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Critical Reflection on the Essay Ethnicity in an Age of Diaspora

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Today, the idea of immigrants or diaspora is not a new concept. People who had immigrated to Canada, US or to another country in the past already have their second, or even third generation. The topic about how difficult it is for the second generation to understand their parents, and how challenging it is for parents to preserve and transmit their culture for their children is still the hot topic. Radhakrishnan – the author of the article “Ethnicity in an Age of Diaspora”, is not an exception. Through a personal experience with his own son, he has described how diaspora is observed by different generations, and how their understanding about identity is affected.

First of all, according to many scientific studies, in the mature stage, the second generation of immigrants often struggles, especially to determine their “identity”. Even though they have adapted to the culture and have been able to speak the language of their place of birth fluently, the second generation is still questioning about their physical appearance, of why they look so different compares to the people around. Radhakrishnan acknowledges this idea in his essay by mentioning about why different generations of migrants usually have distinct, often competing, and try to understand about their ethnic identity.

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The author begins his essay with his son’s question “Am I Indian or American?”. After that, the author gave an example of a festival he attended, where he saw an old Indian man explaining the meaning of the Hindu religion festival to a group of Indian – American children. Radhakrishnan saw that both sides seemed not to understand each other, because of the fact that those children have been raised with American culture; therefore, they are losing interest about their ethnicity background. The author believes that the children should focus and spend more time listening to the elders, in order to grasp a different perspective of ethnicity from the older generation. The elders need to get more politically involved with the Americans because as time passes identities and perspectives will begin to shift even among their children. Moreover, Radhakrishnan also suggests that the parents should be parent when they want to transmit and sustain a certain pattern to different generation. They should have an authority of a teacher based on the knowledge and information they have. The author said that: “the two generations have different starting points and different given”. This is extremely important because the younger generation do not have the homeland experience comparable with the older ones, and it is very difficult for them to understand, receive, and classify the information. Therefore, the author believes that the older generation try not to hide or miss any information when they communicate to the younger generation.

Furthermore, the significance of Radhakrishnan’s article is that he is questioning more than answering. He expresses his point of view by asking a lot of “how” questions, which many of them ask about the experience of immigrants, how they had to move, change in identities, perspective, and definitions. After that, he uses lots of example to explain his point of view directly to the point. For instance, he uses the film Mississippi Masala to clarify the commodification of hybridity or he not only uses examples about Indian-American, but also Asian-American. Hence, with this purpose of asking questions, Radhakrishnan has developed his unique way of developing arguments. By using this strategy, the author has created a vivid picture to his readers, as well as has helped them to embrace the messages he is trying to convey.

In conclusion, our identity is what defines us as human beings. By reading from Radhakrishnan’s article, “Ethnicity in an Age of Diaspora”, we learn that children who was born in the country that is different from their parent will face lots of conflicts with their identity, culture, gender related, historical…ect. Thus, the way older generation transfer information will have an influence on the younger generation during the time they grow up. Radhakrishnan said: “I hope, especially, that it will be a future where his identity will be a matter of rich and complex negotiation and not the result of some blind and official decree”. Therefore, the older generation should transfer not only the great things about their homeland, but also the blind side of society. Moreover, the reality of culture is diverse and always change. Nowadays, no one is purely only one thing. We cannot be the people with the same cultural identity because of the mix of cultures, and identities on a global scale which had made cultural identity fluid.

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