Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Sarah Maiter

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


There is a growing body of research examining how ethnicity and race are implicated in identity development among ethno-racially diverse youth. Much of this research has focused on newcomer youth, resulting in a limited understanding of the particular challenges experienced by those have spent the majority of their lives in multicultural Canada. Furthermore, most of this research has portrayed identity as a static property, and youth as rather passive in the acquisition and expression of their identities. The current study explored the complex and dynamic ways that racialized youth create and recreate identities within the various social environments they participate. Specifically, this dissertation presents findings from research looking at identity in second-generation, South Asian Canadians. A grounded theory approach, with a corresponding qualitative methodology, was used to understand the personal, social, and situated identities of 26 young South Asian Canadian women and men (aged 18-25). Results from in-depth interviews with participants suggest that these youth are influenced both by a distinct ethnic/racial history, and a personal history grounded in "Canadian" experiences. These identities are multidimensional, flexible constructs that are created and re-created as youth interact with others around them. Youth are experts in assessing a particular situation, determining the most appropriate "self' to foreground from an array of identity choices, and executing expressions of identity that are likely to produce the outcome most in their favour. Youth, then, actively negotiate various aspects of their environments and by drawing on their "identity capital", make deliberate, strategic choices about whether to "do South Asian" or "do Canadian" within different human interactions. This reflects youths' resiliency in dealing with the potentially oppressive situations that arise when living in ethnically/racially heterogeneous environments. The implications of these findings for social work research and therapeutic practice are discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season