An area of long-standing interest in studies of national identity has been the implications of wider cross-border movements of people from diverse social, cultural and political backgrounds for national identity (McAllister & Moore, 1991; Phillips & Holton, 2004; Robertson, 1992; Tololyan, 1991). This study raises the issue about the role of transnationalism which incorporates the dual processes of globalisation and localisation in determining attitudes towards national identity, among transnational migrants. For instance, it is suggested that the emergence of transnationalism and transnational communities are likely to challenge the normative character of the politically and culturally bounded nation state (Appadurai, 1996a, 1996b; Castles & Davidson, 2000; Cohen, 1996; Wong, 2002).
The research is set a time when perceptions of disloyalty to the nation state among transnational citizens has led to a fear of internal disintegration and a climate of global insecurity (Joppke, 2004; Kofman, 2005). Governments have responded to the rise in transnationalism and cultural diversity, through reasserting their authority, in shaping national identity and national citizenship (Holton, 1998; Kofman, 2005). As an example, the Howard government in Australia has proposed new citizenship tests which incorporate tests relating to Australian cultural/historical values and English competence. In light of these contemporary, theoretical and policy issues, drawing on a representative sample of Asian Australian migrants, (1) this paper examines whether transnational migrants feel a sense of connection or belonging to cultural conceptions of Australian national identity. Furthermore, I examine whether different social background experiences have a causal effect on views towards national identity.
The paper is divided into four main sections. In the first section, I discuss theories of transnationalism and how they are applied in the local Australian context. Second, I draw on the pre-existing literature in the social sciences on dimensions of Australian national identity, and focus specifically on the cultural aspects of national identity. I briefly mention contemporary, social and political debates about the issues of national identity and social cohesion in a country of increasing cultural diversity. Third, I examine the role of social background in determining attitudes towards cultural conceptions of national identity. Finally, using the 2003 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, I analyse whether different groups of Asian Australians feel a sense of connection to cultural conceptions of national identity. In the discussion, I demonstrate that finding out about the views of different subgroups of Asian Australians as representative of other transnational migrants has important policy implications for Australian multiculturalism and citizenship.
Transnational Belonging and National Identity
There are two conflicting points of view about how transnationalism shapes feelings towards national identity in the local and global context.
1) The first is the view that the rise in expressions of transnationalism is weakening national feelings. For example, according to the glocalisation hypothesis, with increasing cultural diversity, local and global identities are strengthening while at the same time national identities are weakening (Dijkstra, Geuijen, & de Ruijter, 2001; Hall, 1991). Eriksen for example, argues that as nation states become more diverse, a shared national identity will become less important (Eriksen, 1997). The phenomenon of belonging to a local and global identity but not a national identity is otherwise expressed in terms of hybridisation (Bhabha, 1990b; Hall, 1996), creolisation (Hannerz, 1990, 1996) and cosmopolitanism (Beck, 2002; Cheah & Robbins, 1998). In the Australian context, studies of Asian Australian transnational communities show that Asian Australians feel a sense of detachment from the 'national community'. For example, research suggests that Asian Australians tend to identify with a complex and fragmented hybrid identity (Ang, 2001; Ang, Chalmers, Law, & Thomas, 2000; Gilbert, Khoo, & Lo, 2000; Joshi, 2000; Julian, 2004; Lee, 2006; Lo, 2000, 2006; Thomas, 2003; Wise, 2003).
2) The second view suggests that even with increasing cultural diversity, national attachment is not weakening and indeed attachment to the national is still felt strongly among culturally diverse citizens in western democracies. For example, Evans and Kelly, show that in the developed world, many people continue to feel a sense of national pride (Evans & Kelley, 2002). Other research conducted in Europe, suggests that there is no evidence that national identity is weakening in Europe (Deflem & Pampel, 1996; Dombrowski & Rice, 2000). In the Australian context, Phillips and Holton observe that attachment to cultural conceptions of national identity among British Australians vary. across different subgroups of British Australians indicating that transnationalism may not be the only factor influencing attitudes towards Australian national identity (Phillips & Holton, 2004).
Dimensions of National Identity in Australia
There have been many contemporary studies in sociology on what constitutes national identity (Alexander, 1993; Bauman, 1990; Schlesinger, 1991). According to Ian McAllister, "national identity is the feeling of being associated with a national group, defined by a common heritage which may be based on many attributes, the most common being race, history, territory, language and history" (McAllister, 1997, p. 5). Most studies of national identity have generally distinguished between ethnic and civic dimensions of the national identity (Jones, 1997; Jones & Smith, 2001; McAllister, 1997; Phillips, 1996, 1998; A. Smith, 1991).
The ethnic or cultural dimension of national identity tends to represent a strong and exclusive national identity in any given society (Lewin-Epstein & Levanon, 2005; McAllister, 1997). People in the national community who do not know each other personally but share a common history constitute this ethnic conception of national identity. For example, Eriksen shows that even though members of the national community do not know each other personally, their mutual feelings depend on the ability of national ideologies to transfer their sentiments to the abstract level (Eriksen, 2004). Benedict Anderson (1983) describes this common national bond in terms of an 'imagined community'.
By contrast, the civic dimension of national identity emphasises a 'formal' civic identity, focusing on legal norms and a shared political culture (Eriksen, 1993; McAllister, 1997; Pakulski & Tranter, 2000). In the last few decades, there has been more discussion of the formal dimension of national identity because of the absence of shared experiences and collective values means that a political formal identity can be constructed more easily (McAllister, 1997). In general, both the ethnic and civic dimensions of national identity revolve around the quest for a sense of belonging to the larger community or national identity.
So far, empirical research on Australian ethnic identity has focused on the symbolic and informal maintenance of national boundaries (Bean, 1995; Goot & Watson, 2001; Phillips, 1996, 1998; Turner, 1994). The study of these symbolic and informal boundaries is primarily concerned with how citizens engage in the exclusion of the 'other'. The foundations of this exclusion of the 'other" is created through what Alexander (1993, p. 291) has called the 'national community'. Traditions, texts, discourses and collective memories that reinforce and construct symbolic boundaries all combine to form the 'national community' (Bauman, 1992; Calhoun, 1993; A. Smith, 1991).
The symbolic codes that categorise Australia's ethnic identity might include Australian sporting, historical, …