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Title: Mixed Heritage Individuals Negotiating Belonging and Identification in Australia

Author(s): Niki Bruysters

Affiliations: Victoria University, College of Health and Biomedicine, Melbourne, Australia

Citation/publication/thesis details: Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)

 

About the Project

“I’m the in-between like I’m in limbo. I just feel like I’m almost there but not really”

This study explored how mixed heritage individuals construct their identities in Australia and how their ethnic identity impacts their sense of belonging. For mixed heritage individuals, defining a definite identity and sense of self is difficult considering their ontological multiple reality, which can lead to feelings of frustration and estrangement. Nine adult participants with a maximum variety of mixed heritage backgrounds were involved in semi-structured interviews. Using a thematic analysis technique, three themes were constructed: borders and markers of exclusion, which captured how identity boundedness was defined; belonging is a struggle, which highlighted the emotional labour and pressure endured by the mixed heritage community; and developing mixed identity, which detailed two distinct forms of identity construction. A paradoxical nature was observed, whereby the dichotomous ways in which conventional understandings of identity are formed were found to construct identity and sense of belonging for people with mixed heritage. The dimensional and complex processes of identity construction and the impacts on belonging is discussed. Finally, limitations and suggestions for future research are provided.

Why is this important?

The mixed heritage community has only been growing since globalisation and increased travel/inter-cultural and racial marriages. The traditional concepts of identity do not encompass the experiences of mixed heritage individuals. Neither do the traditional mixed theories. A better understanding is required especially considering the large misunderstood population where feelings of frustration and estrangement has been placed on individuals feeling pressures to fit into categories of either cultures.

Methodological Approaches

Previous literature invited the idea of that for mixed heritage individuals, defining a definite identity and sense of self is difficult considering their ontological multiple reality, which can lead to feelings of frustration and estrangement. A maximum variety of mixed heritage individuals living in Australia from a range of ethnic cultural backgrounds were recruited to understand the broad scope of experiences. The open-ended nature of a semi-structured interview allowed the exploration of personal narratives. Using a thematic analysis procedure, themes surrounding “culture”, “identity” and “belonging” were identified from the interview transcripts and further refined using a categorical-content perspective. In order to know if my study was successful required participants to detail the added pressures and complexity as a mixed heritage individual when negotiating identity and belonging.

Key Findings

Three main themes were constructed from the interviews:

  • Borders and markers of exclusion, which captured how identity boundedness was defined.
  • Belonging is a struggle, which highlighted the emotional labour and pressure endured by the mixed heritage community
  • Developing mixed identity, which detailed two distinct forms of identity construction.

A paradoxical nature was observed, whereby the dichotomous ways in which conventional understandings of identity are formed were found to construct identity and sense of belonging for people with mixed heritage. The dimensional and complex processes of identity construction and the impacts on belonging is discussed.

Implications

Studying mixed heritage individuals is a fairly niche area. This study has provided further research into an area of complex identity construction and creation of a sense of belonging. With globalisation and increased inter-cultural or racial marriage, the mixed heritage community is only growing. The area is in need of much in-depth research as current categorical concepts of identity are very difficult to be applied to this population of peoples.