Researching the experiences of middle-class British-Pakistani women: Experiencing Islamophobia

The next post in Dr Noreen Mirza‘s series based on her PhD research reveals the many ways Islamophobia is experienced and perceived by middle-class British-Pakistani women.

My research gave me an insight into the type and also extent of prejudice experienced by British-Pakistanis in their daily life. Much to my ignorance, and I suppose naivety, I did not expect prejudice to be widespread among the middle-classes. I had expected ignorance to be the cause of bigotry and I least expected this from people who had been to university, lived in cosmopolitan cities, and were well-travelled. I assumed that these experiences would make people open-minded and appreciate diversity.

The women I worked with believed that Muslims and British-Pakistanis had become a stigmatised group after 9/11. The effects of this were exasperating because of the lack of acknowledgement that the majority of British-Pakistani Muslims are law-abiding citizens who make a positive contribution to society. Prejudice seemed to be a common occurrence in their lives which challenged their sense of belonging and acceptance in Britain. Most were born and raised in Britain, and with rising tensions they no longer felt welcome or safe in a country they regarded as home. Their exposure to biased news in the media challenged their sense of ‘Britishness’.

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British Mosque. Source: RPM (www.flickr.com/photos/rpmarks)

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The Windrush Generation – Euton Christian

The Archives+ Digital Journalists have been delving into our oral history collections to learn about experiences of the Windrush Generation here in Manchester. Here’s an insight into the life of one of the many ordinary/extraordinary members of this generation; Euton Christian.

You can learn more about Mr Christian in the Roots Oral History Project collection and the Exploring our Roots Collection.

This year marks seventy years since the Empire Windrush set sail from the West Indies and docked in the UK on June 22nd 1948.

Originally sent to bring servicemen who were on leave from the British armed forces back to the UK, because of the size of the ship, hundreds of others were offered the chance to join them on board to fill up space, for a £28 fee. These men were attracted to the idea of life in Britain for a variety of reasons; including the high unemployment rate in Caribbean countries, and Britain being presented throughout the education system as the loving mother-country filled with opportunities.

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre in Manchester Central Library has an extensive collection of material relating to those who came over on the Windrush from the West Indies and settled in Manchester, including several oral history projects. It was…

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Researching the experiences of middle-class British-Pakistani women: Visual piety

In the third post from Dr Noreen Mirza, she discusses how her research challenges stereotypes about Muslim women, particularly around wearing the hijab.

Reflecting on my own upbringing and experiences of being a second-generation middle-class British-Pakistani Muslim prompted me to want to understand what was happening among other socially mobile British-Pakistani women in Manchester. I was puzzled by the growing trend in ‘visual piety’ – a public and evident expression of religious affiliation among British-Pakistani women, such as wearing the hijab (headscarf), to signify commitment to faith and Islamic identity.

I decided to speak about visual piety to two of the women in my research, Amber and Syrah, who both wore the hijab. Their friendship blossomed when they realised that they both shared a similar lifestyle and religious outlook. More importantly they share a love of fashion, and they exchanged ideas and tips with one another about how to combine style and modesty.

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Muslim Fashion. Source: Shawn Sun (www.flickr.com/photos/abayatrade) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Researching the experiences of middle-class British-Pakistani women: Being a native anthropologist

In her second post Dr Noreen Mirza reflects on the challenges of being a ‘native anthropologist’. 

It seemed a common assumption among the people I came across that studying my own society would be an easy task because of my familiarity in terms of language, customs and values. Many were also under the impression that people are more accommodating, open and trusting towards those who share a common background. These assumptions were greatly misleading. The fact of the matter was, in my case at least, that being a native anthropologist meant people were reticent about divulging information because of the fear of confidential information being leaked, leading to gossip in the community.

I began fieldwork in October 2012 in South Manchester which involved following the lives of a core group of twelve women over a period of fourteen months. These women became the participants in my study. Initially I had interviewed approximately 80 women, including friends and family of my participants, as well as other women who could not commit to participating because of longer periods of time involved.

Participating in my research gave the women an opportunity to express their views and concerns about issues such as prejudice and inequality, and to share their experiences of being middle-class British-Pakistanis in Manchester.

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Courtesy Noreen Mirza

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Researching the experiences of middle-class British-Pakistani women: My background

This is the first in a series of posts from Dr Noreen Mirza, sharing stories from her research into the experiences of middle class British-Pakistani women in Manchester. First, how her own formative experiences underpin her research.

Being a second-generation British-Pakistani and Muslim woman growing up in 1980s Manchester, in a predominantly white neighbourhood, I remember the deep desire to be the same as the other children I played with in my neighbourhood and at school. I was aware of the difference in my skin colour, heritage and religious background, as all the children I played with were white British Christians. The yearning to be the same stayed with me into my teenage years and later influenced the subject of my PhD thesis, on middle class British Pakistani women in Manchester.

As I embarked on my research, I felt that the image of British-Pakistanis in the media was a misrepresentation and not a true reflection of a lot of British-Pakistanis like myself. I wanted to explore class identity and show the diversity among British-Pakistanis. We are not a homogenous group and our experiences and upbringing has a profound impact in shaping who we are.

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Noreen as a child and her mother. Courtesy Noreen Mirza

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Why use the AIU Centre archive?

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

Anyone putting together a research project or hammering out a dissertation topic has a lot to think about. What’s the subject? How’s it going to be investigated? What kind of information will be necessary? And where’s that information going to come from?

Here are two reasons why I believe the AIU Centre archive is a resource worth considering for studies covering a wide range of subject areas. It might not be immediately apparent that a Centre making available materials facilitating the study of race relations would be relevant to you, but hopefully by the end of this post its potential significance may have become clearer.

1. Qualitative data brings quantitative data to life Continue reading

Developing the ‘Honour’-Based Violence Collection: The Beginning

Becki Kaur has recently submitted her PhD, which explores how professionals working in the domestic abuse sector understand, explain, and address ‘honour’-based violence. We’re excited to have her working with us on a six-month project to develop the library’s resources on this very important topic.

I’ve heard some people say that, by the time it gets to the end of their PhD, they’ve fallen out of love with their research topic. In this respect, I consider myself fortunate. Although the nature of my area of research – ‘honour’-based violence – is (to put it nicely) deeply unpleasant, I feel as passionate about raising awareness of the subject as I did when I started my research journey four years ago. So, when the opportunity arose to work with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIUC) to help develop ‘honour’-based violence-related resources, I didn’t have to be asked twice! Continue reading

Ways into the Collection: Serendipity

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touched on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. We’ve also delved into the two main ways into the collection:

We might be forgiven for thinking that’s about it. However, we’ve briefly mentioned a third way into the collection, which we’re going to take a look at here:

  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

So you’ll be able to dip into this post to find information that’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be looking at serendipity under the following headings:

  1. What is Serendipity?
  2. Serendipity in action

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Ways into the Collection: The ‘Human Interface’

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

In a previous post we looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with a resource such as the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre), and we learnt that there are three ways into the collection:

  • Databases (including subject area resource lists)
  • ‘Human Interface’ (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer)
  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

This time I’ll be looking at the ‘Human Interface’.

The ‘Human Interface’ with any library or archive comprises those individuals whose role is to take care of the collection, answer questions from users, find information, or give advice regarding the materials the library or archive contains. In relation to the Centre, subject area resource lists and databases can produce raw data about materials which might be relevant to a topic, but interacting with a knowledgeable human being (in writing or face-to-face) opens up a whole new level of insight. Such an individual can give guidance tailored to what you in particular want to know.

In this post, I’ll be giving insight into who the Centre’s human interfaces are and how they can smooth our way into the Centre’s resources. So you’ll be able to dip in to find what’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering the subject in the following sections:

  1. Introducing the Centre’s ‘Human Interfaces’ – Hannah Niblett & Ruth Tait
  2. Ruth Tait’s insights into the strengths of the Centre and its collections
  3. Ruth Tait’s advice on how to prepare for consulting the ‘Human Interfaces’

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Ways into the Collection: Databases

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

Last time we discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touching on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looking at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. This time we’ll be moving on to begin checking out the ways relevant Centre resources can be identified and accessed. 

There are three ways into the collection:

  • Databases  (including subject area resource lists)
  • ‘Human Interface’  (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer)
  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

Which one you start with is very much up to you and your preferred style. This time I’ll be introducing the different database options at your disposal. I’ll be looking at the ‘Human Interface’ and serendipity in future posts.

Currently the Centre doesn’t have one dedicated searchable database for you to consult devoted to bringing together all the items in its own book and archive collections. Centre collections feature on a number of databases, each geared to its own purposes, placing the Centre’s offerings in amongst those of a variety of other institutions. It’s not always easy to identify the material in the Centre relevant to your interests. Therefore this blog post gives you information and hints that should smooth your way into finding what you need.

So you’ll be able to dip in to find what’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering the subject under the following headings:

  1. First stop – subject area resource lists
  2. Main databases to build a relevant list of Centre resources
  3. Getting hold of the material
  4. Other databases, research aids and links to related collections

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