In “Lives in Translation,” Kathleen Hall investigates how Sikh youth whose parents migrated from India and East Africa adjust to life in England.
Legally British, these young people encounter race as a barrier to becoming truly “English.”
Hall looks into the cultural politics of immigration and citizenship, education, and identity formation. The book chronicles the cultural dilemmas her subjects face, the different identities they assume to fit into the varied cultures in which they travel, and the life choices they make as they navigate their own journeys to citizenship.
Hall breaks with conventional ethnographies about immigrant groups by placing this paradox of modern citizenship within a broader context of the making of a multiracial postcolonial British nation.
Post-World War II British politics included many arguments over what constituted Britishness. Those arguments over cultural pluralism and social incorporation have determined the possibilities and the limitations of citizenship and national belonging.
Hall’s rich ethnographic account directs attention to this public sphere, where collective identities and social statuses are produced in law and policy, education and the media, as well as in families, peer groups, ethnic networks and religious organizations.
Through interviews, fieldwork and archival research, Hall challenges the assimilation myth of the traditional immigration story and demonstrates how migrant people come to know themselves and others through contradictory experiences of social conflict and through solidarity with varied social groups. Her book takes an in-depth look at the ways race and cultural identity are forged in the public sphere.
—University of Pennsylvania Press
Originally published on September 5, 2002