Identity and the politics of representation : the case of Muslim youth in Bradford
What are the dialectics of the endogenisation of ‘otherness’? This thesis is a study into the interaction between social representations, identities and power in relation to South Asian, Muslim, male youth in Bradford (UK) within the historical context of the ‘Rushdie affair’. The methodology is structured in order to investigate alternative locations of the identity-representation interaction. The studies include participant observation followed by 18 interviews with ‘specialists’, a rhetorical analysis of five television programmes that were aired on national television during and on the Rushdie affair, and an examination of the manner of reception of one of these programmes through 8 focus group discussions. The findings are that ‘otherness’ and difference are central to notions of identity for South Asian Muslim male youth, as they are surrounded by representations of themselves as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Paki’. Their identities take the form of three ideal-types – ‘coconuts’, ‘rude boys’ and ‘extremists’ – which rhetorically engage differentially with the representations. The Rushdie affair is interpreted firstly as a moment of subaltern contestation of its representation through ‘identity politics’ discourse, and secondly, dialogically as both rhetorical positions (hegemonic and subaltern) attempt to psychologically distance themselves from each other – through the construction of the ‘Bradford Muslim’ on the hegemonic side. However, both positions shared techniques of rhetoric, types of discourse, and a common narrative. Furthermore, ‘identity politics’ discourse (for two of the ideal-type identities) acted as the interpretative prism through which the reception of the programme made sense in relation to, for example, the content and manner of reception, the reception of representatives and the call for strategic essentialism. The thesis shows that attempts to escape negative evaluation result in the incorporation of representations, discourses and rhetorical techniques that position identities firmly within the hermeneutics of the hegemonic discourse.