The social construction of identities by British-Muslim pupils aged 14-15 years
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. 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 'authentic' Muslims (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 is 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.