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"How do you integrate Indian culture into your life?" : second generation Indo-Canadians and the construction of "Indian culture" in Vancouver, Canada Nodwell, Evelyn


This dissertation is a case study of one small segment of what is commonly referred to as the "Indian community" in Vancouver, focusing particularly on its second-generation youth members. The study examines members' constructions of "Indian" identity, "Indian community," and "Indian culture." The first generation members of this population segment are primarily upper to middle class Hindu speaking Hindus from north India who migrated to Canada as students and independent class immigrants between 1955 and 1975 and are currently practicing professional and business people. They represent a minority of the Indian population in Vancouver by virtue of class, urban background, and language-regional-cultural affiliation. I argue, however, that this case study is an important addition to literature about South Asians in Canada both because this population segment is absent from existing literature, and because many of these individuals play leading roles in Vancouver's Indian community. Canadian literature which pertains to second generation South Asian youth emphasizes issues of assimilation, inter-generational conflict and inter-cultural identity confusion. This case study diverges from those issues in order to provide a fuller appreciation of relatively neglected aspects of youth lives. It describes how youth act as agents in the construction of their own lives and documents their experiences, visions, and initiatives. In doing so, the dissertation documents processes by which culture is constructed, conceptually and in practice. The research draws on a number of theoretical perspectives including symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969), structuration theory (Giddens 1976, 1979, 1984), "conscious models" (Ward 1965) and reference group identification (Merton 1964; Shibutani 1955). Data is derived from participant observation, interviews, and group discussions. Youth respondents express that the challenge for them, a different one from that of their parents whose formative years were spent in South Asia or East Africa, is how to integrate Indian culture into their Canadian lives. My study concludes that active phrases used by respondents, such as, "trying to cope," "having the freedom to choose,” and "integrating Indian culture" are more accurate express-ions of the experiences of youth respondents than the passive metaphor commonly applied to South Asian youth of being “caught between two cultures."

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