Theorizing Young Asian Women’s Experiences
Shain (2000: 159) argues that an analysis of young Asian women’s experiences means that ‘race, gender, class and age divisions cannot be mechanically added or reduced to one or other of the divisions’. For this reason, Shain’s research focuses on ‘the complex reality of the lived experiences of young Asian women with reference to the intersections of that experience with educational institutions and frameworks’. Shain’s research is based on semi-structured interviews that were conducted with 44 British-born Asian girls of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian descent. Her theoretical framework would be described as broadly postcolonial and specifically it draws on Gramscian concepts of historical specificity, articulation and hegemony.
Since the experiences of young women are shaped by a multiplicity of factors. . . their responses to the situations in which they find themselves will also vary. These depend upon particular relationships between the various structural factors that shape their experiences, and also upon the subjective experience of these situations. Young women of similar religious backgrounds located in the same region within Britain, whose parents originate from the same region in Pakistan, may define their experiences of school in very different ways. This may relate to the class position of their respective families in Britain, or to the gender patterns within their households. (ibid.: 161)
For example, Shain illustrates how young women’s responses to racism at school varied in terms of whether these would be perceived as mediated by a desire for survival or resistance. Nevertheless, Shain also notes that primarily their responses remained at the level of the individual rather than collective struggle. However, Shain argues:
Although their responses were not revolutionary, the strategies of the young women cannot be viewed simply as reproductions of the apparently static cultures that are handed down to them (as in cultural pathology frameworks). Instead they reveal that young Asian women are involved in creating and shaping new identities for themselves which draw on both the various residual cultures of their parents’ traditions and on the local and regional cultures that they currently inhabit. (ibid.: 171)