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Living with ambivalence: story and identity in the lives of adult children of immigrants

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posted on 2023-01-18, 17:41 authored by Senem Yekenkurul
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Sciences and Communications, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

This thesis addresses how adult children of immigrants connect with their culture of origin when transnational ties have been weak or absent for most of their lives. Using the life stories of twenty female participants of various ethnic backgrounds, it foregrounds their changing perspectives over their life-cycle and provides a deeper understanding of the different ways children of immigrants connect and engage with their culture of origin over time. I focus on the experiences of women, including those explored through published autobiographies written by second-generation women in Australia. This thesis is also an autoethnography of my own experiences as a second-generation Turkish-Australian woman. Studies of the experiences of the children of immigrants have mainly focused on youth and intergenerational conflict, underemphasising their changing relationships and perspectives over the life-course. This thesis also goes beyond the typical analysis of transnationalism – as direct ties between sending and receiving countries among the first- and second-generation – and explores the nature of indirect and emotional ties to the homeland. It contributes to the growing literature aimed at addressing various ways adult children of immigrants connect with their parents’ culture of origin, by addressing the following questions: How does actively seeking family history and family stories impact on the lives of the second-generation? How do these stories affect the relationships between them and their parents? The findings show that, as adults, many children of immigrants actively seek out family histories and stories in order to connect with their culture of origin and their parents, and to pass this knowledge on to their own children. Most importantly, their motivation for seeking out stories is to locate themselves within their family story. This pursuit of stories leads them toward developing new perspectives about their culture, family and life in Australia, and encourages them to accept and live comfortably with their cultural ambivalence.


Center or Department

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. School of Social Sciences and Communications. Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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arrow migration 2023-01-10 00:15. Ref: latrobe:38063 (9e0739)

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