The Reporter
Issue 499, 7 June 2004
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Discovering Asian views of 'Britishness'

On the campaign trail recently Tory leader Michael Howard spoke of ‘a core of Britishness’ that is not just the preserve of white people. He was echoing remarks made last year by Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips – but what do Asian immigrants consider ‘Britishness’ to be? A pioneering Leeds study aims to find out.

It will be the first time Asian immigrants have been questioned about their identity and attitudes to Britain. They will be asked why they came here, about contacts with ‘home’ countries, what they like and dislike about Britain and which aspects of their culture they are most concerned to preserve.

Project leader Andrew Thompson of the school of history said: “The research feeds directly into current debates about citizenship, which have been dominated by politicians, but marginalised the voices of immigrants themselves. The idea of ‘core British values’ is an empty one unless we ask Asian people what their perceptions of these are and what aspects of their culture and religion they feel need to be recognised and accepted.”

Oral histories of immigrants from Commonwealth countries have focused on the West Indian community because of their common language. He added: “We’re trying to do the same for the Asian community. There are also cultural and religious sensitivities to overcome, for example, in interviewing women from these communities.”

The research, funded by the Institute for Public Policy Research, will conduct in-depth interviews in a range of languages with focus groups of men and women from Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani communities in the Ashton and Hyde districts of Manchester.

The research findings will be exhibited locally and at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.

Page owner: | Updated: 7/6/04


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