What Would Durkheim Say? Altruistic Suicide in Analyses of Suicide Terrorism

What Would Durkheim Say? Altruistic Suicide in Analyses of Suicide Terrorism

This article was first published in 2006 by The Australian Sociological Association.  

ABSTRACT

To highlight some of the methodological limitations, this paper presents a critical analysis of empirical studies on suicide terrorism which apply Durkheim’s typology of altruistic suicide. The paper will then sketch an onging study of suicide terrorism that aims to go beyond the current ‘Western’ frameworks of understanding. The paper will show how, in trying to understand suicide terrorism, the complications associated with finding reliable and valid data on the subject are compounded by the way in which researchers and intelligence analysts fail to address the limitations of their methodology. The paper argues that data about suicide terrorism must be analysed within an explicit epistemological framework. It further argues that suicide terrorism must be understood in terms of social context, and in context of the researcher/analyst as a situated being, whose social location and culture affect the way in  which they interpret data. The paper suggests that sociological studies in the areas of altruism, community identities, and the sociology of suicide may provide insight into understanding suicide terrorism as a social process. This framework represents an attempt to break down the process of ‘otherness’ that currently limits our understanding of terrorism.
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“Because We Live in a Multicultural World”: Multiculturalism as a Lived Ideology

This article was first published in 2006 as part of the Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings

Introduction

Photo by DIAC Images on Flickr. CC.

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.

“It’s Like We’re Their Culture”: Second-Generation Migrant Women Discuss Australian Culture

This article was first published in 2005 by People and Place.

Abstract

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.

Introduction

Academic and public debates about Australian culture are often centred on the tensions between ‘traditional Australian’[1] 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’.[4] 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

Introduction: Community/Identity: Latin Americans in Australia

This article was first published in 2005. It is the introduction to a special edition of the Journal of Iberian And Latin American Research.*

Abstract

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. 

“Todos Somos Latinos”: Ethnic Identity Constructions of Second Generation Latin-Australian Women

This paper was first published in 2005 by the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research.

Abstract

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.

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Where Are “Wogs” From? Exploring Subjective Understandings of Racism

Where are wogs from? Exploring subjective understandings of racism

This article was first published in 2004 as part of the refereed proceedings of The Australian Sociological Association Conference.

Abstract

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.

Continue reading Where Are “Wogs” From? Exploring Subjective Understandings of Racism

“I’m Not Your Typical Blond-Haired, Blue-Eyed Skippy”*: Second Generation Australians and Multiculturalism

 

This chapter was first published in 2003 by Peter Lang. It is part of an edited book, Social Exclusion: An Approach to the Australian Case.

Abstract

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.

Continue reading “I’m Not Your Typical Blond-Haired, Blue-Eyed Skippy”*: Second Generation Australians and Multiculturalism

“A Woman Is Precious”: Constructions of Islamic Sexuality and Femininity of Turkish-Australian Women

"A woman is precious": Constructions of Islamic Sexuality and Femininity

This article was first published in 2003 as part of the refereed proceedings of the The Australian Sociological Association Annual Conference. See credits below.

Abstract

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.
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“That’s My Australian Side”: The Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality of Young Women of South and Central American Origin

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.

Abstract

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.

 

Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos
Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos

 

Keywords: Australian national identity, ethnicity, gender, multiculturalism, sexuality, social constructionist perspective. Continue reading “That’s My Australian Side”: The Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality of Young Women of South and Central American Origin