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Book Analysis: “Moving on up: South Asian women and higher education by Yasmin Hussain and Paul Bagguley”

Book Analysis: “Moving on up: South Asian women and higher education by Yasmin Hussain and Paul Bagguley”

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Published by Nadir Sharif
Book Analysis: “Moving on up: South Asian women and higher education by Yasmin Hussain and Paul Bagguley” by Nadir Sharif
Book Analysis: “Moving on up: South Asian women and higher education by Yasmin Hussain and Paul Bagguley” by Nadir Sharif

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Published by: Nadir Sharif on Jun 04, 2011
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 Moving on up: South Asian women and higher education by Yasmin Hussain and Paul  Bagguley Analysis by Nadir Sharif 
A summary of the text:
In Moving on up, Hussain and Bagguley attempt to explore in detail the context in which thesurprising developments among women of South Asian descent have taken place in Britain. Theenvironment in which these women were being brought up over the last two decades was seen asrestrictive, and one where women would find it difficult to continue onto higher education.Pakistani parents, in particular, were thought to hold the opinion that women need not obtainhigher education since they will have no use for it once they are married.Contrary to popular belief and expectations the number of South Asian women in Britainattending higher education institutes has increased at a rate much greater than the correspondingrate for white British women. (Table 1.1, Page 11)In the course of this book, the authors explore the conflicts that arise with the interaction of national, ethnic and religious identities and the challenges that these conflicts present for SouthAsian women in Britain. It is noted that religious identity is a bigger concern for young Muslimwomen given the rise of Islamophobia in a post-9/11 world (Page 133).The affiliation held by Pakistani and Bangladeshi women to their ethno-national identities isfound to be stronger than that held by Indian women. This is attributed in part to the diversity of language and culture that exists within India which leads to a very abstract Indian identity,whereas Bangladeshi and Pakistani women can relate more easily to specific groups that aresignificant in the respective national identities. (Page 24)The role played by parents in deciding whether or not their daughters attended college, or whatsubjects they studied at the high school level is also discussed in detail. Once again, the authors
focus on parents‟ influence on the decisions of young Muslim women. While there is an
increasing number of parents that want their daughters to continue on to higher education, theareas of study advocated by these parents are still very traditional.Law, medicine and other professional degrees were recommended to women by their parents asthey saw the primary objective of obtaining a higher education to be the increasing of earningpotential. While thi
s view led to parents‟ approval of, and encouragement of plans to attend
college, it also meant that young women were, more often than not, pursuing degrees in areasthat they did not like and/or were not capable of performing well in. (Page 84)
While the interviewees quoted in the book did not look for ethnically diverse environments whenconsidering what university to attend, they all attended universities that were relatively close tohome (Pages 81, 84-85). This factor, like many other conservative ideals of parents, was moreprominent in Muslim families of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. There was a general concern
on part of the parents that their daughters may become „westernized‟ and bring dishonor to thefamily by being involved in „bad‟ activitie
s or
in the worst case
by marrying of their own will(Pages 92-93). Other factors that limited the choice of universities which young South Asianwomen could attend included class-related financial limitations (Pages 107).It has been highlighted throughout the text that young South Asian women, while restricted byparental choices, are for the most part not rebellious. They view their ethnic (or ethno-national)and religious identities as being important parts of their lives. There is an attempt in almost allcases to negotiate with the parents on all matters, ranging from dress, selection of courses,decision to attend university, and marriage (Pages 53, 69, 84, and 107).Varied strategies were employed by students and their parents when it came to financing highereducation. A common denominator amongst all ethnic groups studied in this book was that noneof them were willing to take out loans or use credit cards to support themselves (Page 117). Insome cases, particularly young non-Muslim women of Indian origin, higher education wasfinanced completely or to a great extent by the students themselves (Page 116).It was an eye-opener for me to realize the extent to which institutionalized discrimination stillexists in Britain. Five times as many Muslims reported having faced discrimination on the basisof religion when seeking employment (Page 123). While the number of South Asian womenbeing accepted into higher education institutes has been on the rise, this rise has not been
reflected proportionally in „well
known‟ institutions. In some cases students avoided places like
Cambridge and Oxford University even though they were qualified to attend, because theyviewed these institutes as being homogenous and class-specific. In other cases there wasevidence of discrimination within the admissions process at the concerned institutes.Racism was experienced quite frequently by students, both on and off campus. Many studentswere subjected to racist remarks that did not apply to them, for example anti-Islamic remarksbeing hurled at Hindu or Sikh women, or Indian and Bangladeshi women being referred to asPakis (Page 132).The book is concluded with a word of caution about the existence of racism on campuses and theheightening of such sentiments since the events of 9/11. The authors also remind the reader of the significant, unexpected success enjoyed by South Asian women over the last two to threedecades.
Analyzing the information:
It is nearly impossible to create one or two characters out of the 114 women that wereinterviewed as part of the qualitative research project, the findings of which are presented inMoving on up. However, given the relative consistency within ethnic groups, I will attempt topresent the experiences of young Muslim women of Pakistani origin. Perhaps I am choosing tofocus on this group since I have something in common with these women. But I am alsochoosing this group because of the attention it has received in the post-9/11 world. Muslimwomen in general and Muslim women from countries viewed as conservative (read terrorist)Islamic states in particular, have been portrayed as victims of a cruel society.We are all familiar with the challenges of applying theory to practice. Attempting to analyze theresearch presented in this book, and looking at the lives of the women interviewed, is noexception. The study focuses on a group that is struggling with managing two national identities(one being British and the other that of the South Asian nation their parents came from), anethnic identity (of being South Asian), and a religious identity. To further complicate thescenario, many of the women interviewed are also first generation students
adding anotherdimension to any analysis that needs to be done.Mindful of these challenges, I will look at the selected group (Muslim women of Pakistani origin)in the light of several theories. My
general approach is influenced by Erikson‟s developmentstages, and I will rely heavily on models that are based on Erikson‟
s work. In particular I will
refer to Josselson‟s theory of identity development in women, and Phinney‟s ethnic development
model. (1) I will also use the paper entitled First-Generation Student presented by Pascarella et al.(2)
Josselson‟s model for women‟s identity development is summarized in the form of Table 1
below.Foreclosures: These women knew early onwhat they wanted to be/wanted to do andpursued these goals single-mindedly.Identity Achievements: These womenidentified separately from their parents, sawthemselves as self-designed, taking pride inself.Moratoriums: These women are aware of multiple right ways of being, but are stillsearching for identity development, and theirpersonal direction.Identity Diffusions: Significant problemsfinding self have a tendency to withdrawfrom situations and are unable to makecommitments.
Table 1 Josselson - Women's Identity Development

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