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Title: A black feminist exploration of the cultural experiences and identities of academically ‘successful’ British South-Asian girls
Authors: Ludhra, Geeta
Advisors: Watts, DM
Jones, D
Evans, R
Keywords: Adolescent girls;Narrative;Secondary school;Religion;Culture
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: This study draws on a black feminist theoretical perspective, to develop an understanding of the cultural identities and experiences of twelve, academically 'successful', British South-Asian girls. The girls are aged between 16-18 years, and from Hindu, Sikh and Muslim religious backgrounds, selected across two West London secondary schools. A narrative interview approach is used to explore how these girls configure and invest in 'culture' and their cultural identities, during a critical stage in their academic lives before entering university. A series of unstructured interviews have been held with each girl, and these were complemented with reflective journals. The girls' narratives reveal how 'culture' (a contested term) is discussed with high weighting in relation to the importance of education, which they all narrated as an important key to unlocking 'success' in their future lives. The girls' identities move beyond media discourses that stereotype them as ‘passive’ and lacking a voice. These girls demonstrate agency and high aspirations for 'having it all', narrated through discourses of hard work, meritocracy and aspiration. This study reveals the complex interaction of experiences that influence South-Asian girls' cultural identities, and the interplay of structure and agency in their journeys towards becoming 'successful', irrespective of their largely working-class backgrounds. Whilst I recognise that all adolescents will face challenges of some kind, being a South-Asian girl embodies its own particularities, linked to markers of difference in 'culture', religion, gender, ethnicity, 'race', class, language, dress, amongst other historical influences. These differences are not necessarily embodied as negative forces by these girls, but rather, used as a catalyst for personal growth, where they draw on their psychological strength, aspirations and desires, to become 'successful' young women. This thesis makes a unique contribution to black feminist theory, girlhood studies, as well as narrative and educational literature. It acknowledges the uniqueness of South-Asian girls' cultural experiences and backgrounds, and challenges some of the cultural discourses in the media that pathologise them. It is written in a critically reflexive style, from the perspective of a second-generation, British-born, South-Asian academic, who, at the time of writing this thesis, was also raising two academically 'successful' daughters of her own. The inspiration for this research is rooted in the researcher's narratives of girlhood and early womanhood.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
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Dept of Education Theses

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