Title: “Not Here or There, but also Here and There”: 1.5 generation Indians of Australia Negotiate Identity and Home  

Author(s): Ashwini Kulkarni  

Affiliations: Victoria University, College of Health and BiomedicineMelbourne, Australia 

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

About the Project

“I’m definitely both…but sometimes when I go back to India, I kind of still feel like I’m not very Indian. And sometimes when I’m here, I still feel like I’m not very Australian because I’m like, I’m kind of like in limbo. So I guess that’s how I could like a label my identity- in limbo. And I don’t think that’s necessarily bad” (Sonia, aged 22 and a female, migrated to Australia when she was twelve years old)

Focusing on the 1.5 generation who are described as individuals that migrated to Australia as children, the present research sheds light on how they come to understand and negotiate their identities. The qualitative study explores the conflicts in identity formation and belonging that arise through constructs such as expectations of cultural maintenance and salient experiences of being ‘othered’.  

Why is this Important?

The 1.5 generation hold a unique acculturative position when compared to adult migrants or second-generation migrants. However, in the academic discourse, they are usually lumped together with the second generations (Park,1999). Although the two groups share similar characteristics, there are also significant differences that need to be explored so that research does not homogenise the very real experiences of the cohort. Moreover, when the topic of identity is presented, Kebede (2010) makes it apparent that the 1.5 generation experiences greater ambiguities in its formation.  

This study explored the strategies adolescents incorporate in dealing with the contrast between the host and the heritage culture. The 1.5 generation are likely to be presented many choices in significant aspects of life such as friendship, use of language and which traditions to uphold (Zubida et al., 2013). These ‘push and pull’ experiences not only invite acculturative stress, but also influence identity perception due to the differences in values and beliefs of majority culture and heritage culture (Phinney et al., 2001).  

The research on acculturative experiences of the growing Indian population in Australia is scarce. Therefore, this research explored ethnic identity and home experiences in 1.5 generation Indians of Australia through the research questions: How do 1.5 generation Indians in Australia define their ethnic identity? What social and cultural constructs help inform their sense of identities? 

Key Findings

Results from thematic analysis contrasted the linear notions of identity and indicated that it is a fluid and dynamic phenomenon which is put into practice through multiple labels such as hyphenations. Narrative analysis postulated three major themes: identities in context, which summarises resources drawn upon whilst constructing identity and the dialogical positions that present the Indian and Australian identities situationally and contextually; experiences of exclusion, where participants recounted being excluded by the Australian and the Indian community; preserving culture and maintaining ethnicity, where parental influences and other cultural resources helped participants connect to the culture. The study illustrates fluctuations in identity conceptions, where temporary rejection of the Indian identity in adolescence transforms into ethnic pride in university years. 

Community Psychology Perspectives

Mainstream psychology has tended to focus on developing universal, linear models of ethnic identity and adaption and present migration as set series of fixed stages that do not account for the specific culturally distinct and politically entrenched experiences of new immigrants. Thus a critical community psychology perspective informed the research from conception to analysis in order to more aptly capture the historical and political aspects of immigration and how these contextual elements shape ethnic identities which are seen as a dialogical process that is shaped by “multiple, contradictory, asymmetrical, and often shifting cultural voices of race, gender, sexuality and nationality” (Bhatia Ram2004p. 227).  

Implications for Research and Evaluation 

The rising emergence of the Indian diaspora in Australia makes this study useful in understanding how the community’s youth integrate into the Australian society and negotiate their sense of home. Furthermore, this research may also be applied to understand the specific tones of identity and home experiences in not only the 1.5 demographic but also in the Indian diaspora as a whole.  

Implications for Social Action

This will promote sites such as universities as supportive spaces for the ‘Indianness’ to thrive and provide social support that will nurture the generation’s ethnic blend considering the endured exclusions and conflictions.