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Who are they? national identities of young people living in Australia.

By Davina Bina Lohm

Abstract

The national identities of thirty-six young adults who reside in Melbourne, Australia were examined. Aided by qualitative data, this study shows that young people in Australia have developed a complex understanding of their national identities. Through the influence of family, place, education, language and appearance the respondents reflexively (Giddens, 1991: 53) constructed their national identities. Many of their national identities were hybrid (Nederveen Pieterse, 1994, 2001) recognizing their residence in multicultural Australia as well as their diverse heritages. These hybrid national identities were varied as the respondents’ attachment to their heritage national identity existed along a continuum (Nederveen Pieterse, 1994: 172). The respondents’ national identities were also fluid (Noble, Poynting and Tabar, 1999: 42) as the respondents adjusted and modified them to adapt to the circumstances in which they found themselves. Yet these hybrid and fluid national identities are not indicative of fractured and unstable national identities. Rather the respondents’ national identities appear to be solidly constructed and they have a strong sense of who they are. The fluidity and hybridity of the national identities allowed them the flexibility to combine the disparate aspects of their national identities and utilize them to serve them effectively in various situations. The respondents’ fluid, hybrid identities are indicative of contemporary Australia where the population is made up of people with heritages from all areas of the globe who live together in a multicultural society. However Australia’s past including its White Australia and assimilation policies retain some resonance. Social constructions of Australian national identity as being white and Anglo and the expectation that migrants ‘fit into Australian society’ remain. Whilst people from any background were perceived by the respondents to have access to an Australian national identity, a hierarchy (Hage, 1998) was evident where those with more social capital had preferential access to this identity. The respondents noted social activities and political values as making up this social capital. However the most valuable form of cultural capital for recognition of an Australian national identity was a white-Anglo appearance

Topics: National, identity, youth, Australia
Publisher: Monash University. Faculty of Arts. PSI
Year: 2012
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