I know some people have requested to read my dissertation for my Msc in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies (2012) from London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London. You can read the full essay here
Stereotypes continue to be central in the debates surrounding race and representation in British Media. The representation of British South Asian women remains dominated by narratives of veiling, forced marriage, honour killings and ethnic enclaves, failing to integrate into dominant (white) British culture. These social representations, reified and often reproduced in media, typically centre these women within – and as victims of – the private, (cultural) domestic sphere. Representations, however, ‘organise and regulate social practices, influence our conduct and consequently have real, practical effects’ (Hall, 1997, p3); they convey meaning through images, symbols, and language to construct what is seemingly a representable ‘reality’. As a consequence, reception of media is not passive and interaction does not simply stop at the moment of consumption. Instead, meaning making occurs not only through the images presented but also in a tertiary space of spectatorship: the conversations people engage in about their television watching, making them active participants of the process of ‘making sense of’ the text. Popular Soap Operas such as EastEnders are part of the everyday consumption of television for many Britons. The stories pursued and characters created in such soaps are thought to be key in creating connections, identifications, and cultural affinities, as well as dislocations and renegotiations between people, places and cultures in the production of meaning. Using focus groups to investigate how young British Asian women relate to the politics of representation through the narrative and character of Zainab Masood in EastEnders, this paper explores how they reflect and negotiate identity, difference and culture through the media as part of their everyday lives. What remains central to this study is an examination of the power and politicization of looking relations essential within media and minority representation. At the heart of the politics of representation, however, there lies a broader politics of belonging.