Forschungsprojekt: Die virtuelle zweite Generation

Abstract for ‚Workshop Landscapes of Meaning, Trans/forming Cultures, Sydney, 18.10.06.

‚Indianness’ as Refuge
- Constructions of belongingness among ‘migrants of the second generation’ -

Modern nation states are founded on the idea of unequivocal belongingness to one ‘nation’ only. Not only the legal frameworks, in particular the regulations of citizenship, are based on this assumption but also the structuring of societies and the public discourses. The basic structuring principle is the distinction between ‘us’ and the ‘other’, where both ‘us’ and the ‘other’ is unambiguously linked to one ‘nation’. Thus we differentiate between ‘Indians’ and ‘Germans’. Within a country we differentiate between those who are settled there as the unquestioned ‘Indians’ or ‘Germans’ and the others who do not belong there, who came as migrants, who are linked to some other ‘nation’ and who can thus not be ‘Indians’ or ‘Germans’. These constructions give no space for multiple belongingness to several ‘national’ contexts as, for example, experienced by ‘migrants of the second generation’.

‘Migrants of the second generation’ in most ‘Western’ countries, especially when they are marked in racist discourses, experience that they are not unquestioningly accepted as part of the ‘majority’ societies. They are considered to be linked to the country of ‘origin’ of their ‘ancestors’. Given the general believe in unequivocal belongingness to only one ‘nation’ they can, accordingly, not also belong to their country of residence. This becomes obvious especially in moments of crisis, for example in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, when the ‘loyalty’ of ‘migrants’ and their children to the country of residence in questioned. As a consequence most ‘migrants of the second generation’, who are marked in racist discourses, continually experience racism and othering in the country of their residence, their belongingness to it is not accepted without questions.

‘Migrants of the second generation’ can react to this in many ways. One strategy is to attempt self-assimilation, which, however, in the case of those who are marked in racist discourses can never succeed totally. Another path is to accept the othering and search for a belongingness beyond the country of residence. The ‘German’ internet portal can be interpreted as a means for the second strategy. This virtual space of ‘Indians of the second generation’ for ‘Indians of the second generation’ in ‘Germany’ is defined in ‘national’ terms as ‘Indian’. All users and editors share as a common point of reference ‘India’.

In the paper I will analyse how the internet portal and the ‘Indianness’ negotiated there are part of a strategy to deal with the experiences of racism and othering in ‘Germany’, how the demand for unequivocal belongingness to only one ‘nation’ makes the imagination of a common ‘Indianness’ attractive.

I would like to add this ‘European’ perspective to the workshop on ‘Australia’ and ‘South Asia’ in order to discuss in how far concepts of unequivocal ‘national’ belongingness and the practices of racism and othering as well as the strategies to deal with them are similar across different ‘national’ contexts and where they differ why.

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© Urmila Goel, 2006