Topic 5 - Ethnic Identities

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What are ethnic identities?

  • In the 60's and 50's thousands of people migrated from countries such as Jamaica, India, Pakistan and Kenya to Britain.
  • They brought their traditional customs, values, religions, diets and languages of their homelands.
  • These cultural features set them apart from one another and from the mainstream cultures of Britain.
  • They formed distinctive ethnic groups -
    • groups with their own cultures based on a sense of shared origin.
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Ethnic identities

  • Ethnic identity or ethnicity refers to people recognising they share a cultural distinctiveness.
  • Based on :
    • Common descent - represented by their colour, race or physical characteristics.
    • Geographical origins - their country of origin is important - seeing yourself as Pakistani, or Indian.
    • History - members of an ethnic culture may share a sense of struggle and oppresion which originate in historical contexts - slavery, colonialism, persecution etc.
    • Language - as well as speaking English, members of an ethnic group may speak the language of their country of origin.
    • Religion - for some ethnic groups, this is the most important influence on their daily lives - Pakistanis will seem themselves as Muslim.
    • Traditions and rituals - these are cultural or religious events, ceremonies and celebrations which reinforce a sense of ethnic community.
  • People who recognise themselves as an ethnic group feel positively towards others who share the same community.
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Mason 2000 - ethnic identities

  • Mason 2000
    • Points out British white people see ethnicity as something other groups have.
    • This leads to 'the' statements composed of imagined and prejudicial assumptions about minority ethnic groups.
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Said 1985 - ethnic identities

  • Said 1985
    • White people see Islamic idenity as extreme and fanatical.
    • These views undermine the relationship between Islam and Western cuture.
    • This creates a mutual suspcion and hostility.
    • Members of an ethnic group have varying degrees of commitment to the group's values and identities.
    • However a shared cultural tradition does tend to create common identities.
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African-Caribbean identities

  • Identities of African-Caribbean or Black people in Britain are shaped by many things including age and social class.
  • They may follow lifestyles which are not different from those of white people.
  • Black skin is siginificant in Britain where racism is not fully eradicated.
  • Black people see themselves as victims of racism.
  • African-Caribbean culture and customs have impacts on identities.
  • The use of African-Caribbean dialect 'patois' reinforces their sense of having a distinctive cultural identity.
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Gilroy 1987 - Black expressive cultures

  • The richness of African-Caribbean culture is celbrated every year at Notting Hill Carnival.
  • Gilroy 1987
    • Black people have made dazzling contributions to the mainstream culture in Britain.
    • In dance, music and dress.
    • There is no single Black culture or Black identity.
    • He argues there are common themes that run through Black cultures.
    • One of these is the awareness of the historical experience of slavery - a bitter experience that has an effect on the outlook of Black people.
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Alexander 1996 - The art of being Black

  • Alexander 1996
    • A close study on a group of Black youths in London.
    • Concluded there are many different ways of being Black.
    • Constructing a Black identity is and 'art' that needs a great deal of work and effort.
    • The youths were 'symbolic markers' of being black.
    • They felt that certain styles of dress, music, walking and talking made them recognisable as 'Black'.
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Asian identities

  •  Asian identities
    • Most of Britains Asians have origins in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
    • Pakistan and Bangladesh are predominanlty Muslim.
    • India contains Sikh and Muslim minorities as well as Hindu majority.
    • Briatin's Muslim population is split between Sunni and Shi'ah.
    • And is broken down even further, however their shared faith and identity as one nation creates bonds between these Muslim communities.
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Asian lifestyles

  • Each religion has its own place of worship.
    • The Hindu temple, the Muslim mosque, the Sikh gurdwara.
  • Each religion follows its own calendar of fasts and feasts.
    • Muslim Ramadam and the Hindu Diwali.
  • Religion affects dress codes.
    • The Muslim veil, The Sikh turban.
  • Religion affects diet.
    • Hindus avoid Beef, Muslims avoid pork.
  • Religion affects moral attitudes.
    • Divorce is more acceptable among Muslims.
  • There are similarities in the cultural practises of Britain's Asian populations.
  • There is stress laid on extended family and family honour these are important, behaviour of young women is closely monitored.
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Ethnic identities as resistance

  • Modood -
    • Skin colour is an important source of identity for African-Caribbeans.
    • Black identity and pride are celbrate as a response to racial exclusion and stereotyping.
    • Especially by white people and symbols of authority such as teachers and the police.
  • Jacobson 1997 -
    • Young Pakistanis are adopting Islamic identity in terms of diet, dress and everyday routines and practises.
    • This is a defensive identity which has developed as a response to racism and exclusion.
    • Islamic identity compensates for marginalisation.
  • Gilroy -
    • African-Caribbeans adopt identities based on ethnic history and culture to challenge racism and exclusion.
    • African-Caribbean youth identity utilizes gangsta rap and hip-hop to symbolise feelings about what they percieve as white oppresion.
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White identities

  • Every group has a culture.
  • Even the white majority can be called an ethnic group.
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Hewitt 1996 - Invisible culture

  • Hewitt -
    • Young people feel they inhabit an invisible culture.
    • He studied a group in a deprived working class area of London.
    • They felt a sense of unfairness because every culture seemed to be celebrated but their own.
    • They were constantly frustrated when they tried to adopt symbols and emblems of white or English cultural identity.
      • For example:- the Union Jack and St Georges flag were regarded with suspicion because of their association with the far-right racist groups.
    • Ways must be found to allow white people to be proud of their own cultural traditions.
    • But must not be done in a racist manner that excludes people from ethnic minorities from claiming an English identity too.
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Ethnic groups and identities conclusion

  • Britain is a multicultural society.
  • It contains a number of distinctive ethnic groups - with their own identity, values and customs.
  • Asian or African-Caribbean minority groups have a keen awarness of their cultural traditions.
  • Some people born into these groups will drift away from them while others will remain deeply commited to their ethnic lifestyles.
    • Some will regard themselves as Black-British or British-Asian.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - Family

  • FAMILY - Ghuman - 1999 - Outlines the socialisation practises of the first generation of Asian parents:
    • Children brought up to be obedient, loyal and respectful to elders and community. Social conformity is demanded and children learn to be inter-dependent rather than individualistic which is seen as a threat to the authority of the head of the family.
    • Choice of education is left to the parents who consider the best interest of their children and their future.
    • Choice of marriage partner is left to parents and children are taught the drawback of dating and courting, the dangers of pre-marital and promiscuous sex, and the perceived disadvantages of love marriages.
    • Religious training considered important as it reinforces the above and stressed humility rather than self pride and assertiveness.
    • Role of mother tongue is crucial in maintaining links between generations and in transmission of religious values.  Children tend to be bi-lingual and speak their mother language and English.
  • These practices are still the norm today, some Asian commentators expressed concern about the parenting practises of second-generation Asians.
  • Generation gap opening up between parents and children as the latter get caught up between two cultures.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - Family

  • Anwar - 1981
    • Identified three issues which cause tension between Pakistani parents and children in regard to cultural identity:
      • Western clothes, especially for girls
      • Arranged marriages
      • The question of freedom
    • Family can be a site of conflict between grandparents, parents and children.
    • Especially if first-generation come from rural cultures which are different to Western culture.
    • Younger generation mixes with people who have different values and attitudes from their families - this results in younger generation holding values and ideas which are alien.
    • Muslim community depends on females becoming wives and mothers and socialising the next generation into key Muslim values.
    • Patricarchal values underpin Pakistani and Bangladeshi culture and identity - men are accorded to more freedom because women are perceived as subordinate to men.
    • School and college and peer relationships with white or African-Caribbean peers result in changes in Pakistani and Bangladeshi girls challenging the notion they should play a lesser role in their communities.
    • Dating is disapproved by the older Asian generation.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - Family

  • Drury - 1991
    • Found one fifth of girls in her Asian sample were secretly dating boys.
    • Some were going to pubs and drinking alcohol without the knowledge or consent from their parents.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - The Peer gr

  • Sewell - 
    • Peer group pressure is influential in shaping ethnic identity among African-Caribbean youth in British inner cities and is probably responsible for educational underachievement.
    • African-Caribbean male identity is focused on being a 'hyper male' or 'gangsta' in the eyes of their peers.
    • This compensates for the lack of a father figure in the lives of these teenagers.
    • Street identity is shaped by the mass media such as advertising and MTV, which encourages young African-Carribean males to subscribe to a consumer culture.
    • Identity of black youth is the result of a triple quandary.
    • They do not fit into the dominant mainstream culture, they feel rejected by it.
    • They become anxious about how they are seen by society and their black peers - they seek to position themselves in a positive way by constructing a deviant and masculine identity.
    • Aspects of their identity are taken from media culture - designer labels, male role models e.g. rap stars.
    • This masculinity is valued as a comfort zone - their peer groups acceptance of this identity compensates for the strong sense of rejection they feel by their fathers, education system and white society.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - Religion

  • It has a profound influence in shaping ethnic identities of young Asians.
  • It has a less influence on African-Caribbean culture and identity - although African-Caribbean youths are more likely to be Christians or are likely to be involved in cults such as Rastafarianism and the Seventh Day Adventists.
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Modood et al. 1997 - Religion

  • Modood - 1997
    • Questioned two generations of Asians, African-Caribbeans and whites regarding the statement ' Religion is very important to how I live my life'.
    • They found those most in favour of religion were the Pakistani and Bangladeshi samples
    • 82% of 50+ year old sample, and 67% of 16-4 year old sample valued Islam in their lives.
    • One third of young Indian's saw their religion as important.
    • 5% of young white saw religion as important.
    • 18% of young African-Caribbeans saw religion as important.
    • In all ethnic groups the older generation saw religion as more important than the younger generation - this gap was lowest amongst Muslim's.
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Drury and Stopes-Roe and Cochrane - Religion

  • Drury -
    • 42% of Sikh girls in her sample regularly went to their temple.
    • 44% hardly ever attended.
  • Stopes-Row and Cochrane 1990 -
    • Young Asian people aged 18-21 - 85% thought teaching of religion is very important or important - this belief is highger for Pakistani or Bangladeshi youth among Indian youth.
    • They are more likely to challemge the myths and superstitions surround their faiths although some still celebrate traditional rituals and festivals.
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Modood 2001 - Religion

  • Modood - 2001
    • Centrality of religion in Asian communities therefore shapes their ethnic identities.
    • Very few Asians marry across religious or caste lines - most of their children will be socialised into a religious value system.
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Socialisation into ethnic identities - Education

  • Ghuman -
    • The Mosque is centre for religious, educational and political activities of Muslim communities - these religious institutions exert a strong influence on the way parents rear and educate children.
    • Muslim parents send their children off to mosques for teaching of the Koran.
    • Many muslim parents would prefer separate schools especially for girls.
    • Muslims have expressed concern at the curriculum in regard to religious education, teaching of P.E., music and drama.
    • Teachers encourage an inquiring and critical attitude in their students which conflict with Muslim religious traditions and undermine respect for values of elders.
    • Hindu and Sikh parental attitudes towards female education are extremely positive and account for success of Indian girls at both higher education levels of British education.
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