Cosmopolitan belonging and diaspora: second-generation British Muslim women travelling to South Asia

Bhimji, Fazila orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7234-852X (2008) Cosmopolitan belonging and diaspora: second-generation British Muslim women travelling to South Asia. Citizenship Studies, 12 (4). pp. 413-427. ISSN 1362-1025

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This paper traces the ways in which British born Muslim women self-identify with Britain and South Asia. More specifically, the article explores the ways in which the young women express their sense of belonging and convey cosmopolitan identities while they self-reflect upon their travels to their parents' homeland. The paper argues that the women do not view Britain and South Asian nations in discrete terms along religious and cultural dimensions but with frequent visits in different stages in their lives come to understand these nation-states in porous ways. For example, they self-identify with South Asia because of South Asian culture's emphasis on the family and express openness and tolerance towards their parents' homeland. On occasions they express tourist-like appreciation of their parents' homelands. Yet in other instances, they reflect upon the ways in which they negotiate foreign and challenging circumstances. At the same time they consider Britain to be their home because they find that women have relatively greater independence and rights here. Some of the women also find it easier in Britain to express their religious rights. For example, they find that in Pakistan, although a Muslim nation, it is not customary to wear a headscarf but rather the traditional dress. Much of the literature that has explored diasporic young people's experience has focused on questions of identity through the lens of their country of residence. However, given the age of global interconnectedness and the decreasing salience of nation as an overarching feature of identity, it becomes significant to explore in greater detail questions of belonging, cosmopolitanism, and nation. Examining the narratives of British born Muslim Asian women, this study conceptualizes identity around 'belonging' and 'cosmopolitanism'. Data are based on in-depth interviews of 25 second-generation British Asian Muslim women meeting regularly at Islamic study circles. Respondents ranged from ages of 19 to 28 years old who were mainly middle class professionals and university students.

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