Beyond Skin? Diasporic Youth, Television and Cultural Identity

Sharma, Anita (2005). Beyond Skin? Diasporic Youth, Television and Cultural Identity. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis develops the concept of 'situational belonging' through an exploration of identity construction in young people of the Asian and African-Caribbean diasporas. It challenges contemporary debates that largely focus on the fluid and hybrid aspects of cultural identities. My research highlights the juxtaposition of hybridity alongside degrees of fixity and essentialism in second and third generation young people, living in London. This is illustrated through the ways they negotiate their identities in accordance with 'situations' that they find themselves in.

The concept of 'situational belonging' is a notion of identity that is contingent or context-bound, but accommodates the expression of a need to belong. My contribution to the field is of a notion of identity that
vacillates between a vast array of identifications dependent on where, why and with whom interaction may be taking place but always maintains some level of stability.

The findings are drawn from interviews conducted with a small but diverse, multi-ethnic group of young people. By using detailed reflexive analysis in the interpretation of interview material, a number of factors emerge as highly significant in the construction of identities. By focusing on some of these areas such as friendship, marriage and religion, this study explores the extent to which ethnic boundaries are constructed, moved or maintained. In addition, analysis of television viewing provides further insight into the extent to which these young people are racialized and ethnicized both as an audience, and in their day-to-day lives. Television is one of the situations within which they construct their identities.

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