Talking Tamil, Talking Saivism: Language practices in a Tamil Hindu temple in Australia

Nirukshi Perera
2017
The role of religion for migrants in Australia has generated much interest in recent years. A growing area of scholarly inquiry is how religion can assist in migrant language maintenance. This thesis looks at the interaction between language and religion within the goal of heritage language maintenance and how this plays out in a particular migrant religious institution and for a particular ethnoreligious group, namely Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus. It is the result of an 18-month ethnographic study
more » ... ethnographic study situated in a Tamil Hindu temple in Australia. The study investigates the role of the Tamil language in the temple, the types of language practices that the second generation employ in the space, and the relevance of the Tamil language and Hindu religion in the lives of second-generation devotees. It provides an insight into how migrant youth skilfully use their heritage language and English to achieve communication and index their hybrid identifications as they grow up in Anglo-dominant, multicultural Australia. It also highlights the important role played by the temple in supporting these migrants. At a macro-level, this study shows how the temple, as a religious institution, not only provides a space for Hindu worship, but one for socialising, cultural identification and the transmission of language, religion and culture. In Sri Lanka the Tamil language and Hindu religion are closely linked in a Tamil Hindu culture and this strong language-religion ideology is reflected in the language practices of the temple. However, in the Australian setting, the temple faces sociocultural change including an increasingly ethnically and linguistically diverse congregation and disengagement by the second generation. Therefore there is a tension between the extent to which the temple remains linked to its Tamil identity and to which it must change its policies to accommodate those who do not speak Tamil. On the micro-level, as an insight into language practices for the second generation, the thesis focuses [...]
doi:10.4225/03/58ffdf87350a0 fatcat:7bgk3oxvsfc5nlop2ys5mxfh4y