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The social construction of identities by British-Muslim pupils aged 14-15 years

The social construction of identities by British-Muslim pupils aged 14-15 years

Archer, Louise (1998) The social construction of identities by British-Muslim pupils aged 14-15 years. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The research reported in this thesis examines the social construction of ethnic and gender identities by British-Muslim pupils, from a critical, feminist, discursive position. The research draws upon critical, feminist conceptualisations of identity which challenge positivistic Social Psychological theories of ethnic identity for constructing British-Muslim young people in racist and sexist ways. The aims of this study were to (i) identify ways in which young people conceptualise their identities with regard to 'race', gender and religion and (ii) consider young people's constructions of racism and sexism, particularly within the context of school.

Participants were recruited from four schools, located in a town in the North-West of England ("Mill Town"). In total, 69 young people participated across two, main phases of data collection: 60 young men and women participated in single-sex, focus group discussions, which were conducted by two British-Asian, female researchers and the British-White, female author. Nine young women also completed 'Photographic Diaries' with the author. The use of participant-generated, photographic data is a novel approach within Social Psychology, and it was anticipated that the use of this method would provide an original contribution to knowledge. All data were analysed discursively.

Analyses suggest that the young men constructed 'Muslim' identities, through which they positioned themselves as 'not western', and asserted hegemonic masculinities. These constructions are contrasted with previous literature, in which second generation Asians are conceptualised as choosing between 'British' and 'Asian' identities. The young men used discourses of 'culture' to position themselves both as 'not proper Muslims' (in comparison to Muslims in Bangladesh) and as ' aNnhentic' tsS.NIslim% (in comparison to Muslim women in Britain). These constructions are discussed in terms of the young men's talk about the duties of 'being a man.'

Analyses of the female discussion group data suggest that the young women reproduced and resisted stereotypical discourses of themselves as oppressed, 'passive victims' In particular, young women conceptualised arranged marriages in terms of 'choice', positioning forced marriages as 'not marriage'. The theme of choice was also reproduced in discussions around the wearing of dbuttah and educational careers, in which the young women emphasised their own agency. In comparison to the young men, the women constructed 'British Muslim' identities. The differences in the young people's identity constructions are discussed in terms of their resistance to racist discourses and the negotiation of masculinities and femininities. Similarities in the young people's use of 'race' discourses are also highlighted, through their construction 'Black' and 'Asian' identities.

Across both male and female groups, racism was talked about as a frequently, almost daily, experience. The young people reproduced discourses of 'modern' and 'traditional' racism, although they also produced challenging constructions of 'institutional' racisms. In particular, young men and women talked about the difficulty of identifying 'hidden racisms' from teachers and pupils. These implications of these constructions for challenging or reproducing inequalities are discussed in relation to psychological literature.

Analyses of the photographic diaries suggest that the young women drew on, and resisted, dominant discourses of attractiveness and sexuality to construct Muslim femininities. Photographs of classes are discussed in terms of highlighting the marginalisation of young Muslim women (with particular reference to science) and reproduction and resistance of the behavers and achievers' stereotype.
From the analyses it is suggested that the young people's identity constructions demonstrate the complex intersection of 'race' and gender. The young people also produced discourses which challenge, and resist, positivistic Social Psychological conceptualisations of 'identity' and 'racism'. Findings are discussed in terms of possibilities for anti-racist and anti-sexist strategies within schools, and application of the photographic technique in work with young people from marginalised groups.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: identity, racism, sexism, young people, British Muslims,
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > L Education (General)
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Social Science
School of Social Science > Sociology
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 11:08

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