Acculturation of young Mauritian people of Chagossian origin in the UK
: negotiating living in the host society

  • Maria Gundowry

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study explored the acculturation of adolescents of Mauritian-Chagossian origin, who had migrated to the south-east of England between 2002 and 2011. It focused on the tensions between participants’ perceptions of ‘home’ and the host society. This was done by examining their feelings about their families’ forced displacement from Chagos, their past life in Mauritius, and their school experiences in England, given that school environments are important sites of socialisation. The aim of the study was to contribute to an understanding of the experiences of this under-researched community’s migration experiences.

    Participants in this study, born in Mauritius and with at least one Chagossian parent and/or grandparent, were aged between 16 and 19 and were in full-time education. A qualitative approach was used in order to capture the perspectives of the young people, with data gathered from narrative accounts through individual interviews.

    The findings indicate that for all of the participants, school settings were seen as sites of tension, with one of their biggest challenges being a perceived lack of proficiency in English. The data suggests different experiences, according to whether the participants arrived as part of the main migration of people of Chagossian origin, or before and after this influx. While all participants shared similar positive experiences, such as feelings of being cared for by school staff, perceptions of negative stereotyping, prejudice and feelings of being unwelcome were reported by those who arrived in school when the number of migrants from Mauritius increased significantly. Participants’ stories highlighted tensions between sentiments about ‘home’ and host society, including an acute sense of loss felt by all of the participants, largely due to the breaking of family ties.

    Dominant models of acculturation conceptualise migrants as moving from one culture to another. However, participants in this research arrived in England as ‘Mauritians’, ‘Chagossians’, ‘Creole’ or ‘Catholic Creole’ but were then attributed unfamiliar cultural positions in England such as ‘Black’ or ‘migrants from Africa’.Hence, this study supports other models of acculturation such as dialogical models which feature migrants as negotiating not just two but a variety cultural positions and identities.

    While dominant models of acculturation claim that the ways individuals relate to the host society (assimilation, integration, separation and marginalisation orientations) depend on context, orientations adopted by participants in this study fluctuated and often contradicted each other in the same contexts, depending on the individuals’ different voices. This research suggests that acculturative orientations not only vary across different contexts, but also within the same context. Therefore, with the increasing numbers of migrant arrivals in Europe, including the UK, this study offers an alternative lens to better understand acculturation and the particular challenges of migrants, especially those who come from diverse cultural backgrounds in a polyethnic society such as Mauritius.
    Date of AwardJan 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorCarol Robinson (Supervisor) & Angela Pickering (Supervisor)

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