: 264-265, Stopes-Roe 1991: 153). Further, community-run language courses are unpopular and many parents do not sufficiently encourage heritage-language learning. For a long time courses have been rudimentary because it was believed that minority-language learning hinders skills in English (Ghuman 1994: 107, 141-142, Ghuman 1995: 37, 39). Consequently, already in the second generation community-language skills ceased. These deficits increase in the third generation despite the will to teach children (Ghuman 1995: 39-40). The loss of language is expected to have implications for the ethnic identity and culture because language is important for full
participation in the ethnic community (Ghuman 1995: 41, Anwar 1998: 130, Rosenthal 1987:
163-164, Heller 1987: 181, 184).
Interethnic relations and mixture increase in the third generation. The third generation grows up under different premises than the generation before because their parents are already bicultural. Hence, loyalties, affections and obligations are mixed from the start.
(Stopes-Roe 1991: 77) While the second generation only got into contact with other ethnicities in school, the third generation grows up in a generally mixed surrounding. Parents often have white friends and colleagues. Thus, children in the third generation have increased chances to ethnic mixture. These contacts also depend on the willingness to intermingle of the majority and other ethnic groups, which has significantly increased in London. Hence, without the experience of cultural conflict the third generation fuses cultures while being completely integrated into the British society. (Mukadam 2006: 107, 110) As a consequence of all these developments the impression evolves that the third generation of British Indian Hindus in London shows only limited understanding and knowledge of their culture of origin. They are assimilated to a British way of live though taking part in Indian customs and cultural habits within the family and community. Although having some knowledge about Indian values, norms and tradition, they are more in favour of English cultural orientations. The young people are loosing central aspects of their heritage Frübing, 39 culture. What remains of Indian ethnicity and culture in the third generation are bits and pieces that can be incorporated into their western way of life. As they remain to be part of their ethnic community through family, religion and neighbourhood they create new ethnicities which include a fusion of Indian cultural elements with western cultural orientations and a modern urban way of life. Consequently, they do not affiliate themselves to regional, linguistic or caste identities which do not have any meaning to them. Rather, they unite under a pan-subcontinental ethnic identity.
I will discuss the findings of my study among young British Indians in London in the following chapters. In contrast to this hypothesis the investigation revealed that the third generation of Indians in Britain does adhere to their culture of origin and ethnic identity more strongly than expected. Therefore, Hansen’s theory on cultural reorientation in the third generation, which is considered in detail at the end of this paper, can rather be affirmed than theories of cultural assimilation.