ANGLO-INDIAN WOMEN IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE IDENTITIES
Dr. Erica Lewin
The Anglo-Indian community has been described as ‘mixed-race’ and ‘hybrid’. This study explores the identity of Anglo-Indian women through the process of migration and settlement in Australia, by following the lives of twenty-six women. Twenty of these women emigrated from India between 1963 and 1977; one arrived in Australia significantly earlier in 1947 and another significantly later, in 1996. Four women were Australian-born. This study traces their identity through their memories of life in India and the process of migration and settlement for themselves and their children, some of whom were born in Australia.
The context of Anglo-Indian women’s lives was initially in their country of origin, India. This context changed when they migrated to Western Australia. Intercultural exchange and interaction within the colonial context resulted in the origin and development of the Anglo-Indian community in India. The migration of Anglo-Indian women to Western Australia has resulted in intercultural exchange and socialisation with a range of groups within a ‘multicultural’ context. This change has impacted on their identity and that of their children.
This study investigates aspects of identity and how migration can impact on that identity. In the case of Anglo-Indian women, they moved from an environment where Anglo-Indian identity had meaning within the Indian ethnic landscape, to Australia, where these women find they have to redefine themselves. The changed context of their lives has meant that their ‘hybrid’ identity has lost relevance. Many have chosen to assimilate into mainstream society or to take on aspects of their partner’s ethnicity rather than maintain a separate identity. This work considers this process of adaptation to the Australian environment and some of the conclusions of this research are presented in this paper.
Anglo-Indian women have demonstrated agency in shaping and redefining their identities in the Australian environment. This process has entailed a critical analysis on the part of participants of many aspects of Anglo-Indian identities. Their redefinition and negotiation of identity indicates the dynamic and contextual nature of ethnic identity. The social relevance of Anglo-Indian identity in the Australian environment is brought into question in this study, and indicates the need for new directions in identity.