Cultural strategies of young women of South Asian origin in Glasgow, with special reference to health
Patterns of food use and of social support and alliance are significant for the constitution of boundaries between religious and ethnic groups and the status hierarchies within them. Food and social support are also significant for health. In the case of British Asian communities, control of food intake has been identified as the key to overcoming their current epidemic of heart disease. Level of stress and social support have also been thought important for understanding levels of psychological distress among British Asians. The present study focuses on young British Asian women with ancestry in the Indian subcontinent, their patterns of food use and social support and how their choice of cultural strategies affects the likelihood of change to these patterns. The rationale for concentrating upon young women is twofold. First, middle aged women appear to suffer from a number of health disadvantages, including aspects of coronary risk and psychological distress. By focusing on a younger generation of women, factors involved in the biographical development of these problems might be ascertainable. Second, in terms of the sociology of ethnic boundaries, young women are in a pivotal position with regard of the continuation of the culture, occupying a role as daughters of migrants on the one hand, and as the first generation of British role models for British Asian children on the other. Comparison with the majority ethnic group is treated as a question about how respondents view with similarities and differences between themselves and the general population. The study addresses a range of research questions from health-related issues at one extreme to issues about the social construction of ethnic groups at the other. The first group of questions concerns the role that health plays in food choice: how health is conceptualised, how far folk ideas (possibly) deriving from biomedical, Unani and Ayurvedic conceptualisations are integrated with one another, and in what social contexts health concerns are overridden by the symbolism of ethnic identity.