Christian bilingual practices and hybrid identities as vehicles of migrant integration

Yining Wang, Ingrid Piller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

About two-thirds of Chinese Australians do not have a religious affiliation. However, recent converts to Christianity constitute a growing segment. This paper investigates the conversion journeys of a group of first-generation Chinese Australians as they intersect with their experiences of English language learning, hybrid identity formation, settlement, and parenting. Based on qualitative open-ended interviews with seven highly educated women who had migrated to Australia as adults and converted to Christianity within the first few years of settlement, the chapter traces conversion as a key aspect of their social integration into the new society. The women experienced migration as an existential crisis of economic insecurity, loss of status, language barriers, marital problems, and parenting dilemmas. In the absence of the social networks they had lost through migration, they turned to churches for practical support. The support and community offered by church groups led them to accept a new belief system and completely transformed their lives. The long-term consolidation of the benefits of conversion were achieved through bilingual and bicultural practices and hybrid and adhesive identities, resulting in personal well-being and a high level of social integration. Christian beliefs also became a kind of objective standard that allowed them to bridge generational, linguistic, and cultural gaps with their second-generation children. The chapter closes with a discussion of the lessons that this research holds for secular institutions as they try to improve the social integration of newcomers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage and spirit
Subtitle of host publicationexploring languages, religions, and spirituality in Australia today
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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