Social Indeuality: Topic 3B

Methological issues- how has ethincity been reaserched and how sucessful has this been? pluss key studies

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  • Created on: 13-05-15 15:11

Case studies

  • A case study involves the detailed examination of a single example of something thus a case study could involce the study of a single institution, community or social group, an individual or historical event or a single social action. In general case studies make no claims to be representative.
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Howard Becker

  • Becker has described one aim of the case study as the attempt to "arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the group under study".
  • Pryce- participant observation of a single west indian community in the St pauls area of Bristorl attempted at one level simply to understand that particular community.
  • Klein- carried out case studyreaserch of a free trade zone to examine how multinational corporations treated the workers manufactoring their products.
  • Hpweveer Becker claims case studies can be used to " develop more general theoretical statements about regularities in social structure and process". A case study of a particular society can be used to falcify a general theory about social life
  • Gough's- study of Nayar society showed that family strucutres based upon maritial bond weren't universal.
  • Case studies can also be used toproduce typologies or a set of cattegories defining types of social phenonomen.
  • Douglas- suggests case studies can be used to discover the different types of suicide by uncovering the different social meanings of suicide.
  • Case studies can be useful for generating jew hypotheses which can then be tested agaisnt other data or later studies.
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becker 2

Paul willis-study of a single school produced a number of hypotheses about the relatiobnship between education and capitalist societies which have proved to be a useful focus fort reaserch and the development of theories by other sociologists of ducation.

A major drawback of the case study is that its not possible to generalize on the basis of its findings. One way to overcome this problem is to carry out or use a nuymber of case stuyies of the same type of phenomenon

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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra 1

  • Context
  • The asian gang is an idea that has gained currency in the media. The mass meida have reinvented the image of young asian men transforming them into a new "folk devil"- increase in stories about criminality, violence and rioting. The asian gang is young, male, wc/ underclass and linked to islamic fundamentalism. Its increasingly difficult to talk about or write about young asian men without drawing on this steryotype"
  • Asian gang has three related aspects :ethnicity, youth and masculinity
  • British asian community often held to be more peaceful and law abiding than the afro carribean community as it is assumed that strength of culture, language and religeon imposes constriants on individuals which makes them less likely to turn to deviance for while magority asian communitys may be alian and hard to understand they aren't seen as a problem in terms of criminality or deviancethis is a strength in terms of multiculutural celibrations of difference but a weakness in that asian communities have been seen as alien, unable and unwilling to assimilate. The latter concerns surfaced in the Salman Rushdie aggair and during protests against the gulf war and then the bradford riots in 1995.
  • The heart of perceptions of cultural difference is islam, this perception of asian communities as culturally different has distracted attention away from their opression as minoritories.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra 2

  • Context 2
  • Moreover while afro caribbeans are seen as male acociated wth crime and violence the assian community is seen as female because of their focus of concern was on gender related issues such as aranged marriages.
  • This established veiw of asian communities went under change in the mid 190's due to two crucial events. 1 the murder of a white teen Richard Everitt in london in 1994  and the breadford riots in 1995.
  • Young wc asian men behaving in a similar way to other young wc men were then perceived as a threat and the image of young asian men changed from passivity to agression. Alexanda traces the development of the moral panic in the media "asain teen gangs terrorising london" was a story in the evening standard in november of 1996. News stories spesifically linked to the emergence of fangs to urban decay, poverty and the rise of an underclass.
  • This reporting coincided with a rise in islamaphobia in which earlier white fears about the presence of black communities in Britian were transfered from Afro carribeans to Asian muslims. It also connected with sociological disscussions of a crisis in masculinity, the young men were concerned it was claimed has been excluded from the established sources of prestigue for men through working to support a family and turned to violence, criminality and drug taking.
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The asian gang Clair Alexandra:3

  • A further fact drawn from by the medias picture was the generation gap which alienated young men from their parents generation and weakened ties of community, religeon and family which inhibited deviance.
  • Further context to the reaserch and to the understanding of the idea of asian gangs is the structural position of bengalis in british society. The boys she studied were thired and fourth generation the hopes the migrants to britian had for their children and grandchildren had not been fufilled.
  • PSI Survey- describes pakistani and bangladeshi (treated together despite their differences) as facing multipul disadvantages with high rates of unemployment, high numbers without educational qualifications and so on. The reaserch was carried out in a deprived and decaying area of London where male unemployment on the "stoneleigh estate" was 32%
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 4

  • Methods
  • Her reaserch was ethnographic- based on forming a relationship with the respondants in theri own territory using a variety of methods.
  • Treats interveiws as her main method but this blends with observations, comments from informal conversations etc.
  • Her life centered on the reaserch and people within it for several years and makes it clear that personal ties continued long after the reaserch was officially over.
  • Project was based on her involvemnt in the stoneleigh asian youth organisation (SAYO) which she found through contacting loval youth services and organisations and chose iot as it was in the area she lived and had not been heavily reaserched. SAYO'S members were mainly aged between16-22 and had a reputation as trouble makers and rebels. Hassan the worker in charge told her that they were "put of control, religeous, unemployed, familed at school and into grugs and violence and were sexist".
  • The young men were described as bengali as this is how they described themselves and only described themselves as muslim when discussing religeon and media representations of Islam.They were working class
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 5

Methods 2

  • She initially didn't know how to talk to the boys and they paid little attention to her. Hassan was then hit by one of the boys and left and the project was closed for 3 months until Yasmin a Bengali woman was apointed. Alexandra had to re negotiate her access but her real involvment began through acting as a voulenteer (keeping the pool table booking list and refreshments) and began to talk to the boys and gradually became important to them.
  • Yasmin was the gatekeeper and became key to the reaserch and Alexandra became Yasmins sidekick. Yasmin taught alexandra a lot about bengali culture and they travelled to india together Alexandra says yasomin is equelly responsible for the book.
  • She began intervewing the boys 18 months after first entering the project which was now divided into junior and senior sectors. Alexandra focused on the juniors through she interveiweed some sinoirs, youth workers as well. Each interveiw lasted between an hour and five and a half hours in the club or one of the young mens homes.
  • The boys chose ficticious names which they are refered to in the book- alexandra wanted them to have some feeling of ownership in the work.
  • The boys took an interest in her- a young asian woman in her 30's marriage was assumed to be iminent. A boy doing a lever sociology read one of her chapters and then passed it to others.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 6

  • "so clair the new asian folk devil, what do you think?" and others would say "put that in the book clair".
  • She took part in many trips and events with the boys including organising a fashion parade and a residential trip to tunisia.
  • Her reaserch was also a part of of a personal journey for her. Her mother was  Indian but was fostered at birth amd ;ater adopted by a white english family and brought up in a village where she was the only "black child". She didn't meet an asian person until she was 19 and and went to Oxford. She felt indian and wanted to explore this aspect of ther background but felt rejected and alientated by her friends asian families.
  • The boys at SAYO accepted her unquestioningly as indian rather than english and Yasmin by educating her into asian culture through shopping, clubbing and a visit to india helped her gain a sense of belonging. During her reaserch she met her mother and comments she could never have faced the meeting before Yasmin and the SAYO boys.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 7

Key findings

  • Her account of the boys bears little resenblence to the idea of the asian gang. She says the notion of the gang exuists more as a conveniant fiction than a reality.
  • ie deputy head of the boys school descibing a fight between boys as a "gang incident" and even felt able to identify "ring leaders" where acording to the boys none existed. As far as they were concened they wetre just a group of friends. They were aware of the association of gangs with criminality and how the label of gang would work against them. They didn't have the internal structure of cohetence that the label suggests. However the label of "gang" was used by the school to missunderstand the situation.
  • The alternative explanation of personal dipute was ignored as it didn't fit in with the representation of young asian men as folk devils. This incident added a sense of collective identity expressed as "standing up for ourselves" derived from a percieved history of their community in terms of battles.
  • The boys were involved in many violent incidents but Alexandra shows its far to easy to explain these in terms of ethnic conflics.
  • Peer group identities were shaped by ethnicity age and masculinity and these fed the notion of the gang. The concept of the gand is wholy negative.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 8

  • But she shows that the boys relationships weere based on positive factors such as solidarity and loyalty and peer groups also existed within the wider notions of community. The boys saw themselves as a part of a wider comminity and came to its defence when neccassary. There were complex shifting aliences and loyalties. Shes also able to show that the idea that cound asian men are alienated from community and family is wrong.
  • In a chapter titled "brothers" she explores the boys relationship with their brothers these relationships were characterised by respect and loyalty to family and friends was also a strongly held value and descirbes a cricket match which brought together many young men on the estate an expression of a community limited by age and sex but far wider than any peer group.
  • Looking back over the years in the final chapter she comments that while many of her memories are of the positive and everyday the tone of the book is darker than she expected and this is the result of the shadow casr by the idea of the asian gang. Although a mistaked indea it has real effects ie the greater surveilence the boys were subjected to in the attitude of the school towards them and even the very existence of SAYO formed as the authorities defined the asian boys as a problem.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 9


  • The alleged criminality of british asians has been a grey area as its generallyu assumed that and crime problem crelated to ethnicity is about afro caribbeans and asians were assumed to have low rates of criminality because of the strength of family and community ties.
  • The boyus she studied were considered deviant by those around them (ie youth workers) but in no way a gang. Facing pressures not least from schools to accept the gang label but their peer and community ties were far more complex.
  • The asian gang is a myth. - the reality behind the myth is a complex interplay of age, gender and ethnicity whithin which peer groups are fromed and change. She shows the friendship and support the peer group provides and how peer groups exist within wider networks of family and community. Despite the involvment of many of the boys in antisocial incidents they are shown as understandable human beings far from the folk devils of popular discourse.
  • The deviance she shows is in context of urban deprivation, strains of unemployment and other social problems and the faliure of authorities to understand and support these problems.
  • The success of some of the boys 2 of which taking degrees others moving into youth and community work is remarkable but balenced by other cases of imprisonment, unemployment and low paid work without prospects.
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The asian gang- Clair Alexandra: 10


  • For Alexandra this is far more than a reaserch project- part of the books atraction lies in the open discussion of ther motivation and the part SAYO came to play in her life. While discribing how the boys at SAYO constrcted their identities within the constraints imposed on them by the interpretation of them as folkdevils she also shows her own story of the construction of her own asian identity.
  • Ethnographic- not representative
  • Leaves out crimuinal activity
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Key study: The labour force survey

  • Methodology
  • The sample for the labour force survey (lfs) is drawn from the land and property service agency (LPSA) LIST. This is the most up to date listing of private households. People living in institutions are excluded.
  • The systematic random sample opf 60,000 adresses is drawn eacher quarter (every 3 months) from the LPSA list. The LPSA adresses are sorted by district council and ward so the sample is effectively stratified geographically. The sample size is 120,000 people from a cross section of households.
  • First wave interviews are carried out by a team of interveiweers who call each adress and atempt to obtain an interveiw. Questions are asked of every adult member of the household (age 16 and over) with a few questions relating to each child in the household. The method used is a quantitative interveiwer lead questionair where the possible awnsers are pre coded (limited choice like a in a multipul choice) in the first instance the interveiw is face to face by telaphone interveiwes are used thereafter.
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Key study: The labour force survey 2

  • Results
  • The results show that ethnic minorities tend to still be concentrated in a narower range of employment types than the white population; ethnic minorities have a lower average income in comparison to whites; ethnic minoritories have higher levels of unemployment or economic inactivity than whites however the differnces between ethnic groups is enormous and the pattern differs for men and women of each group.
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