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What are the advantages and problems for South Asians in Britain adopting a 'black' identity? Give reasons for your answer

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Course: Sociology 2h Examination no: 3274833 Matriculation no: 0232748 Word count: 2639 WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND PROBLEMS FOR SOUTH ASIANS IN BRITAIN ADOPTING A 'BLACK' IDENTITY? GIVE REASONS FOR YOUR ANSWER What are the advantages and problems for South Asians in Britain adopting a 'black' identity? Give reasons for your answer Introduction Migrants from the Indian subcontinent to Britain have a long history, but it was not until after World War Two that there was a dramatic increase in the both the scope and scale of South Asians travelling to this country. Due to labour shortages in the 1950s and 1960s, the number of visible minorities rose substantially and families reunited during the 1970s resulting in permanent settlement. The effects of chain migration between kinship and family networks resulted in distinct communities that were "very successful in reproducing much of their social and cultural world", mainly concentrated in London, Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester (Lewis, 1994: 17). By the 1990s, ethnic minorities were approximately 10% of the total population but in mainly self-contained communities. Unfortunately, colonial stereotypes persisted and Britain's white majority have racialised British South Asians as outsiders with limited recognition of their distinctiveness. To adopt a 'black' identity is clearly not an easy process in an historically racist and imperialist nation within a secularised, Western culture. Advantages for South Asians in Britain adopting a black identity could slowly emerge in the 21st century as second generations establish new ethnicities within the binary oppositions of 'Asianness' and 'Britishness' (Dwyer, 1999: 11). ...read more.


Caste, honour (izzat) and religious practice were closely adhered to, with links "to Bangladesh remaining crucially important and many devote much energy to maintaining economic and kinship links there" (Gardner & Shakur, in Ballard, 1994: 153). For those South Asians who moved to Britain after they had learnt the language of Punjabi or Urdu, etc, felt attached to the culture including dress, manner and religion will have felt shocked by the vast differences in the country they had emigrated to. For this reason, as the minority it will have been more realistic to follow the social and cultural norms that felt most comfortable. Thus, a 'black identity' would have included (and still does) speaking their language as much as possible, women wearing traditional dress and men working as the head of the family. However, the British-born generation are now centred solely in Britain with everyday interaction in a much wider social arena. Young females have greater problems constructing an identity since they were expected to reflect a family's cultural integrity and have to choose whether to express this through traditional dress, religion and traditional family values. Black identity is part of an overall need for young people to "order their own lives on their own terms" (Ballard, 1994: 32). The difficulty associated with this was examined in Dwyer's (1999) study of two girls' schools in Hertfordshire discussing the over-determination of dress as a signifier of difference. Young South Asians reported the problems of choosing between Asian and English dress since there is a binary opposition between traditional and Westernised. ...read more.


In contrast, they are taking advantage of their position in society to cross the boundaries of two cultures between the home and school. His use of the term 'code switch' explicitly reflects the differences between the British and Asians in terms of language, religion, history and traditional values but suggests young South Asians can learn both and choose the extent to which they become 'anglicised'. Conclusion Multiple and changing identities are evident among British South Asians who for many are not torn between a binary opposition of British and Asian, but are renegotiating the possibilities of adopting aspects from both cultures. The term 'black' to politically generalise about all non-whites in Britain was shunned by the early 1990s to acknowledge the diversity of cultures, religions and communities from around the world. A dual identity is more relevant for young South Asians born in the UK by creating new labels of British-Asian or Scottish-Muslim to recognise their past, but also developing a sense of belonging to the majority culture. Despite obvious problems of racism, stereotypes and cultural discrimination towards ethnic minorities, there is evidence of resistance identities willing to assert their own distinctiveness, whilst being aware of the importance to balance the majority and minority cultures. A fusion of styles to enrich the lives of South Asians in Britain include Bhangra music, wearing the hijab with school uniform, The Kumars No 42 (BBC) and mosques present in most cities. Adopting a black identity has advantages and challenges and it could be that "the impact of the arrival of South Asian and Afro-Carribean settlers on the British social order will eventually prove almost as great as that precipitated by the arrival of William of Normandy in 1066" (Ballard, 1994: 2). ...read more.

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