Reconstructing ethnicity and identity : the influence of second-generation Turkish-Cypriot and Pakistani women in London
Scholarly and political interest in the Muslim population in Britain has greatly increased since the 1970s. Issues such as the Rushdie affair and the Gulf war brought Muslims into the media spotlight, and provided focal points for the mobilisation of Muslims committed to maintaining Islamic values in Britain. Most research on Muslims in Britain has focused on Asian groups. While these may represent the majority, generalisations about Islam and Muslims in Britain are not possible without examining the experiences of other Muslim communities. This thesis, therefore, sets out to improve social scientific understanding of the varied experiences of Muslims in Britain by comparing women from two Muslim groups: Pakistanis and Turkish Cypriots. The aim of the thesis is to examine the significance of religion and culture in the lives of Pakistani and Turkish Cypriot women in London. The principal objectives are to show (a) how these different and often competing elements are involved in identity formation and transformation, and (b) how they influence, and are influenced by factors such as race, class and gender. My research is based on two years of fieldwork with a variety of different community organisations catering specifically for Muslims, Pakistanis, or Turkish speakers. In addition I carried out thirty in-depth interviews with women who were actively involved in these communities. The aim was to examine the major issues relevant to each of these two groups, as well as to assess the importance of the organisations for Turkish Cypriot and Pakistani women in London. My research found firstly, that despite the vast diversity evident among my informants in terms of their identity and the individual strategies they choose to adopt, their community organisations had a vital and significant role to play in the development and empowerment of women across the generations. Secondly, my findings revealed the complex and changing nature of social identities, as well as the ability of second and third generation Pakistani and Turkish Cypriot women actively to select and interpret competing cultural systems, and to adopt, incorporate or abandon specific elements in their search for an appropriate individual strategy. Young Turkish Cypriots and Pakistani women are shown to be actively defining and redefining themselves as a result of the multifarious cultural and structural factors that they experience both on an individual and group level. 'Race', class and gender are crucial to this process of cultural redefinition, as women's cultural beliefs necessarily reflect the structural forces that affect their lives. The intersection of 'race', class and gender locates individuals in their social positions and subsequently elicits considerations of beliefs and identities.