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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