The construction and management of national and ethnic identities among British South Asians: An identity process theory approach

Rusi Jaspal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Through the lens of identity process theory, the present thesis explores: (i) the qualitative nature of British national and ethnic attachments and their respective outcomes for identity processes among British South Asians (BSA); and (ii) the impact of media representations for identification and identity processes.
In study I, 20 first generation South Asians (FGSA) were interviewed regarding identity, national and ethnic group memberships and inter-ethnic relations. The results revealed that (i) social representations of the ethnic ‘homeland’ could accentuate national attachment, but that both national and ethnic identities could have positive outcomes for identity processes in distinct social contexts; (ii) the phenomenological importance of ‘special moments’ and family identity can shape and accentuate national identification; (iii) ethnic and national identities are strategically ‘managed’ in order to achieve psychological coherence.
In study II, 20 second generation South Asians (SGSA) were interviewed regarding similar issues. The results revealed that (i) SGSAs’ awareness of the hardship faced by FGSA in the early stages of migration could induce disidentification with Britishness and accentuate identification with the ethnic group; (ii) the Press may be regarded as excluding BSA from Britishness; (iii) SGSA may manifest hybridised identities to enhance psychological coherence.
In study III, a sample of 50 tabloid articles regarding BSA was analysed qualitatively. The results revealed that (i) BSA are constructed as ‘deviating’ from self-aspects of Britishness; (ii) BSA may be represented in terms of a hybridised threat to the ethno-national ingroup.
Study IV investigated some of the findings of the previous studies quantitatively. The questionnaire was administered to 215 BSA. A series of statistical analyses confirmed (i) the impact of negative media representations of one’s ethnic group for identity processes; (ii) the accentuation of ethnic identity and attenuation of British national identity as a result of exposure to negative media representations; (iii) a weaker national attachment among British Pakistanis than British Indians.
It is argued that levels of British national and ethnic identities will likely fluctuate in accordance with social and temporal context and that BSA will make strategic use of both identities in order to optimise identity processes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Psychology
  • Cinnirella, Marco, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2011
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


  • identity
  • Identity threat
  • ethnic identity
  • national identity
  • identity process theory
  • identity management
  • qualitative research
  • quantitative research
  • social psychology

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