Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

I’ve been away for work for awhile now, and hope to bring you more on this soon. For now, I thought I’d share with you a post I had planned to  publish weeks ago, but haven’t been able to finish until now. Let’s talk about the sociology of Indian people in Australia, with a case study of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Melbourne.

Indian migration to Australia has a long history, dating back to the 19th Century,  with early records showing the British brought Indian servants (noting this may have included forced servitude). At the time of colonial Australia’s first Census, there were 1,800 Indian people in Australia. Today, Indian-Australians represent our fourth largest migrant group and they are also the biggest growing migrant group next to China, with their population doubling in the past decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In the most recent Census of 2016, over 455,000 Australians were born in India, corresponding to 1.9% of our population, though this does not include the second-generation (their children born in Australia).  Together with Nepalese-Australians, Indian people make up 76% of the Hindu population in Australia (noting that Hindu people make up only 1.9% of our national population).

Indian families gather at Diwali: Indian Festival of Light Oct 2014. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Diwali: Indian Festival of Light, Federation Square

Continue reading Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

Sociology of the Day of the Dead

Latin girl wears a painted face for Dia De Los Muertos

This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:

[In Spanish] “The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. “

The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. Continue reading Sociology of the Day of the Dead

bell hooks on Critical Thinking

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” ― bell hooks

Black American cultural theorist bell hooks’ distinguished contribution to sociology has been to unearth the intersecting issues of cultural difference, race and knowledge within feminism. Starting out as a literature professor, hooks would go on to challenge cultural studies in the early 1980s with books such as Ain’t I A Woman?: Black Women and Feminism and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre. Her work shows how women of colour have been marginalised by power structures in society as well as by White feminists who purport to speak about the universal struggle of all women. hooks argued that mainstream feminism silences experiences of race, ethnicity and class.

For the past three decades, hooks has explored the representation of race in popular culture, and how this affects social relations and public education. In the seminal Cultural Transformation video series, from 1997, bell hooks explains the importance of critical thinking for women in general, as well as for racial justice. Her work has been adopted by feminists and cultural theorists around the world. Let’s take a look back at this work and its prevailing resonance two decades later.

Gif of bell hooks talking. Quote reads: 'Critical thinking is at the heart of anybody transforming their life.'

Continue reading bell hooks on Critical Thinking

Sociology of Swearing

Young man wearing sun glasses with a t-shirt that reads 'Let me hear the f*cking bass'

Why is swearing on TV more offensive than graphic depictions of violence?

In December 2011, The then-Australian Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, created a media controversy when he swore during a live address on the national public broadcaster, the ABC. This live gaff had me thinking about swearing, the power of ‘bad words’ and the regulatory bodies that set and enforce the standards for television programming. It’s popped back into my mind as I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about power dynamics and the changes in linguistic practices.

Speaking to the National Press Club about the proposed tax for the National Broadband Network, Conroy said:

“If a tax goes up, God, that is sovereign risk, but if a tax goes down, its fucking fantastic. Excuse me – that is fantastic.”

This comment went to air during 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm. As Aidan Wilson (2011) points out, Conroy’s offence was not simply using a ‘vulgar’ word, but also that his address was followed by the ABC’s afternoon children’s shows.

The language guidelines for TV shows can be confusing. Why are some words allowed in some contexts and not in others? It’s not simply a timing issue – some swear words are only allowed to escape the mouths of thespians late at night but not during the day. This makes sense if you’re trying to protect children from being exposed to certain swear words.

The again, some words are generally considered to be more offensive than others – but the social norms on this are not clearly articulated by law.

Continue reading Sociology of Swearing

Indigenous Women’s Leadership

This past week, Australia celebrated NAIDOC Week (8-15 July), a time to recognise the leadership, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Originally standing for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, NAIDOC Week has historically reflected the ongoing resistance to genocide, assimilation and land dispossession, famously culminating in the annual Day of Mourning in 1938 (a protest against Australia Day on 26 January). The NAIDOC committee emerged in 1956, and has in recent decades coordinated local and national events and awards to promote Indigenous excellence. This year’s theme is Because of Her We Canpromoting the multiple leadership roles of Indigenous women for their families and communities, as they push for social justice and human rights at the local community and national levels.

I share with you two events I attended that highlight the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in academia, journalism, business, law and social policy. Continue reading Indigenous Women’s Leadership

Being Chinese in Aotearoa

Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A Photographic Journey. This is a stunning and informative history of migration. It documents difficulties and triumphs in the face of ongoing racism. Highly recommend visiting if you’re in New Zealand Aotearoa. On the left you can see Appo Hocton (Ah Poo Hoc Ting), who arrived in his 20s, in 1842, to become the first documented Chinese-New Zealander. Continue reading Being Chinese in Aotearoa

Windows of the World

The Korean Embassy opened its for doors to the public for Windows of the World, a celebration of our embassies and Australian diplomatic relations. So much amazing food it was hard to choose, but I went with Bulgogi. It is delicious, especially to the background K-pop music is equally awesome.

The Korean Intermarried Women’s Association was a very interesting stand at the Windows of the World festival in Canberra.

Korean Australians do not represent one of the largest groups of intermarriage in Australia (Canadians, Americans, Indigenous Australians and Thai people top the list). Nevertheless this stand was sociologically interesting. The other stands were food related, there were a handful of different Christian Korean groups and community friendship groups. In amongst this mix, I loved seeing a women’s group! They seemed to be having a lovely time and were nice to try to answer my sociology questions.

The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina hosts this public celebration for the   Windows of the World Festival. Unlike the other embassies which had a constant stream of different public, the event seems to be attended by people who all know one another and most people are speaking either Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian, including the MC. It’s more like a family event.

Share the Spirit: Survival Day 2015

The 26th of January is Australia Day and a national holiday. Various events happen all over Melbourne, but some of these recognise that this day raises important issues about Indigenous culture in Australia. Protests over colonialism have been ongoing since Europeans settled in Australia in 1788. On the 26th of January 1938, 150 years after the decimation of Indigenous people began, William Cooper (leader with the Australian Aboriginal League) together with Jack Patten and William Ferguson (the Aboriginal Progressive Association) declared the first “Day of Mourning,” a day recognising the history of colonial violence and dispossession. Survival Day events represent the resilience and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who collectively make up the world’s oldest, continuous culture.

I attended the Share the Spirit festival, hosted by Songlines Music. This event has been running at the Treasury Garden since 2002. Together with similar events in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and elsewhere, they are amongst the biggest Indigenous cultural events in Australia. Continue reading Share the Spirit: Survival Day 2015

Latin Summer Festival

In the 2011 Australian Census, there were over 107,300 Latin-Australian migrants. The majority were born in South America (almost 87,700 people); the second-biggest groups were born in Central America (14,900 people); and a smaller proportion were born in the Caribbean (4,7000 people). Continue reading Latin Summer Festival

Sociology of Malaysian-Australians

Australia is home to 5.3 million migrants, meaning that one quarter of Australians were born overseas, and a further 20% of Australians are children of migrants – making half our nation first or second-generation migrants! Malaysia-born migrants are our 9th largest migrant group (with the UK, New Zealand and China being our biggest).

Malaysians are also one of our oldest-settled migrant groups, first arriving in the Northern coast in the 18th Century. Sociologist Peta Stephenson has a wonderful study of Indigenous Australian Muslim “reverts” (converts) who have reclaimed this heritage by converting to Islam. Today, however, in Victoria, most Malaysia-born Australians are either Buddhist (28%), No Religion (16%) or Catholic (13%).

While most other non-English speaking groups tend to settle in the Western and outer suburbs of Melbourne, Malaysian-Australians are largely living in the inner city, one of the most affluent areas in our state. Generally speaking, Malay are one of our most upwardly mobile migrant groups, with second-generation migrants averaging greater educational and professional success in comparison to Anglo-Australians.

The photos below are from the Malaysian Street Festival, which was held over the weekend. The Festival showcased the rich cultural diversity of Melbourne’s Malaysian communities. The focus was on food, music and family activities (what I’ve previously termed “emblems of identity” or surface-level culture).

Continue reading Sociology of Malaysian-Australians