Symbolic Ethnicity: A Scottish Festival Case Study

Alexandra Losurdo

Research output: ThesisMasters Thesis

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This study responds to the need identified by Gans (2014) for further
interrogation of fourth- and subsequent-generation practices of ‘symbolic
ethnicity’. A case study has been conducted at the 2014 Bundanoon is
Brigadoon festival to ascertain whether the concept of ‘symbolic ethnicity’
could be observed amongst festival participants. This is significant as prior
studies of symbolic ethnicity amongst fourth- and subsequent-generation
ethnic citizens have largely taken place in the United States, where the
concept of symbolic ethnicity originated. An Australian study, as has been
undertaken here, has several implications for assessing the universality of
this concept, or whether it is a particular invention of ethnic cultures in the
United States.

A Scottish festival, Bundanoon is Brigadoon, held in the town of
Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, has
been chosen as the site for this case study. The Scottish are a longestablished
migrant group in Australia, and therefore were thought to be
strong candidates for fitting the model of symbolic ethnicity. This study
responds to calls from Gans (2014) for further studies of latter-generation
ethnic participation amongst migrant groups, particularly in fourth-, fifthand
subsequent-generations, which have seen very little prior study. The
length of time since the initial waves of Scottish migration to Australia has
meant that this group has many members in the fifth generation since
migration, as well as subsequent generations. This latter-generation
ethnicity (LGE), as it has been termed, makes Scottish-Australians an ideal
group to observe in response to Gans’s (2014) suggestion for further studies.

Bauman’s (2001, 2011) theory of identity has been used as a theoretical
framework to explore the concept of symbolic ethnicity here.
Phenomenography has been employed as a methodology to explore the
nuance, experiences and perceptions of symbolic ethnicity amongst
participants at Bundanoon is Brigadoon. Using the framework of
phenomenography, semi-structured interviews and participant observation
have been used to gather data. The analysis of this resulting data was
conducted following the practices of Svensson (1997). This analysis has led
to the conclusion that symbolic ethnicity, whilst it may be at risk of decline
in coming generations, remains for now a concept that is practiced and
embraced by the Scottish Australian community. Not only was symbolic
ethnicity found to still be an active construction amongst the fifth-, sixth-,
and subsequent-generation citizens at Bundanoon is Brigadoon, the fact that
it was identified at all is indicative of a concept that can be applied and
observed in the Australian context, rather than being purely Americanbased.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Arts
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Mungai, Ndungi, Co-Supervisor
  • Crichton, Merrilyn, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Dec 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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