Religious and Ethnic Identification of Minoritized Youth in Hong Kong: Exploring Acculturation Outcomes

Religious and Ethnic Identification of Minoritized Youth in Hong Kong: Exploring Acculturation Outcomes

Hin Wah Chris Cheung, Miron K. Bhowmik, Kerry J. Kennedy, Hoi Yu Ng, Ming Tak Hue
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1978-3.ch016
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Religion plays an important part in the lives of many immigrants. The second generation is assumed to have a higher level of integration into the host society and lower religious and ethnic identification. This assumption, however, views acculturation as an essentialist process producing common outcomes for all groups. Yet such an assumption needs to be tested with different ethnic groups. This chapter, therefore, explores the cases of second generation Pakistani and Indian immigrant youth in Hong Kong. The findings indicate that it is not possible to generalise across these groups. Indian youth seem to have acculturated with a lower sense of religious and ethnic identification. Pakistani youth, on the other hand, reported relatively strong religious affiliation and sense of belonging to their heritage culture. This suggests that acculturation is a more nuanced process than is often portrayed and is strongly context dependent, influenced by group values, commitments and practices.
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Both immigration and religion are global issues. While it was once the case that religion as an important part of immigrants’ lives was ignored (Maliepaard, Lubbers & Gijsberts, 2010), currently religious extremism provides the religious affiliation of immigrants with considerable public visibility. From the point of view of host societies, assimilation is often a top priority in order to avoid social conflicts and downplay cultural differences. Many host societies will also focus on building national identity among newcomers as part of building a cohesive society. While there has been research concerning the national and ethnic identity of immigrants (Liebkind, 2001), the religious identification of immigrants has been less studied and requires more investigation (Sheikh, 2007) as does the study of second generation of immigrants (Maliepaard et al., 2010). Maliepaard et al. (2010, p. 452) have argued that as immigrants (they studied Muslim minorities in the Netherlands identify more closely with their host communities, they may come to rely less on their religion as an ethnic marker. The study to be reported here will focus on second generation immigrants in an Asian cultural context thus extending the cultural reach of earlier largely European research. Hong Kong is the specific site of the study since its minoritized citizens reflect religious, cultural and ethnic diversity.

Hong Kong is a Chinese dominant society that experienced 150 years of British colonial rule and is now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Like a number of societies in East Asia, it has been affected by Confucianism as well as other indigenous religions (Cheung, Kennedy, Hue, & Leung, 2016). The British brought with them other immigrants in addition to white settlers. Many Indians came to work in the colonial police force, and Pakistani traders came to benefit from new trading opportunities (Law & Lee, 2013). Some families have been in Hong Kong for generations and new arrivals still make their way from the sub-continent. In all cases, these South Asian immigrants find themselves minoritized in Hong Kong characterized by their race, languages, social practices and religions. While in their heritage country, the religion was part of mainstream culture, in Hong Kong it becomes part of a minoritized culture and therefore more of a distinctive marker than it was in the immigrants’ heritage country. The extent to which the marker remains important is the focus of this paper with the emphasis on the second generation and their attachment to religion.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ethnicity: A broad range of social and cultural factors that might characterize and individual or a group. These can include language, religion, nationality, historical experience, location, etc., and very often a combination of these.

Acculturation: As a cultural concept, acculturation refers to the changes that take place for individuals as they become part of a new cultural context.

Minoritized: Minoritized groups in any society are those defined as “minorities’ by a dominant group that is numerically larger than the ethnic group. This involves a power relationship between dominant and minoritized groups who often prefer not to be labelled as a ‘minority’ because of the suggestion that they are somehow subordinate to the larger dominant group.

Religiosity: A sociological term that refers to the different ways in which individuals might be involved in religion. For example, through attending services, participating in other religious activities or advocating certain beliefs

Citizenship: National states can confer formal citizenship status and rights on individuals born within their political jurisdiction. These rights are usually not available to those who enter the jurisdiction as newcomers (for example, immigrants and refugees).

Religious Identification: Individuals can identify with a religion without becoming engaged in its rituals and activities. Sometimes there is an inverse relationship between identification with and participation in religion.

Adaptation: As a psychological concept, adaptation refers to the final outcome of the acculturation process whether it is economic, social or psychological (or a combination of all three).

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