Deakin University

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Migrant youth, cultural identity and media representation

posted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Fethi MansouriFethi Mansouri, Michelle Miller
The current social climate of heightened intercultural tensions in culturally pluralist societies such as Australia highlights the need to develop a more nuanced understanding of the complex cultural adjustment processes  encountered by migrant youth in developing and articulating a sense of  national belonging, To this end, this chapter examines migrant settlement experiences as a 'process by which individuals and groups ... maintain their cultural identity while actively participating in the larger societal framework' (Karac 2001). Research into these critical aspects of integration and  acculturation examines identity formation as a cultural process of  renegotiating individual and group identity, and focuses on concepts of belonging, recognition and self-respect (Berry '997). While cultural factors are considered critical indicators of successful integration into the host community, insufficient research has been conducted into the particular processes of group and individual identity formation that take place amongst migrant youth. In the case of Australia, this process has been made  particularly difficult for some cultural groups due to the contemporary resurgence of populist and exclusionary discourses of national identity. In such a context, the construction of identity amongst migrant youth is all the more challenging, especially when this process exhibits notions of dual attachment, hybridity and difference. For migrant youth, the engagement with different social institutions such as family, school and wider societal networks often affects the processes of identity 'formation that are inherently  dynamic and 'necessarily multiple and fluid' (Noble & Tabar 2002, pp.I28). Negotiating life in-between cultures, youths from migrant backgrounds experience identity construction as a highly contested territory.

Cultural identity is a central issue for immigrants, regardless of how much time has elapsed since leaving their country of origin. This issue is particularly salient for first- and second-generation1 migrant youth, who negotiate identity space comfortably alongside, in opposition to, or more commonly, somewhere in between, their immigrant parents' conceptions of culture and the receiving culture in which they live. Unlike their native peers,  the children of immigrants arc exposed to intra-ethnic and inter- ethnic   dynamics and experiences in their journey towards cultural identity formation. These experiences are complex and diverse, and are navigated within multi- layered ethnic, racial, familial, gendered, socioeconomic and educational  contexts.

The chapter begins by providing theoretical frameworks for conceptualising  cultural diversity and cultural identity. It then examines how migrant youth  negotiate cultural identity in the public realms of family networks and school  environments and how these translate into key educational and behavioural  outcomes. It will draw on some qualitative snapshots as a way of illustrating  shifting migrant youth attitudes towards society, school and culture.


Title of book

Youth identity and migration : culture, values and social connectedness


The Diversity Series

Chapter number



45 - 62


Common Ground Publishing

Place of publication

Altona, Vic.





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter




F Mansouri

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