Teruko Vida Mitsuhara

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9241

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Mitsuhara, Teruko Vida, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'Multilingual Childhoods in Mayapur, West Bengal: Peer Group Socialization of Bengali and Immigrant Children,' supervised by Dr. Elinor Ochs

TERUKA MITSUHARA, then a graduate student at University of California, Los Angeles, California, was awarded funding in April 2016 to aid research on ‘Multilingual Childhoods in Mayapur, West Bengal: Peer Group Socialization of Bengali and Immigrant Children,’ supervised by Dr. Elinor Ochs. Doctoral fieldwork was conducted in West Bengal, India for nine months between September 2016 and May 2017. The dissertation project investigated children’s multilingual language practices and ideologies in Mayapur, West Bengal’a transnational village comprised of middle and lower-middle class religious immigrants from Asia, the Americas, and Europe. There, immigrant children of diverse national backgrounds as well as local Bengali children interact frequently, maintaining their heritage languages and learning several others. The core questions of this study were: 1) What (religious, language, gender) ideologies in Mayapur undergird multilingual incorporation? 2) What are the everyday practices within the peer group that foster transnational children’s multilingualism? 3) How does this level of multilingualism affect an ethos of community and cooperation within this population representing varying ethnic, national, linguistic, and class backgrounds? To answer those questions, the researcher collected naturally occurring interactional data (audio and video recordings) within girls’ peer groups, between caregivers and children in the home, temple, and school. The grantee observed interactional patterns across these sites and conducted language ideology oriented interviews. Findings showed that children have a higher level of multilingual language awareness and linguistic ability. However, despite being raised in a religious community that favored marriage outside of one’s own language and ethnic background, issues regarding ethnicity, race, and language were present. The community struggled to cooperate but the temple space remained a common ground off which to bridge differences. One conclusion of the study is that other markers of difference are temporarily erased as religious identification is made the main difference maker.