Panel 6 – New (new!) ethnicities/identities – PSH314


New identities, old stereotypes, and changing opportunities: The experiences of British Chinese young people in England – Dr Ada Mau, King’s College London

This paper examines forms of flexible, relational and complex hybridised identities and senses of rootedness in Britain among the younger generations of British Chinese. British Chinese pupils have been seen as a ‘successful’ group in the education system in the last decade. Increasingly, many families have moved away from the catering trade that has been strongly associated with the post-war Chinese migration generations. Previous research has highlighted that despite British Chinese pupils’ apparent ‘success’, they are still see as the ‘Other’ (i.e. working too hard, quiet, conformist), as well as being subjected to subtle and complex forms of racism and racialisation. These regular experiences of Othering and racism are often trivialised and not taken seriously by the wider public and sometimes by British Chinese people themselves.

The discussions draw from the findings of my PhD research, which looked at ‘second/ third generation’ British Chinese pupils who were English monolingual/dominant speakers and their experiences growing up in England. Although the majority of young people in the study were well integrated socially and academically at school, they still encountered overt and subtle forms of racism and racialisation, They were frequently expected to perform both their ‘Britishness’ and ‘Chineseness’ at school and in everyday life. Their responses to these mundane experiences and attitudes towards racism and racialisation varied, as well as their sense of belonging in the UK (and elsewhere). Additionally, the rise of China as a new global power had an impact on young people’s identities and positionings. The concepts of Orientalism and Othering will be used in analysing the discursive positionings of British Chinese young people. A newer comprehension and better understanding racism/racialisation and complex identities is required to allow young people to actively carve out their own meanings of what it means to be ‘British Chinese’.

In/visible femininities and whiteness in migration and urban contexts – Dr Agata Lisiak, Humboldt University

Migrants’ desirability is closely connected with their visibility – or, rather, the lack thereof – in host societies: the migrants who blend in well do not cause as much controversy as those who stand out. Whereas much has been written about migrants’ visibility, the multiple and complex layers of their/our invisibility invite further exploration. In this paper, I will discuss how migrants make sense of their own gendered and ethnicized appearances, as well as those of others. Specifically, I will inquire into the notion of femininity as it is performed and perceived by Polish migrant women living in German and British cities. If, as recent studies on migration from Central and Eastern Europe demonstrate (Morokvasic 2009; Slany, Kontos & Liapi 2010), women integrate into host societies more successfully than men, studying how migration affects Polish women’s in/visibility is likely to yield new insights into the much politicized notion of migrants’ integration in urban settings. Can whiteness render the migrant condition invisible? Can Poles pass for Germans or Brits in their new places of residence? Do they even want to? If we agree with Skeggs (2001) that femininity is one of the few forms of cultural capital available to working class women, can we argue that the same is true of migrant women regardless of their class? Based on my ethnography in Berlin, Munich, Birmingham and London, I explore the myriad social ramifications and implications of doing femininity in migration and urban contexts. Much indebted to feminist contributions to urban theory (Massey 1984, 1994; Rose 1993, 1995; Bondi 1998; McDowell 1999; Valentine 2008; Peake and Rieker 2013), my paper is a feminist intervention into urban studies and diversity studies and brings in a migration aspect to the existing scholarship on class and gender (Skeggs 1997, 2001, 2009; Tyler 2008, 2015; Mannay 2014).

Everybody mixed’: three intergenerational heritage projects and moods about the past and future of Cardiff’s multiculture – Alida Payson, Cardiff University

This paper explores feelings about the past and future of Cardiff’s multiculture as they emerge in three intergenerational cultural heritage projects involving black and minority ethnic girls and women. While Cardiff is ‘one of the oldest multicultural communities in Britain’ (Runnymede 2012), over the past few decades the city has jolted out of postindustrial decline, through uneven redevelopment (Gonçalvez 2008; Threadgold et al. 2008), and deep into recession and austerity, retrenching old inequalities and undercutting neoliberal mythologies of mobility.

In two of the three heritage projects studied, young women interviewed older women from the area about their lives and also produced their own creative work, from fashions to videos and theatre sets, on the theme of heritage. In the third project, women produced poems and short memoirs about their lives for a book imagined as a teaching tool for young people. A mood of nostalgia for a more convivial past, in which ‘everybody mixed’, ‘everybody joined in’, and ‘growing up in Butetown was really magical’, moves through many of the accounts of older people in these projects. What’s at stake in such nostalgia as a didactic mood? How do these projects police the boundaries of proper (multi)cultural production? How do they produce ‘affect aliens’ (Ahmed 2010), or people who are not in the mood, and with what consequences? How does nostalgia rest uneasily alongside other ‘mixed’ feelings about the legacies of the past and possibilities for the future, including, perhaps ‘postcolonial melancholia’ (Gilroy 2004)? Finally, I will explore how this nostalgia relates to the urban hiraeth, or homesick longing for place, in other white Welsh popular representations of the area’s past. This paper traces how these feelings arise in the community projects and fit into larger questions around the scope of conviviality and young people’s futures.

On Creative and Creating Narratives of Mixedness, Adoption and Fostering in Literary and Sociological Research  – Dr Deirdre Osborne and Dr Fiona Peters, University of London

Deirdre Osborne and Fiona Peters share an aim to bring into dialogue their use of methods from the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, in a creative co-production, to open discussions that are critically based and creatively responsive to work at the fringes of diasporic heritages: (i) trans-racial adoption and fostering; (ii) mixedness in contexts of trans-racial families.

While diasporic heritages can cross both ethnic and racialized boundaries, mixedness is theorized as an identity of adults. How do children in foster care articulate their ethnic and racial connections? In the setting of foster care how does the separation from birth family (which retains its structuring absence) re-create a domestic landscape in which mixed children make sense of their lives?

A number of contemporary monodramas written and performed by British women of multi-ethnic heritage and not necessarily adoptees, (The Story of M (2002) by SuAndi, Moj of the Antarctic (2008) by Mojisola Adebayo and Josephine and I (2013) by Cush Jumbo), employ polyphonic and trans-generic techniques to articulate perspectives and experiences of mixedness: racially and culturally. When read alongside the spoken narratives of mixed children in foster care, this inserts a new multicultural story about belonging, family and childhood and creates space to examine the politicized decision-making within Children’s Social Care. The spoken narratives illustrate the uniqueness of these childhoods, the varied lived experiences among groups constituted and organized by racialization and classification, and the confusion brought about by a bi-racial landscape in which mixedness sits at the margins of knowledge. In the monodramas the self-legitimising power of writing in one’s own terms, literally and literarily, against all aesthetic odds, is shown as loosening the perceptions of racial and chromatic determiners as not fixed, but mixed.

Noting that a cross-disciplinary critical lexicon does not yet exist to adequately addresses the self-fashioning and re-inventive capacities represented in case study narratives and dramatic-poetics, the paper proposes some ways in which the two fields can be interwoven through considering identities as ‘performed’ on and off the page.