This paper explores issues of religion and identity among tertiary-educated Muslim women, and the role of education in negotiating social inclusion. Data was derived from 25 qualitative interviews with second-generation Turkish-Australian women aged 18 to 26 years. Sixteen women were attending Australian universities at the time of their interviews, and the other nine women had completed tertiary degrees. The paper examines the adoption of the hijab in the ‘presentation of self’ in the Australian context. The participants communicated an overwhelming support for the hijab as a rewarding religious practice that came with specific social duties given Australia’s status as a multicultural nation. The women likened the hijab to a ‘flag for Islam’, and so they advocated the view that Muslim women who wore the hijab literally embodied certain Islamic responsibilities, including the roles of spokesperson and educator on behalf of Islam. While they felt a sense of marginalisation from the Australian mainstream, these participants ultimately believed that the hijab provided them with an opportunity to bridge the communication gap between Muslims and non-Muslim Australians.
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.
Young women of Latin and Turkish origin living in Melbourne find it hard to see any Australian culture. Some see a vacuum; others see a bland milieu populated with ‘average-looking’ people. In contrast, they feel that their own migrant cultures are strong. They ‘get through more’. If there is any Australian culture it is, in their opinion, losing ground to migrant cultures.
Academic and public debates about Australian culture are often centred on the tensions between ‘traditional Australian’ and multicultural ideas about national identity. This paper considers Australian culture as described by 50 second-generation migrant-Australian women aged 17 to 28 years.
A second-generation migrant is defined in Australian Census statistics as a person with at least one parent who was born overseas.[2-3] My sample includes both types of second-generation migrants. All 50 women were Australian citizens. Thirty women were Australian-born and the 20 women who were born overseas arrived between the ages of six months and 10 years (average age of arrival was six and all women had spent at least half of their lives living in Australia).
The social experiences of second-generation migrants are pivotal to understanding issues of multiculturalism because such migrants negotiate multiple ideas of cultural identity in their everyday lives, both from their families’ countries-of-origin and mainstream Australia. Melissa Butcher and Mandy Thomas argue that, ‘The relationship between migration heritage and the wider form of Australian society is the crucible of second generation identity formation’. The data presented are drawn from a larger qualitative study about the intersections of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and nationality for 25 women from South and Central (or ‘Latin’) American backgrounds and 25 women from Turkish backgrounds. This paper draws from one aspect of the broader research study:What are the women’s attitudes towards their family’s country-of-origin culture and Australian culture? Continue reading “It’s Like We’re Their Culture”: Second-Generation Migrant Women Discuss Australian Culture
This special section of JILAS is dedicated to the dual issues of community and identity and their impact on Latin Americans in Australia. Academic research on Latin American migrants in Australia is scarce. This special section of JILAS will shed light on this important, yet relatively neglected, aspect of Latin American scholarship. Issues related to migration are quintessential in exploring the historical, cultural and political intersections of Latin American studies on a global scale. The Australian multicultural context provides a fascinating social milieu to investigate such intersections.
The following six articles critically examine what it means to ‘be Latin’ in the Australian context and the authors reflect upon the political and social influences related to the creation of Latin community identities in Australia. More specifically, the articles share two common themes: first, the understandings of community and the celebration of community by Latin migrants; and second, the influences of multiculturalism on the formation of Latin identities in Australia. While the authors come from diverse academic backgrounds, their work is complementary due to their methodological approaches. The articles are based on qualitative research studies into specific Latin groups from around Australia.
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 article was first published in 2003 by the Journal of Sociology. Below is the final manuscript submitted for publication. The published version may have some minor editorial and formatting changes.
Through an analysis of qualitative interviews, this article explores the ethnic identities of Australian women aged 17–25 years of South and Central American backgrounds. The interviews show that expressions of Latin ethnicity are constructed around four ‘emblems’ symbolizing Latin ‘culture’– food, language, music and dancing, and festivity. Adopting a social constructionist perspective, this article details the respondents’ agency in the reconstruction of Latin ethnicity, and the consequences of the racial categorizations of ‘Australian-ness’ encountered by the participants. Their emphatic rejection of an Australian identity arises from their experiences growing up in Australia, where they are not ‘seen’ as Australian, highlighting that Australian identity continues to be regarded as synonymous with an Anglo-Celtic appearance. Nevertheless the respondents acknowledge Australian values of egalitarianism as significant when negotiating gender and sexuality. This ‘paradox’ of ethnic identity in the context of this study is best exemplified by the recurring comment, ‘That’s my Australian side’, and will be investigated through a critique on the limitations of ‘multicultural’ ideology and its lived experience.