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Young British South Asian Muslim Women: identities and marriage

Mohee, S; (2012) Young British South Asian Muslim Women: identities and marriage. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis focuses on young and educated British South Asian Muslim women, and their negotiations of gendered identities and marriage in multicultural Britain. I conducted 30 in-depth interviews with Muslim women from northern England so as to explore how educational and employment experiences are altering women’s gender identities and consequently, their understandings of marriage. Firstly, I look at how Muslim women develop ‘alternative’ identities as they navigate ‘Islamic’ and ‘British’ ideals. I analyse whether higher education and paid employment influence women’s perspectives in constructing ‘new’ identities as they explore boundaries. My analysis is embedded within theoretical frameworks encompassing racialised, politicised and gendered discourses on Muslim identities in the UK. In essence, I concentrate on how women manage Muslimness as they evolve in their socio-political contexts. Secondly, I focus on how marriage is perceived by British South Asian Muslim women. The debates revolve around the gendered expectations women face from their communities; for instance, women navigate ‘choice’ and ‘agency’ in cultural practices such as arranged marriages. Furthermore, marriage, as an institution, remains a ‘religious duty’ in Islam. I raise questions about how Muslim women frame marriage as they generate new understandings of marriage through their negotiations of the ‘nikah’ and the civil registry (secular state law). Throughout these thematic discussions, the tensions engendered by the dichotomy ‘religion’ v/s ‘culture’ remain evident as Muslim women navigate contextual identities. Cultural gendered ‘traditions’ expected from their families are re-worked as they delay marriage so as to gain degrees and secure careers. Clearly, women are deconstructing stereotypical notions of ‘Muslimness’ as fixed categories so as to express individual definitions of meanings of British Muslimness. The prioritising of an Islamic identity over other identities (ethnic, citizenship and national) is evident. However, with education, women are contesting and interpreting Islam from new angles. They critique gendered practices such as ‘talaq’ and polygamy, concepts associated with Islamic marriage, in an attempt to embrace a discourse of equality within marriage, hence leading them to generate new gender identities.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Young British South Asian Muslim Women: identities and marriage
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Appendices 1, 6 and 10 have been removed from the e-thesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > CMII
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370625
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