Citizenship, Ethnicity and Identity: British Pakistanis after the 2001 'riots'.
Yasmin Hussain and Paul Bagguley
WORKING PAPER JULY 2003
Department of Sociology and Social Policy,
University of Leeds
Phone: 0113 343 4618 (Hussain)
0113 343 4428 (Bagguley)
Fax: 0113 343 4415
There have been few studies of citizenship as an identity. This paper explores citizenship as an identity among British-Pakistanis in Bradford after the 'riot' in 2001 using qualitative data. The 2001 'riots', the political successes of the British National Party and the events after September 11th pushed British-Pakistani Muslims into the forefront of national political conflicts around citizenship, national identity and allegiance to the state. Through the analysis of interviews with both first and second generation British-Pakistanis we examine how citizenship as a mode of identity is contextualised by them in relation to national identity, Islam and ethnicity. We identify the two generations' different 'citizenship identities'. The second generation have a strong British identity as 'British citizen' with the 'natural rights' of a British born citizen. In contrast the first generation migrants from Pakistan express identifies as 'denizens' living but not belonging in a foreign country who remain because their children are now 'British'.
In 2001 Britain saw another summer of rioting in its cities, in Oldham, Leeds, Burnley, and most seriously in Bradford in July (Bagguley and Hussain, 2003; Beynon and Kusnick, 2003; Webster, 2003). In the aftermath of these most serious 'riots' in Britain since 1985 there was the usual raft of official reports, and part of the concern in some of these was with questions of citizenship and ideas of reasserting national belonging over and above ethnic identity (Cantle, 2001: 20; Denham 2002: 12). In this paper we focus specifically the views of the local Pakistani community in relation to the Bradford 'riot' of July 7th 2001. Our aim is to provide a detailed analysis of how the Pakistani community living in Bradford make sense of their citizenship and identity in the aftermath of the worst urban ‘riots’ in Britain since the 1980s. Using qualitative interview data1, we discuss how Pakistani people living in Bradford sustain and negotiate different identity claims in relation to citizenship and national belonging. In particular we want to examine how 'citizenship' is used as an aspect of British-Pakistani identity. This is an issue that arose during the research process. What repeatedly struck us whilst interviewing were the ways in which second generation British-Pakistanis drew upon popular ideas of citizenship and rights to assert their identities and sense of belonging. Furthermore, these identity claims seemed quite different from straightforward ideas of national belonging.
We begin our account, by offering a brief review of some key themes in recent debates around citizenship and identity, with which we contextualise our empirical findings. We argue that debates around citizenship and identity have been primarily theoretical, and especially of a normative or prescriptive kind. These issues that are really questions of political philosophy have not been considered in the context of the citizenship identities of ethnic minority people in Britain. In short what does 'citizenship' mean to those whose 'citizenship' status is matter of intense political conflict? This leads us in to our empirical account in which we explore the narratives of citizenship and identity among people of Pakistani origin in Bradford.
Identities are not closely tied to single issues or symbols; people hold multiple identifications, some more strongly than others, and they use these flexibly according to circumstance. In this context these identifications are also expressions of cultural hybridity, where a variety of historical, international, ideological and political factors influence expressions of self-hood, belonging and relationships with others (Modood et al, 1994). People have created cultural spaces through which they express a variety of different and competing identity claims. Further, these identifications are far from ethereal, disconnected from questions of power, structured inequalities and history, since they are rooted in collective experiences of migration, diaspora and racism.
Citizenship versus Identity
Citizenship and identity are usually counter-posed to one another. The former expressing universal individual rights and duties, whilst the latter implies particularism and group membership. Kymlika's (1995) work has challenged the simpler versions of this polarity in the realm of political philosophy, and there is now a substantial literature in political philosophy that analyses group identities in relation to citizenship rights and claims (see for example Miller, 2000; Schwartzmantl, 2003). However, we are not concerned with the normative debates here.
Since Marshall (1950) sociological work on citizenship has extended the idea in relation to various dimensions of inequality, such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability (Bulmer and Rees, 1996; Held, 1989; Isin and Wood, 1999; Lister, 1997; Nash, 2000; Sypnowich, 2000; Turner, 1986; Waite, 1999; Yuval Davies, 1997), or in relation to globalisation and the restructuring of welfare provision (Delanty, 2000; Glenn, 2000; Roche, 1992; Roche and Van Berkel, 1997; Soysal, 1994; Turner, 1993; Urry, 2000). For the most part these have reproduced the distinction between citizenship as a universal rights based discourse embedded in the nation-state, and identity. To the extent that this implies certain universal features of the nation-state's subjects, that is as male, White, heterosexual etc. citizenship is seen as exclusionary and creating social divisions as much as providing the means to overcome them.
Some writers, such as Isin and Wood (1999), have emphasised the relationship between citizenship and identity in terms of the right to an identity (see also Pakulski, 1997), where citizenship is an ever expanding legal status including more and more social groups. Whilst the taint of Marshallian evolutionism remains here, for us what is problematic is that it tends to overlook how citizenship can be a component of identity itself. Similarly, Solomos (2001) examined how citizenship can ‘cope’ with difference and multiculturalism, again reflecting the universalism of citizenship in opposition to the particularism of ethnicity, and Turner's (2001) suggestion that we analyse culture from the traditional perspective of citizenship also counterposes citizenship to cultural identity. Others have discussed the inter-subjective preconditions of citizenship (Crossley, 2001), where certain types of identity are required for citizenship to function. What all of this work shares is what one could term an 'institutionalist' orientation to the study of citizenship, or it remains at the level of theoretical speculation. However, we want to suggest a re-thinking of citizenship from the perspective of cultural identity. In short we should recognise how citizenship is now a significant dimension of contemporary hybridised ethnic identities, and that this not only has major consequences for how we define citizenship sociologically, but also implications for understanding the politics of ethnicity in contemporary Britain.
For the ‘institutionalist’ writers citizenship is purely about the institutions and practices that define and deliver citizenship rights, and institutional failure to deliver those rights in practice. Citizenship rights may be treated as discourses to be critically analysed, and seen as the objects of political contestation, but ultimately how people think and feel about citizenship is overlooked. Even those few studies that have examined popular perceptions of citizenship (e.g. Conover et.al., 1991; Dwyer, 2000; Lister et. al. 2003), have for the most part examined views about the institutions of citizenship, for instance who should be included and excluded, and not how citizenship might form part of who they are. They have largely examined people’s perceptions and evaluations of the institutions of citizenship and ideas about citizenship. However, within some of this work there is a concern with citizenship as an aspect of identity in Britain that remains under-developed (Conover et.al., 1991: 819-24; Lister et. al. 2003: 240-2). Here there is the risk that citizenship as a source of identity is conflated with national identity. However, our focus here is an ethnic group for whom a straightforward national identity is problematic either because they were born overseas, or because ‘Britishness’ is a largely White identity associated with colonialism that neo-fascists seek to mobilise. As Lister et.al. (2003: 242) note citizenship identities are grounded in individuals’ experiences, and this helps us account for the striking generational differences in citizenship identities that we have uncovered.
Brubaker (1992: 21) like many others has argued that citizenship is about inclusion and exclusion, who the state allows to belong and who the state does not allow to belong. In his analysis, citizens in most European states are ‘insiders’ whose status is ascribed due to their country of birth. He suggests that many ethnic minorities in these countries are ‘outsiders’. They are ‘naturalised’ citizens, whose right to come to Britain are due to their birth in the former empire. For our analysis this highlights a critical difference in citizenship status and identity between the generations. At best the first generation could be seen as ‘naturalised’ citizens, and their citizenship identities are grounded in that experience. Whereas the second and subsequent generations born in Britain feel that their citizenship is ascribed, it is their ‘natural right’ because they were born here. In some European countries there is a secondary citizenship status of being a denizen, of having a right of residence and other civil and social rights, but lacking the right to political representation (Castles and Davidson, 2000: 94-7). Whilst there is no ‘denizen’ status in Britain, what we want to suggest is that the first generation’s citizenship identity approximates to that of being a ‘denizen’. Whilst they have a right to be in Britain, they feel that this is precarious, and for that reason they feel that they are without a political voice.
For the older generation as we shall see their citizenship identities are weak, temporary, and closer to the idea of a ‘denizen’. For the younger generation their British citizenship is central to their self-understandings and assertions of who they are, and for them the threat from the BNP is just as much a threat to their Britishness as citizens as it is to their ethnic identities. However, their accounts of this threat are not in terms of a British or English national identity, but in terms of their rights as British born citizens. They are expressing and defending a British multicultural, multi-ethnic citizenship.
Citizenship and Definitions of Englishness and Britishness
Contemporary societies are increasingly confronted with minority groups demanding recognition of their ethnicity and accommodation of their cultural and religious differences (Kymlika, 1995). The riots were related to expressions of these demands. The threat of neo-fascist political groups such as the British National Party (BNP) or the National Front (NF) marching into Bradford sparked fury amongst the city’s Pakistani population. Some of our respondents talked about how Bradford was commonly known as 'Bradistan' – a combination of Bradford and Pakistan. The Pakistani’s authentication of Bradford as Bradistan gives weight to the cultural and ethnic pluralism that characterises Britain. Consequently the presence of the BNP was insulting as it threatened the diversity of cultures which exists within the area. At this level it was a threat to a distinctive local identity.
National identity that has been consistently defined by the far right in terms of White ethnic homogeneity and unity. But in doing so they construct barriers between Whites and ‘others’ by maintaining dichotomies in which Englishness continues to reproduce Blackness as its ‘other’. This definition treats ethnicity as a major feature of British and English exclusivity. Ultimately this is centred on the invention of an elitist community that serves as a model for the nation as a whole.
If a shared identity or Englishness is a matter of sharing some substantive beliefs and requires a common public culture, this seems to be lacking in Britain, which contains a high degree of cultural pluralism. The issue of an extensive shared national identity in Britain is therefore problematic (Kumar, 2002). Britain is made up of the English, Scottish, Welsh and the Irish and in terms of shared beliefs it includes a substantial number of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs (Mason, 1995). There is no culture, first language, or robust set of values shared by British citizens. There are also divisions along lines of ethnicity and class, therefore providing no shared way of life which could provide the basis for a shared national identity (Mason, 1995). In this sense Britishness is a political construct, associated with notions of empire, whilst Englishness is a cultural even ethnic construct that ‘racialises’ the politics of citizenship (Cesarani, 1996).
For Pakistanis their integration within Englishness is not only inhibited by the extreme right, but also is based upon their own common cultural history. Alternatively, Britishness is a political as opposed to cultural construct. As with Englishness, there are many culturally distinct ways of being British; it is essentially based on the conception of British citizenship as an identity, rather than nationality as an identity, it is thus theoretically able to integrate individuals from ethnic minority communities (Kumar, 2002). In this context Conover et. al.’s (1991) findings that the British as opposed to the Americans were unable to link their national identity to their citizenship are important. In the case of Britain they concluded that national identity and citizenship identity were not even ‘complementary’ (Conover et. al. 1991: 822). National identity and citizenship identity are not the same thing. This cannot be overstated. Furthermore, for ethnic minority groups in Britain the situation is even more complex. Evidence from the recent General Household Survey revealed that whilst 45 per cent of Whites called themselves British, 57 per cent of those from ethnic minorities did so. Conversely 54 per cent of Whites referred to themselves as English compared to only 11 per cent those from ethnic minorities, 37 per cent of whom mentioned some other national identity (National Statistics, 2002: 3.19).
The Bradford 'riot' of 2001 from some perspectives may be regarded as a clash of identities, or even between citizenship and identity. Indeed this would seem to be the view implied by the government responses as articulated in the official reports (Cantle, 2001). The younger generations regard themselves as citizens of Britain, but many have come to see themselves also as members of a religious, racial, ethnic linguistic group. Under these circumstances the assertion of the rights of their own group may be pursued. The belief in the basic conflict between citizenship and identity arises from a specific conception of each, citizenship as universal and identity as particular (see Isin and Wood, 1999). For some of our respondents the riot was articulating a principle for the recognition of group rights. To many of the young men on the street that night their presence was defending the interest of their own religious and ethnic grouping. The Pakistani Muslim community was being threatened; according to Kamran and Omar (ages 19 and 20), “We didn’t win nothing really but you proved that we can stand up for ourselves. You know we are not going to be pushed around by. We don’t care if there is two or three hundred of you who is going to walk into our town and say oh we have come to batter you! We’re not going to run home and hide underneath the beds”.
To be a citizen means to relate to the state in exactly the same way as others yet for individuals belonging to any particular religious, cultural, or ethnic community there may be little or no recognition from the state. For these minorities to make sense of ‘their’ citizenship involves a re-definition of national identity. Those interviewed have developed their own concept of national identity which accommodates the idea that a person may have multiple identities, including a commitment to more than one nation, for instance British/Pakistani/Muslim (Mason, 1995). There was also a recognition that these different aspects of an individual’s identity may come into conflict with one another and that one of these different aspects of a person’s identity may depend upon the content of the rest. Ethnic differences mean that what is to be a British for a White person may be different from the ‘Britishness’ experienced by someone who belongs to a minority group. This situational mobilisation of different identities can be usefully explored in the context of football and flags.
Flags, Football and Citizenship as Identity.
Britain itself is seemingly obsessed with its Empire, with Monarchy, with being ‘Great’ in a Victorian sense. But England, when we look at contemporary manifestations of it can appear multicultural. For the Pakistanis their sporting mood allowed them to grasp something else rather than former ‘Glories,’ something that is more tangible, in the form of the flag of St George. Our interviews in 2002 coincided with England playing in the World Cup. Although the city had been divided during the riots, in the face of football, it was interesting to see how sport erased those divisions. In the roads of Bradford St George's flags were flying from windows of bedrooms, corner shops and from taxis. The feeling of patriotism was almost palpable, in particular among both the female and male young respondents. In these circumstances, then, as others have noted in relation to the 1998 World Cup (Kumar, 2003: 262-3) the St George’s flag represented a multi-ethnic Britain, whereas the Union Jack is associated with colonialism and White racism.
Many writers on the subject of citizenship take it to mean participation in the nation state (Kymlicka, 1995), in this context we can see cultural participation in a wider yet ethnically diverse ‘cultural nation’. These Pakistani respondents just like other British citizens displayed pride in their nation by flying the ‘English’ St George’s flag. The flag became a prominent symbol of unity which was expressive of their desire for England to win the world cup:
We live in this country why shouldn’t we support England? At the end of the day whether you support England in a sport or not is no big deal but this is our Country and we are going to care about it and we are going to care how it is doing in world economy and everything…,this our home at the end of the day, yeah we are living here but you tend to support your home Country. I don’t see that there is anything wrong with that. (Shabnam Ishaq, age 21)
I was talking to some colleagues at work the other day about when Lord Tebbitt said failing the cricket test. I was saying I hope people know that they have passed the football test because there are so many taxi drivers, businesses even young people flying St. George’s flag. I think there is a difference between St. George’s flag and the Union Jack because with the Union Jack you think of the BNP and racists. (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
Discussions around national symbols such as flags in this way generated discussions on allegiance and identification. The Union Jack was not seen as a patriotic symbol of the British nation instead it has meaning for a far right party. The views of our younger respondents were that the Union Jack has become the property of the far right and a symbol of the political beliefs of the BNP. The Union Jack was not displayed in Bradford more so because of the political meaning behind the Union Jack. Ordinary people can no longer display the flag without being labelled right wing racists. Displaying the St George's Flag was more expressive of an ‘authentic’ national identity that has not been politically soiled by racism, the Union Jack is no longer representative of the whole nation, only a minority of extremists.
Those who were born in Britain celebrate a positive image of their Britishness. It is almost as if the younger generation have reclaimed their citizenship as a positive identity of citizenship in the wake of racism. These individuals create a concept of England, which is not in a vacuum but a developed and inclusive identity that encapsulates diversity:
… there were young Pakistani lads with St. George’s Flag and middle aged Pakistani taxi drivers, and that really made me laugh and it showed that the Pakistani community are saying that they are not just Pakistani. They are trying to show that England means something to them and that England is our team. We are from England. But if you say they are only English if they sit down and have roast beef and roast potatoes then it is not going to happen. (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
Englishness on the one hand is a ‘common sense’ of belonging based on the space we all occupy together; a space that happens to be called England. Multiculturalism and Englishness are not opposites, you cannot have one without the other. However, Englishness is rendered problematic as a source of identity for those we interviewed, as the BNP's notion of Englishness and racial purity is contested by the participants because it was narrowly defined culturally as 'roast beef and roast potatoes'. The notion of Englishness in some respects has become the property of the extreme right, but in doing so the symbols associated with the BNP the bulldogs and the Union Jack become symbols of defiant racism. The paradox here of course is that the Union Jack is officially the British flag, and our second-generation interviewees see themselves as British citizens. Finally, the irony of the St. George flag’s older symbolism of the crusades against Islam should not be overlooked, as Khalid Hussain concluded "But here there were so many taxi drivers, businesses, even places like the Book Centre [an Islamic bookshop] in Bradford with St. George’s flag in the window".
In this section we have attempted to analyse the contradictory, contested and contextual identifications that especially younger British-Pakistanis have with England and Britain. Hence whilst the English football team is strongly supported and the St George’s flag widely displayed as a symbol of national sporting pride, Britishness is regarded more ambivalently. The Union Jack, the flag that ‘represents’ Britain is seen as a racist flag the symbol of colonialism and the BNP, however, as we shall see Britishness as an identity of citizenship is central to their understanding of themselves and their actions in response to the 'riots'.
Ethnic, cultural and religious identities
Young South Asian people in the UK make sense of their ethnic and religious culture within the broader British culture. They wish to celebrate their ethnic, cultural and religious differences, which are distinct from those of the wider society (Modood et. al., 1994). Respondents also talked about these differences, according to Shabnam Ishaq (age 21), “White people, they like going out, they like clubbing and all that is for forbidden and they think by showing their flesh that is how they attract other people and if they ask if you are going to get married they automatically ask if you are going to have an arranged marriage because that is what they think Asians do”.
Defining ethnicity carries with it notions of language, culture, religion, nationality, and a shared heritage (Fenton, 1999; Modood, 1994; Song, 2003). It is increasingly recognised as a political symbol, that does not just exclude, but also serves as a mode of identity, a symbol of belonging and political mobilisation (Werbner, 1990; Song, 2003). Ethnic identities remained ambivalent as many second-generation people identified with being ‘British’ as well as being ‘Pakistani' or 'Muslim':
I would never say I am English because I am not and I am sure my daughter will grow up with her Pakistani identity because that is what life is. You have to look at what makes up that identity being Muslim how many times do you hear about Britain accepting Muslims as part of their community… but if you start talking to young people they will say they are British Muslim even more so now I think. (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
Here we can see how ethnic minority people’s adoption of ‘English’ or ‘British’ identities remains complex; because of the racialised nature of British identity with its connotations of European heritage, being 'White' and its colonial legacy (Ahmad and Husband, 1993). However, the second and subsequent generations also challenged such racialised constructions of Britishness in contrast to their parent's generation. Their sense of Britishness was often a pragmatic reflection of being born and living in Britain. Young people, however, found identification with Britishness as particularly meaningful. For our respondents, the reservations and negative experiences enhanced the young people’s sense of Britishness as citizens. To this extent, external factors influence the young person’s sense of ‘ethnicity’.
Socialisation into cultural and religious values, against the backdrop of a potentially hostile majority culture, is a major concern of minority ethnic groups (Ahmad 1996; Anthias 1992; Modood et al. 1994). The possible greater freedoms afforded to children, introduces them to influences many parents would wish to guard their children against (see Ahmad 1996). Perceptions of new freedoms as threatening prized cultural values, such as parental authority, possible changes in marriage choices and concerns about sexual permissiveness are held strongly by older generation of Asian people (Modood et al., 1994).
Lived religion is often diffcult to differentiate from ethnic culturally specific norms and expectations. However, Islam can offer an important mode of being for young Pakistani people living in Britain. No young person that we interviewed was totally detached from their parents’ ethnic, religious and cultural traditions. Most young people managed to acquire a working knowledge of religious and cultural traditions and identified with their families’ religion and ethnicity. The younger generation, especially the women, demonstrate sophisticated understandings of how religious and ethnic traditions intersect and use these arguments to challenge parental perspectives or expectations:
Young people will turn their parent’s arguments back to them. On one hand they will say we are Muslims or we are all Pakistani’s or whatever and they will say well so and so they are Muslim or they are Pakistani but then their parent’s will say "oh no you can’t marry them". In the same way they might say well that is your uncle or your aunt and people say hang on a minute why does it matter what they say, why does it matter what they think, how about what I think? What about what I want? (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
Most young people know enough about their religious and cultural values both to feel they belonged to their religious community and to behave ‘appropriately’ – examples include knowledge of culturally appropriate gender roles (Atkin and Hussain, 2003). Second and subsequent generations of Muslims are reclaiming their religious identity and rediscovering Islam. Their ability to read English fluently allows them to research in the dominant tongue, the language of the web and text books. This diasporic awareness is reconfirming their religious roots as much as their cultural roots, and some made subtle distinctions between them:
They are bringing religion into a thing where children are not looking at it specifically. I mean if you look at the Whites, the Whites have Christianity but when you are talking about them we don’t say the Christian community we say the White community. And they say the Muslim community have done this not as the Asian community. Like I said we are British Pakistani’s now and we are in a culture not in a religion no more. We are looking at things culturally. (Serena Khan, age 19)
The separation of an idealised notion of Islam from lived religion, perceived to be corrupted through conflation with ethnic customs and traditions, is important (Mumtaz and Shaheed, 1987; Ahmed, 1988). This reflects a wider process where religion has risen in importance as a distinct identity and aspect mobilisation in recent years (Ahmed and Donnon, 1994; Samad, 1992; Werbner, 2000). The decline of class and colour based analysis of ethnic and race relations in recent years has been parallelled an increasing recognition of the significance of religious identity (Samad, 1992). For our discussion, one development is significant in this regard; the re-imagining of Islam as a global religion, without its ethnic connotations (Ahmed and Donnon, 1994). Consequently for the Pakistanis there have always been conflicts of identity, most particularly between religion and citizenship in the context of Islamophobia, and here our younger respondents especially emphasised the responses to the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001. According to Shabnam Ishaq (age 21):
… it is especially after September 11th it has got worse. Everywhere you go people are disrespecting us… I was scared … I have heard that people have pulled girls scarves off. So it was a bit difficult and I didn’t tend to go out alone and I remember I went to town a few weeks after it had happened people were just giving me mucky looks and I think that is sad because you can’t just judge by what people are wearing.
This noticeable change due to events elsewhere in the world was also remarked upon by others. They related experiences of public harassment, and the consequent feelings of exclusion from Britain. Although they feel themselves to be British, Islamaphobia has excluded them from the ‘British nation’:
… I think there is this phobia isn’t there, that if you are Muslim that people don’t want to know you and with all the propaganda to do with Islam at the moment. Islamaphobia and all that. People actually fear Muslim don’t they? (Alisah Khaleeq, age 38)
Oh yeah. September 11th didn’t help. That didn’t help at all. I think American values and beliefs are being forced onto British society… Apart from the division within the community. We feel like outsiders in our own country… Because before I was part of a community, whether there was integration or not that is completely irrelevant. I was part of a community, a British community in England. Now I am part of a criminal element in Bradford. . Like “Taleban I am going to fight the war for them, I am”…No I am respected for being someone who gives a political party some weight as a minority in England. I am not respected as a Muslim. I am just respected for the fact that I could actually help a political party get into power or that I generate so much income for the British Government. I am not respected as a Muslim. (Imran Ishmail, age 28)
The odd time I have heard “Oh he is wearing a skirt” but it doesn’t bother me. They are the ones that single people out, the racist ones… (Ibrar Khan, age 18)
A sense of difference, enforced by racism and discrimination thus remains an important influence in how South Asian people make sense of their lives. Substantive citizenship rights are often denied to minority ethnic groups (Castles and Davidson, 2000). Racism can, therefore, be an important influence on young people’s sense of identity. As well as offering a form of self-identification, a symbol of belonging and mobilisation (Samad 1992), cultural reproduction also has a wider political significance, resisting exclusion. In the context of the 'riots' of 2001 this was illustrated in the accounts given by some young people in relation to the earlier 'riots' in Burnley and Oldham, and others mentioned the way in which the 'riot' was for 'people like them', a kind of expression of ethnic solidarity in the face of the threat of the far right:
They weren’t just there for themselves, they were there for the whole Asian population of Bradford I think, not just for themselves”. [and talking about the prison sentences] … four years of their life they have wasted ... they were doing it for every single Asian that lives in Bradford. (Shabnam Ishaq, age 21)
We heard about what happened in Oldham were the NF slipped into areas and went into peoples’ homes. Beat people up, Asian women, family and we have family of our own so we were thinking oh what if they get through town come into our areas and come into our homes, how are we going to protect ourselves. Because it’s not just us we were thinking about it’s like family as well, we have mothers, daughters, sisters, you know and we want to protect them so it was like we don’t really want to cause a riot but we want to protect ourselves at the same time. So I think peoples were thinking I am not going to let them come into my area, into my homes so they all decided to go into town and stop it. (Kamran and Omar, ages 19 and 20)
Citizenship of the formal kind cannot prevent ethnic boundaries being constructed, racism cannot be eradicated through citizenship and nor does being a citizen automatically mean that the ‘social cohesion’ sought by the government (Cantle, 2001) can be achieved.
Citizenship, Language and Identity
An ethno-national definition of citizenship related to language has recently been promoted by the government in response to the riots (Cantle, 2001). However, the construction of a new ethnic identity through the dominance of language also plays an important role in the disapora (Kershen, 2000). For the first generation, the acquisition of the English language is a marker of difference which they have been unable, and/or unwilling to access. But for the second generation, it provides a means of upward mobility and a medium for the re-enforcement of 'national' identity (Kershen, 2000). The citizenship identities of the first generation are interwoven with their experience of migration, settlement and language. Skin colour and physical characteristics are not the only means of identifying difference; lack of fluency in English can also give rise to racism and negative stereotyping (Kershen, 2000). These attributes become a means of separating ‘the alien’ from ‘the mainstream’, encouraging social conformity and invisibility, loss of self-respect and feelings of insecurity. However, for the second generation their education has enabled them to overcome this, with their bilingualism creating a different relationship with White society. However, they feel threatened by the proposals for 'language tests' for British citizenship:
For instance my mum can’t speak English now so if they wanted her to speak English that would be wrong because they trying to make her do something that she doesn’t have to do… We do all the work for her really. She gets by and we live in an Asian community so she doesn’t need to go out to speak to Whites and use English as a language… Like when she needs to go to the hospital I will go with her or my sister will go with her and speak for her. Or when she gets a phone call I will answer it for her. My dad can speak English so he does all the bills and things like that. (Ibrar Khan age 18)
Language was a recurring issue among those we interviewed which brought out differences between the first and the subsequent generation of Pakistanis:
There are more or less second or third generation now right and we can all speak English. Right our parents OK they can’t but we were born here, so we went to school here, we can speak English and if we get married, we have children they will be able to speak English cos they are gonna be brought up in English schools. (Shabnam Ishaq, age 21)
The older generations were alienated before they got here, they didn’t know the language or the people. In a way they had to try and be accepted. But whereas now the younger generation are British, they have equal rights and they will take a stand for their rights. So they voice their opinion by speaking the English language. (Serena Khan, age 19)
Thus language gives them the link to British social institutions and an access to a British identity of citizenship that their parents lacked, and the older respondents recognised this as well, where Ramzan Latif (age 64) argued that the relationships between the Pakistani community and the White community will improve because “I think maybe, because our children now regard English as their mother tongue, things will improve because they are able to communicate better than we were able to.”
From Denizens to Citizens: Generational differences in Citizenship Identities
The meaning of citizenship differs between the generations. For the first generation, citizenship is embedded within their physical state of being resident in Britain; they are just 'denizens'. This is entwined within their historical ‘value’ within the economic infrastructure of the country, yet is dominated by an overwhelmingly low sense of security within the country. This has been discussed within the citizenship literature as the status of being a ‘denizen’ (Castles and Davidson, 2000).
Our respondents were able to distinguish quite distinct identities in this context linked to generation and country of birth. The younger generation born here were seen and felt to be by their parents, as British citizens with the same ‘rights’ as any other British citizen. The older generation have what we would term denizen identities, they feel that their presence in Britain is not one of a citizenship ‘right’, and consequently the younger generation see them, and the first generation migrants feel themselves as not having a legitimate voice. They feel that they lack the ‘full citizenship’ of their sons and daughters and the political rights associated with it. They fear deportation, and this expresses the core of being a ‘denizen’, and these themes emerged particularly when we asked people about why the older generation had not 'rioted' in the past:
Yeah well the general outlook in the older people is “Don’t do that or they’ll deport you”. Where as in the younger community it is if we don’t stand up for what we believe in, you know we will have no future here. And they can’t deport us we are British citizens. But with the elders it is like “Oh no they will send you back” or “You will get put in jail and you will bring shame on us”. The younger generation it is like “Yeah you have got to stand up for something you believe in, what is wrong with that?” It is the only way you can change things if you stand up and fight. (Imran Ishmail, age 28)
Q: What about in terms of generations, why do you think that our parents generation didn’t riot thirty years ago?
Probably because they didn’t feel as if they had the rights to actually protest about something that they wanted. Nowadays, youngsters like to take their own stand and take matters into their own hands. Like a lot of people before did not have the education or the language to let their voice be heard but now the youngsters, they were born in Britain. They are aware of the law, the education scheme and the language as well. They are able to speak English and present their cases. (Serena Khan, age 19)
Our parents in their days might have had a bit of trouble and they might have thought oh they’ll (meaning British authorities) we will get rid of them … at our age we are thinking we are not here to go we are here to stay cos we have been born here and this is our home town, home country” (Kamran and Omar, aged 19 and 20)
I suppose they were trying to earn a living and raise their kids partly and also I think they did not come here to cause trouble. I think lads nowadays, more so than girls, they feel that there is a sense of pride and arrogance together where "we will not shut up and take it". If you feel that somebody is undermining your right to say something or have something or to access services they will be challenged. Where as our parents and to this day they will think "oh it doesn’t matter" and they will not complain. (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
That the feeling of citizenship and the closely related belief in 'rights' has changed over generations was also widely recognised by our older first generation respondents, for Javed Ahmed (aged 47) “the second and third generation, these girls and boys … they were born in this country, they were brought up in this society, they are full fledged British youngsters, you know. They believe that this is their country. They have got every right. So they are not going to keep quite and face all the discrimination or insults.” However, the views of the older generation about the second and third generation’s citizenship were more often tinged with moral concerns that they were abusing their citizenship, that they were being ‘bad’ citizens:
There is a vast difference; we came over from another country, whereas the majority of the youths in Bradford have been born in the UK. They are exactly the same as the white people; they have no tolerance at all. Whatever the white people are doing, Asians are doing also and that is why there is a major difference. The Asian youths believe that this is their country and they should be given the same rights as the white people have. They do not want to tolerate anything anymore. That is the only reason why they are demanding their rights. They believe that they are just as much British as the British are.
Q do you believe you are British?
I do, but I will always have an affinity with the country of my origin, which is Pakistan. We were born and brought up in that country, I was 21 when I first came to the UK. (Ramzan Latif, 64)
They were without voice, they only came to the UK to work. They did not come here to live. They thought they would work, earn money and go back home. The youngsters now are demanding their equal rights. (Shaguptha Rehman)
The older generation came here to work and they had no time. The children have more money and benefits, they demand their rights and that has gone to their heads. They take the benefits but they should know that these benefits should be handed out in good faith to someone who deserves them. This country is giving them benefits to live and they go out rioting. This is not the right; it just shows how stupid they are. (Zafeer Javed, 45)
Finally we want to discuss generational differences in citizenship identities and 'homeland', when asked why the older generation did not riot earlier in response to racist mobilisations in the 1970s, the younger generation also talked about differences in perceptions of homeland, and the way in which their parents initially felt that their stay here was to temporary. According to Kamran and Omar (aged 19 and 20), “Our parents' intentions were to come to the UK, earn a living and go back home and settle back down at home”. A further factor contributing to this was the shift in environment and the low level of security, according to Shabnam Ishaq (age 21), “I think they were probably scared and the majority of Asian population was low and at that time they were very poor, coming from abroad and they didn’t have a settled life". Their parents came primarily for economic reasons. Yet for the second and subsequent generations the situation is different, again according to Kamran and Omar (age 19 and 20), “we have been born and grown up we have more or less decided that this is our home and that it is not back in Pakistan. So we see it as in thirty years time, forty years time we’ll still being here and our parents didn’t think of that. So we would like to more or less make it known that we are here to stay."
This has also made the individuals more secure about their positioning, according to Shabnam (age 21), "Like a lot of people are established and they are secure now. The security is there now because they know there are a lot of Asian people here now. Whereas then there was one Asian family here, one Asian family there. The population of Asian’s has grown and so I think there is more strength within the population now." Furthermore the ideas of belonging, migration and citizenship rights were linked together by some second generation respondents. These emphasised the significance to them of their birth in Britain, and how that shaped both their identities as citizens, and how they felt about where they belonged in comparison to the identities and feeling of national belonging among their parents who saw themselves as 'outsiders':
Well, first of all our elders … didn’t actually believe themselves to be equals. They always saw themselves as outsiders whereas the youth of today believe that they have a right to stay here, we were born here. We contribute to society, to the communities, this is our home. We might be a Pakistani minority but we are British citizens and we are British so we deserve equality and everything. We get taxed the same as everyone, we have to follow the same laws so why can’t we share the same privileges as everyone else? But I mean our fathers and grandfathers who came here didn’t see this, they were immigrants, they came here to work, earn money and hopefully go back which didn’t really happen especially when their families came over, that was their outlook… (Imran Ishmail, age 28)
I myself have got dual nationality I was born and brought up here, my daughter is fourth generation British but I am always going to be Pakistani, my daughter is always going to be Pakistani but that does not mean to say that that Pakistani citizenship is at the expense of being British because we are British, that is fact. (Khalid Hussain, age 30)
The older first generation, in contrast, still felt that they were still living 'in a foreign country'. Although none expressed definite plans to return to Pakistan this was an issue that they talked about. What was keeping them in Britain was that their children were born here and the ties of kinship were paramount for them. The theme of being in a 'foreign country', but not really belonging, of feeling that they were still 'visitors' was also central to their criticisms of the 2001 'rioters'. This expressed the insecurity born of their experiences of migration, increasingly restrictive immigration laws and their identities as 'denizens'. In no sense did they express a feeling of belonging in Britain, but only belonging with their families:
They want us to leave the country. If they were to compensate us for how long we have worked in this country, then I would willingly go back. However I am happy here, my children are here, their partners and their children are here. It’s just like living in Pakistan with all my extended family here. We don’t go out to cause trouble and so far we have had none in return. (Ramzan Latif, age 64)
If you are living in another country, you have to abide by the law of that country. You cannot expect to disrupt everything and then be given a pat on the back. The youths now are so hot-headed; they don’t have the same tolerance as their parents had in the past… They have ruined the reputation of the Asian people in this country. Everybody is going to hate us… we are living in foreign country and we should stick together. Asian children are picking up all the bad manners and rudeness from the white kids. (Zafeer Javed, aged 47)
We are in a foreign country and we should act appropriately. There is no cause for fighting; we should live together in peace. If you cause harm to another person, it’s going to inflame them further, not pacify them. But they should live together peacefully, with each other and the white community. (Rashida Shah, age 54)
Conclusion: Belonging but excluded?
The identity of ‘British citizenship’ is articulated through the themes of ‘belonging’ and ‘rights’ and moreover these rights are expressed in egalitarian terms. Their British identities express a hybridity of universality and difference. A universality of equal rights as British citizens, with the right to be different within Britain, and a recognition of the difference of Islam. Their claims to difference then are circumscribed within the citizenship of being British that Islam should be recognised, accepted and tolerated rather than vilified and constructed as alien. It belongs to Britain as much as any other religion. These expressions of a citizenship of belonging are in contrast to some of the official political responses to the riots and how they constructed notions of citizenship based upon language and allegiance to the country. What is being expressed is not so much a contest between identity and citizenship or difference and universalism, but rather a political contest over citizenship. Pakistani peoples’ citizenship identities and claims are diverse and not uniform; in particular they vary between first generation migrants and those born here. The first generation still speak as if they are visitors, as temporary economic migrants committed to the myth of return. The second generation ‘belong’ through their place of birth. Furthermore, the identities of the second generation are hybridised, synthesising South Asian culture, Islam and Western culture within their identities as British citizens. Nowhere could this be clearer than in their enthusiasm for English football combined with their pride in Islam and as Pakistanis whilst asserting their rights as British citizens. Whilst they articulate their ethnic distinctiveness they do so through asserting their ‘universal’ rights through being British.
Political and social theories of citizenship place too much emphasis integration, uniformity and commonality. However, we have emphasised how people think about and identify their own citizenship. In recent debates about citizenship and identity this has been all too frequently ignored. Consequently we have been concerned with citizenship as a political identity, that is not fixed or essentialised, but which flows through the process of hybridisation that characterises the new ethnic identities that are being constructed among younger South Asians in Britain today. When people make statements about British citizenship they are expressing quite fundamental ideas about where they belong, about who they are and what rights they have. In this context these rights entail duties and obligations from the state and others towards them as British citizens.
Feeling they belong but perceiving that others - the dominant white population - do not yet fully accept that they belong here, that they are British is central. Our second generation respondents already feel themselves to be part of the national community at the level of their identities as citizens, but they do not feel themselves to be British in the conventional sense of national-identity. National identity and citizenship identity are thus not the same thing. Our respondents did not express any strong demands for ‘group rights’. Even recognition of Islam was limited to claims for tolerance and freedom from harassment. This is a demand for ‘recognition’ rather than ‘integration’. In this sense ‘difference’ is to be accommodated within the idea of equal rights.
The research reported in this paper was supported by the British Academy. Grant Number SG-35152.
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Fieldwork was conducted in Bradford where existing community and professional networks facilitated sample recruitment. Organisations included community groups and community centres, religious institutions, council organisations disability groups and the Fair Justice for All Campaign. Further contacts were also made informally by the use of snowballing techniques. The semi-structured interviews were framed around the following headings: reasons for 'riots', generation & gender, integration, media, authorities, knowledge of rioters, differences between 'riots', race & community, the far right and future expectations. All the interviews were tape recorded and transcribed later. Informants were offered a choice of languages; all the young and middle-aged interviewees chose to be interviewed in English. The older participants spoke either Urdu or Punjabi. Interviews conducted in languages other than English were translated and transcribed simultaneously. In total 34 interviews and one focus group were conducted with 19 male and 21 female participants. Informant's ages ranged from 16 to over 60, with slightly more young women and older men. All of those interviewed have been given pseudonyms.