This study examines the ethnic identities of 50 second-generation migrant-Australian women aged 17–28 years. Twenty-five women were from Turkish backgrounds and 25 women were from South and Central American (or ‘Latin’) backgrounds. The overwhelming majority of the women interviewed for this study had travelled extensively to their families’ countries of origin, and their experiences growing up in Australia alongside their ongoing overseas visits shed light on transnational ties and the negotiation of ethnicity and belonging in the Australian multicultural context.
A typology of the women’s migrant-Australian identities highlights the differences and similarities of experiences among the women in both groups, and reveals the role of social context in shaping identity. Islam was a primary source of identification for most of the Turkish women, as a form of pan-ethnic identity. Participants exhibited a good deal of agency in their identity choices, and this was specifically connected to their transnational positioning. However, while most of the women took on a transnational identity to some degree, their experiences of racism and social exclusion reproduced an ambivalent sense of belonging to Australia. Their sense of being allowed to belong ‘where they are at’ remained salient to the ways in which they constructed their identities.
This paper argues that Australian multiculturalism represents an ideology that migrants can draw upon in order to make sense of their everyday social experiences, their identities and their relationship to the nation. Ideology is a widely contested concept and it has various meanings. Generally, ideology refers to a normative set of beliefs that ‘tell us what we ought to do’ or how things should be, they are built upon central values and they have political value (Drucker 1974: 43). A narrative of national identity which is based on multiculturalism could be seen in terms of dominant and contested ideologies. For example, constructions of an Anglo-Celtic majority identity in Australian society could be seen as a dominant ideology, because such constructions maintain Anglo-Celtic hegemony despite our policies of multiculturalism (cf. de Lepervanche 1980; Hage 1998; Stratton 1998; Vasta 1996). Alternatively, constructions of the nation based on cultural pluralism could be seen as competing, or contested, ideologies because they challenge Anglo-Celtic dominance. Ideas are constructed by those in power as well as by less powerful people going about their everyday lives and so ideology can be challenged through social interaction and social discourses.
I am not looking at multicultural ideology in terms of dominant/competing ideologies, although I do discuss some hegemonic processes related to multiculturalism, such as the concept of race. I am more interested in looking at the ideology Australian multiculturalism as a set of normative beliefs that argue Australian society should be organised around a principle of cultural plurality, and what this entails, from the point of view of the women that I interviewed for my research (for definitions of multiculturalism as an ideology see Lopez 2000: 3; Vasta 1993: 212). I will also look at the benefits and costs that the ideology of multiculturalism has for my participants. Looking at multiculturalism as ideology allows us to ask, why do some people believe what they do about multiculturalism?, or as Betts put it, ‘what’s in it for them?’ (1999: 30). First, this paper describes the women’s constructions of Australian multiculturalism. Second it investigates issues of identity. Third, it discusses the impact of racist constructions of the Australian identity on the women’s sense of belonging to the nation. I conclude with a discussion of Australian multiculturalism as a lived ideology in relation to the data generated by my research.
The concept of a ‘pan-ethnic’ Latin identity is theoretically problematic, but its social significance is worthy of empirical attention. This paper presents a sociological analysis of the social construction of a pan-ethnic Latin identity using data from qualitative interviews with 25 young second generation women of South and Central American backgrounds living in Australia. This paper focuses on the way these women discussed the value of family in pan-ethnic Latin culture, their ideas about a pan-ethnic Latin ‘persona’, and the way they diminished differences between individual country-of-origin Latin groups in Australia, while emphasising their collective differences to ‘Australians’. Throughout their interviews, the women used the term ‘Australian’ to mean ‘Anglo-Australian’ (or, in their words, an ‘Anglo’ or ‘white Australian’), and I often had to clarify this with them when they spoke. In this paper, wherever the participants make reference to ‘Australians’ and ‘Australian culture’ the reader should be aware that the participants are referring to Anglo-Australians.
This paper examines subjective understandings of racism expressed by fifty second generation migrant-Australian women. Twenty-five participants came from Turkish backgrounds and 25 participants came from Latin American backgrounds. The paper focuses on three examples of everyday social interaction and considers how these examples might be connected with racist practices. The three examples include the question ‘where are you from?’, the ‘wog’ identity, and the women’s ideas about racism in Australian society.
The women believed that racism was a product of a minority of individuals who did not adhere to Australia’s multicultural spirit. This paper argues that the taken-for-granted assumptions informing the women’s everyday social interaction are better understood in terms of ‘everyday racism’ rather than as ‘individual racism’. The women’s subjective understanding of racism at an individual level prevented them from recognising racism as a social problem that might exist within Australian society.
This chapter explores the experiences and identities of second generation migrants in the context of multicultural policy. It first provides a profile of second generation Australians and their origins. It then addresses the changing policy context, and the extent to which policy has influenced popular understandings of national identity. Next the chapter considers the social mobility of second generation Australians, focusing upon educational and occupational outcomes; their marriage and family practices, highlighting issues of cultural integration; and their sense of identity and belonging. In exploring identity and belonging, the chapter considers qualitative research concerning diverse second generation groups of non-English speaking background. Finally, the chapter considers the meaning of multiculturalism for second generation Australians, its limitations and strengths.
This paper analyses data from 25 qualitative interviews to explore the relationship between religion, gender and sexuality for Turkish-Australian women aged 18-26. It argues that the hijab (headscarf) symbolises an idealised Muslim femininity be-cause it signifies to the participants a high level of personal religious commitment and it also embodies the Islamic mores of modesty and self-respect regarding their sexuality. Participants in the study explained that ‘a woman is precious like dia-monds, that’s why we have to keep her covered’. While they displayed a sense of agency in perceiving their ‘liberation’ from sexual objectification through the hijab, some ambiguity arose from their conceptualisation of an ideal Muslim femininity. This ambiguity is tied to Islamic and Australian narratives of female sexuality, which position women in a role responsible for regulating sexual expression and sexual attraction in both the private and public spheres. Continue reading “A Woman Is Precious”: Constructions of Islamic Sexuality and Femininity of Turkish-Australian Women