Second/third generation British-born young (diasporic) Tamils: Discourses of cultural identity and change
Sociology University of Surrey Sutton(Surrey), England
The notion of diaspora explains how a particular movement of people are scattered over regions over a phase of time. Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora describes how the ethnic turmoil in Sri Lanka led to the movement of Sri Lankans from their original homeland to Western Europe and other foreign countries. The phenomenon of Sri Lankan Tamil migration to Britain can be divided into three phases. These have emerged as a result of different circumstances and include professionals, students and political asylum seekers(Daniel and Thangarajah, 1995). A number of Sri Lankan Tamils fled to Britain in this way. In this context, second/third generation Tamils in Britain may experience challenges in terms of identity and change in a new socio-cultural and political space.
Existing literature elucidates the perspectives of migration, diaspora, transnational networks, media, cultural identity and minority youth sub-culture. This paper examines the discourses relating to life 'between two cultures', identity crisis, culture conflict and intergenerational relations concerning Tamil identity and patterns of change. The main focus highlights the existing issues in relation to internal differences of the Tamil diaspora in Britain, parent-youth relationships, differences between Tamil youth culture and non-Tamil youth culture.
The pilot study has been conducted with ethnographic and photographic evidence based on empirical observation in selected Tamil settlements in south and south west London. In-depth interviews and overt-observations are employed with young Tamils. The interviews mainly focus on how young Tamils negotiate their identities and experiences of being between two cultures or making the best of both worlds. The preliminary findings of the interviews show that the majority of young Tamil Londoners maintain their Tamil identity. Some negotiate integration with the mainstream culture while a few struggle between two cultures.
This study contributes to the much neglected phenomenon of the diasporic Tamil youth culture and develops a paradigm among minorities in Europe, which helps the Tamil diaspora around the world. The study hopes to create an awareness concerning the current issues on young Tamils among the Tamil diasporic community, and to establish a policy with Tamil youth for uplifting future Tamil generations.