I have chosen to pursue a research project based on the lived experience of a British Pakistani citizen. I selected this topic because it relates to my personal experience of living in an environment surrounded by people whose parents have directly come from Pakistan. I developed an interest in this subject through observing how they all were behaving in a manner which presented with mixed behaviours and understanding of cultural mores.
I was curious with the ways this generation tends to represent Pakistani culture taught by their parents, while at the same time seeming to be hooked into loops of Western culture in an attempt to fit in with the influence and demands of the indigenous society.
However, within the home environment in my experience these young people seem to comply with the ethics of their parental, cultural teachings. For example, they speak the language which their parents speak, have Pakistani meals and even wear clothes which represent their culture. However, as soon as they leave the house, their whole personality gets changed, not to mention their accent and dress sense. Hence they try to portray that they are fully Western and the only thing that gives the impression of their cultural identity is the colour of their skin and facial features.
Over the period of my training, I have developed an interest as to why they are the way they are, especially their frames of references and behaviours around their parents, siblings and peers. There are clear differences when they are in their homes, contrasted with when they are in the company of their friends. This has inspired me to explore further their real life experiences, such as what goes through their minds and what it is like to be a member of a British ethnic minority.
Since I was born and bred in Pakistan and live in a similar background and family system in Britain, I decided to narrow my interest and explore the ideations of a British born Pakistani and how this label affects a person’s expression of their inner world.
To manifest this proposal, I will endeavour to explore their imagination such as what goes through their minds and what is it like to be living as part of a British ethnic minority.
To progress my research, I have selected a female volunteer called Seema, who is 29 years of age, the eldest child in the family and also from a Pakistani Muslim background. She was known to me as British Pakistani, however during my interview it came to light that she moved to Britain when she was three years old.
This revelation was in contrast to my chosen research topic, where I was aiming to explore a lived experience of how was it like to be a British Pakistani with the enduring memories of early childhood as a British minority; however I decided to explore this situation during the interview to explore her experience from this different point of view.
It is widely believed that parents play a key role in a child’s understanding of him/her self, his / her family and the community s/he culturally belongs to. A person learns how to perceive things around himself/herself in order to fit in with his reality. One’s frame of reference becomes shaped by the knowledge acquired through parental teachings and behaviour.
I was interested to discover if there are any parallel correlations between religion and culture; in particular to see if these major factors operate side-by-side to determine a person’s identity. Furthermore, I wished to explore whether linguistic input in the co-researcher’s identity and experience of life.
Aim: To explore the lived experience of being a British born, second generation Pakistani: to explore her life experiences, parental influences and the factors which have contributed to shaping her frame of reference.
A BBC/ICM (Ref. 14) research Poll has indicated that more than a third of British Asians do not feel completely British; in fact 38% of the South Asians living in UK felt only “slightly” or “not at all” British. More than a third agreed to get on in the UK they needed to be a “coconut” – a term used for somebody who is brown on the outside but white on the inside.
Three quarters of the British Asians felt their culture was being faded away by living in the UK and nearly half believed that they are not treated fairly by white British community, who do not class them as British, (Ref. 14)
“Many British Asians consider themselves to be British but at home they are more in touch with their cultural and ancestral roots” states Reena Combo, editor of Ikonz, a monthly Asian Magazine. However she agrees that some British Asians believe in the need to become “coconuts”. She also adds that these young Asians feel they need to live in society in a cohesive manner otherwise society will disown them. (Ref. 14)
Another reporter has argued that it is not necessary to consider British Asians as “coconuts” for them to become successful and feel accepted in the wider society. (Sachdev, M. director of connect India, Ref. 14).
It has been reported (Ref.14, 15) that living in a multicultural society can be experienced as richer and more diverse. Young Asians growing in this kind of environment can have the best of both worlds. However, it was expected that they should balance the demands of what wider society is asking for with the demands of their culture of origin. It has also been discovered that while belonging to both cultures, they don’t fully feel part of either, being “neither here nor there”. Those who have come as migrants from multiple backgrounds find it even more complicated.
Societal norms which contrast to one’s cultural and religious norms can put young people on edge as they try to find ways to manage their identities as well as to feel accepted by their peers. For example drinking alcohol, dating and going to night clubs can be considered as normal and accepted by the wider society, however for many minorities such as the Pakistani Muslim community these acts are regarded as uncivilized and extremely unacceptable. This can place a strain on young adults’ to find ways where they try to keep up their traditional norms and at the same time, get acknowledged by their peers from other cultures (Ref. 14,15).
South Asian families are commonly conventional and likely to condemn any behaviour that is considered the norm for other young people. Such disapproval predominantly applies in their expectations of the way girls should behave. (Ref. 15)
Religion seems to play a significant role in the lives of young Asian Muslims compared to what it does for most young people in other faiths. For most of young ones, it has been generally considered as part of their identity even if they do not practice their religion regularly. Furthermore, a number of young Asians openly prefer to declare their religious identity even if the prevalent culture is secular. More young women in the west tend to wear the “hijab” more than they did many years ago as a result; other young ones have also started to seek out for their religion as part of their identity (Ref-15).
Jacobson,(1997) has described that among young British Pakistanis, religion is a significant source of social identity. Furthermore, in identifying what is prevalent between cultural norms and religious boundaries, his research shows that there is greater manifestation of religion when sense of ethnic identity is stronger. Meliepaard, Lubbers and Gijsberts
(2008) have shown that the second generation children of immigrant parents report weaker ethnic and religious identities, and engage less in ethno–cultural and religious practices. They also find that religious and ethnic identity becomes increasingly related for the second generation.
Amin (2002) has talked about the inter–ethnic relationship to provide coherent understanding of the society. Moreover, Short and Carrington (1995) have expressed the view that children’s understanding of their culture and national identity may vary with age and ethnicity.
Howard & Gill (2001) have evidence that children are now conceptualising their sense of belonging as being “a global citizen”, but ask if they see themselves belonging to the society they are living in or whether they are juggling with both identities. In addition, Alexander (2002) has argued that Asian people have been transfixed through attributions of cultural differences whereas other minorities such Black/African-Caribbean people have been considered as embodying “politics of difference”.
Phillips, Davis and Ratcliffit (2006) have offered an insight into the way British Asians perceive and make sense of the spaces in which they are living and through which they are dispersed. They have also explored the discourses of segregation and challenge interpretations based on cultural “otherness” normative assumptions about patterns of social and spatial integration.
Racism was also an issue for young people who were born and bred in the adopted country, (Ref. 16). For some people, belonging to a South Asian culture is just too different and seen as a threat to their host culture. For example, many young British Asians are passionate about football, however due to ongoing racist elements among supporters, only very few have managed to visit the terraces for games. This may also explain why many young South Asians are still actively supporting the Asian Sub Continent’s national cricket teams. Balancing traditional home lives with the demands of living in a secular culture with different values and priorities can be a struggle. (Ref-15, 16)
excellent academic literature review and contextualising of the issues – just recognise the methodology more
Relational centred Research Design
I think you need to be clear at the start that you are using ‘phenomenology’ and choosing a ‘relational, interpretative approach’ plus using ‘IPA’ as your analysis method. Qualitative relational centred research method offers the understanding that the research relationship employs an interactional encounter in which researcher and co-researcher partake actively. This is imperative as it allows the co-researcher to feel listened to and valued in an in-depth and transformative way. Furthermore, it is likely to generate a profound impact on both researcher and co-researcher (Finley and Evans, 2009).
“…Relational centred qualitative research is a journey into unknown territory which promises excitement and surprises on the way as well as frustrations and uncertainties” (Finley and Evans, 2009, pg. 3)
The purpose of conducting any research, just like therapy, is to establish a bridge between the researcher and the co-researcher, using the researcher’s special awareness, skills, experience and knowledge. During this process, the researcher reflects on the other’s stories while simultaneously analysing his own responses and the dynamics of the evolving relationship between them. However, in both psychotherapy and research, there is potential for the experience to be transformative.
Finlay and Evans (2009) have also argued that all qualitative research designs embrace relational elements, as both endeavours to analyse the impact of the social world on individuals. However, not all qualitative research is specifically- relational centred – just as not all therapy is relational centred.
The fundamental purpose for using this research is the way it facilitates in signifying and recording the ambiguity, ambivalence and richness of the participant’s lived experience while touching the complexity of the meanings in the social world.
After careful consideration a co-researcher was selected. She was a female of 29 years of age, a British Muslim from Pakistani background. She was known to me as a robust and insightful woman and appeared to be functioning well in every prospect of her life, as a daughter, wife, mother and a professional. She was introduced briefly to the purpose of interview and asked if she was willing to take part. Once her permission was secured, an interview took place using a recording device to ensure the data was secured. The interview was later transcribed to produce an in-depth analysis in order to carry out the research project.
Analysing the data: Interpretive Phenomenological Research (IPA)
The present research is concerned with the individual’s interpretations and experiences which are deep and have meaning to her; Smith’s (1995) IPA based system with a phenomenological approach was employed to analyse the data produced during the interview.
IPA explores how the interviewee makes sense of the personal and social world; essentially this explores the meanings given to experiences, events and interpretations by the individual and also considers the way it is interpreted (Smith, 1995, 2004).
Aspects of the interview produce an outcome of concentrated and complete engagement with the participant, and with the stages concerned in IPA, the data was examined and analysed to value the understanding of the narration of co-researcher’s life story.
However, Willing (2001) suggests that this approach can be criticised for ignoring the view of language within its representative position, in the way discursive psychology does. Since the words which are chosen do not just describe an item, they are a construct of the phenomenon (Smith, 2004). However, meaning and learning about the individual’s world by an interpretive connection with the transcript can be obtained (Smith et al. 2009)
The interview transcript was read several times and notes were made on interesting areas of the co-researcher’s description and meanings of her life story as a British Pakistani. This was intended to summarise sections of the transcript and to allow for a deeper understanding of what was being conveyed by the participant on her reaction to being part of a British minority. Slight interpretation of the data was essential to gain good quality sections of text. After these stages were concluded, the themes that arose were examined for links and connections between them which could be clustered together as master concepts and themes (Smith 1995, Smith et al. 2009).
As the themes emerged I checked that the transcript from the interview was appropriate and that the essence of what the participant had narrated was not lost, and other aspects which emerged from the researcher’s interpretation were noted. Overall three themes were developed that summarise the essence of complete transcribed data.
The current study employed all the relevant ethical considerations informed by the guidelines for the research project. Firstly, before the interview commenced, informed consent was obtained by me as a researcher whereby a consent form (see appendix.2) was read and signed by the co-researcher, who was made fully aware of the nature and objective of the study before the interview take place.
The participant was also made aware that participation was voluntary and she might withdraw anytime before or during the interview or even before submitting the final report without giving any reason. She was fully debriefed following the interview.
Whole data was treated confidentially and the participant was assured of her anonymity around name, address and number of children. It was acknowledged and ensured that the nature of the interview and the issues that were discussed would not cause any harm or discomfort to her. As the participant would share her story as the lived experiences of her life, using information from her historical background as well from the “here and now”, she was clearly informed of her right to choose her level of disclosure. Furthermore, I emphasised that a number of psychotherapy sessions could be arranged to help deal with her distress should any emotional discomfort arise.
The Interpretive phenomenological approach (IPA) has been applied to analyse the interview transcript. The name of the participant was changed to protect her identity and to fulfil one of the ethical guidelines. The co-researcher was renamed as “Seema”. Using IPA, the masters themes were developed. A diagram of the descriptive, interpretive and main themes is shown in figure 1.
Although the original aim was to look at the co-researcher’s (Seema) lived experience as a British born Pakistani, whose parents both directly migrated from Pakistan, during the interview Seema revealed that she was actually born in Pakistan and moved to Britain when she was three years old. However, she has always considered herself as a British born national. Since this changed the context of the research, and brought a new dimension into the study, I therefore decided to continue with the research to discover the unknown territory of the journey of her life so far.
Through the analysis of the co-researcher’s interview, it is possible to gain a picture of her experience and roles she practiced as a British Pakistani as well as a British Muslim. What emerges from her transcription is her engagement as “enthused participant” rather than being involved in the process passively. From descriptions of sharing her lived experiences as a British minority (Pakistani) a picture emerged presenting the main themes as “struggle”, “parents”, and “faith/religion”.
After going through Seema’s transcribed interview, a theme named as “Struggle” has dominated my attention. This has been selected because on various occasions through the interview, Seema spoke about how her life had felt as if she had been on a big roller coaster where she had to face a great deal of struggle – predominantly throughout her teenage years.
Seema had discussed during her interview how seeking out an ideal “British life style” was like a battle between parental norms and the demands of the wider society.
Seema stated that at home she was expected to adopt a lifestyle that her parents were living which was different to what she was expected from the socially determined norms – not to mention she had to struggle to find a balance of the two distinct cultures.
“I was fighting with myself to kind of leave my culture and be more like everybody else.” (C15). Seema identified that if, for example, she was going to her friend’s house or hanging around with the friend who shares the same culture as her then she can be herself. Contrarily if she is happen to be around her white British friends, she would prefer to be like them just to fit in with their lifestyle. (C11)
Seema shared while studying at college all of her friends who were British were not covering their heads whereas she was told to cover herself due to religious and cultural obligations. She said she struggled with this identity at the time and wanted to follow the footstep of her friends. “…because as Muslims, obviously we had to cover – and they don’t cover, so I didn’t want to cover and I wanted to have my hair same colour as theirs, I wanted to dress the same way as they dressed, so that I fitted in better.”(C32)
She reports her family visit to Pakistan was like a turning point for her. Seema claimed that when she visited the country when she was eighteen years old, that was the time when she was feeling most vulnerable about discovering her true identity.
Seema describes her visit as a crucial even in her life. She even recalled her memories of attachment with close family members such as grandparents and uncle as they were the people who she strongly felt attached to.
Seema has identified that the secret for containing self-belief is to be resilient and to be confident about who you are: only then you can be accepted in which ever direction you would like to go.
“If you have a strong personality, no matter which side you get pulled onto, you kind of know the way you want to go.”(C47)
She explained that if some people are feeling unsure about themselves and they are not as robust as others this would undoubtedly result in a struggle to be decisive throughout their lives.
Seema reflected during the interview that in this period she was apprehensive about her religious and cultural identity and also about which side she belongs to the most: her Pakistani cultural heritage or her Islamic faith. She said that it was just a phase when she was going through the struggle of her needs for belonging – this was very important during those years of her life.
She added that she became stronger as she aged, in terms of her beliefs about who she is, and she claimed this was the only way that others would feel comfortable and be more understanding towards her. Whereas, she said, if you are unsure about yourself, it would become difficult to make others to believe or accept you for whom you are.
“I think it’s a matter of making yourself stronger and kind of being happy with what you are… You think ‘I am a Muslim: this is what I am’. As you get older, you get stronger, you practise more, and you become firm in what you are.” (C59)
Seema in later discussion has shared some useful information how she believes her daughter should be treated by her.
“You are not British…And you are not Pakistani either, you have to be both, you don’t have to be but you are made to be both.” (C11)
She explained that these thoughts make you decide that if calling yourself Pakistani means you are from Pakistan and you live the way people live in Pakistan, this is very difficult as you could only learn about that culture if you either lived there for sometime, or paid regular visits to that country.
She however suggested that if she was living in Pakistan the same amount of time as she lived in Britain, then she would be getting a taste of both cultures, but not the way she has been living until now.
Seema has repeatedly specified about the age group she struggled with most in regards to her identity and sense of belonging. She emphasised that the late teen age years are very crucial for any one because of the transition phase a person goes through from adolescence to adulthood.
She reinforced that this is the age where a young person usually finds himself/herself under a great deal of external pressure, and if that individual has to go through an extra struggle for identity, this can end up making that person feel even more confused.
“…that age is really vulnerable for anyone going through that. On top of that you have got to fight with, um, a thing like culture and your religion.” (C43)
“Age of nineteen is a point where you choose your path and some people stick to it and some don’t.” (C44)
She then went on explain the reason why she chosen her path differently to what she practiced prior to age 19. She stressed that looking back retrospectively, it might be because she visited Pakistan around that crucial period when she was eighteen and was already going through a lot of struggle around belonging. She explained that it might be that visiting her “cultural heritage” country reinforced her thoughts of being different from the majority of her peers. She possibly concluded that “she is who she is” and “she cannot be what she is not”. However, she did mention that even though she had experienced a close insight of her Pakistani culture while she was visiting the country, when she started implementing her chosen values, she decided to go for the pathway of her religion, not live as a traditional Pakistani. She added that it is more feasible to live under the umbrella of a religion instead of as a Pakistani and by Pakistani values.
Seema has shared information about why people are still fighting in their thirties. She claimed that it is an ongoing battle for British Pakistanis, especially the generation who either were born here or who migrated to Britain in the very early years of their childhood, like herself.
Seema indicates another reason as to why she is behaving different to her friends who are still struggling for their identity. She explained that on one hand, she wished her parents had been more understanding towards her and more flexible in projecting their own values, while at the same time Seema she still gives them credit for being rigid with their boundaries, as this has facilitated her for living here as a British national.
“Maybe if my parents had been more lenient, and I had more choice and more of an option, then I still wouldn’t have made that decision and I still would have been fighting with it.” (C25)
It was evident through analysing Seema’s transcription that one’s parents play a fundamental and unique role in shaping one’s personality. Seema identified that the majority of Pakistani parents would like to see their children “like an image of them”. (C20)
Seema claimed that even though she had a restricted upbringing compared to her younger siblings, especially her sister who is eleven years younger than her, it has made her feel stronger and it has also increased her understanding of the fact that the generations are different and will be constantly changing within her own home.
Seema emphasised that parents should be more considerate because “our environment is different” and is constantly changing – just like her parents are with her younger sister.
“No matter what our culture is, our upbringing is, our roots are… our environment is still different.” (C21)
However she later added that, “Parents are learning and our parents are, – well I can go ahead and speak for the children of my generation, who have both of their parents from Pakistan, like mine – I think their children are educating them.” (C28)
Seema has suggested that parents have to be more lenient and flexible in updating their thoughts. They should be considerate about their child’s social environment before imposing their cultural values onto their children. This is because their offspring are living in a totally different country and have different social pressures in identifying who they are. Seema said parents seemed to be admitting the fact that:
“… actually we have left Pakistan quite a while ago and when we go there and visit, we can’t expect during the two-to-four weeks of staying for our children to pick up so much.”(C28)
She then explained that nowadays most parents are realising that they have left Pakistan a long time ago and that by only visiting the parental homeland for two to three weeks, they expect their children to pick up their culture and start practicing it in Britain for rest of their lives. It’s simply not enough.
In a situation like Seema’s, going Pakistan after five years and for a duration of two weeks, she describes this as “not enough fuel to keep you going.” (C29)
With regards to parenting herself, Seema has stressed on the fact that she is not going to let her children go through the same struggle she went through because her parents were not insightful about the hardships she faced. This has been justified due to of their lack of understanding towards the demands of living in a multicultural society. Seema used the example of her five year old daughter who is experiencing similar dilemmas about who she is, and why she is different to some children in her class. Seema really wants to use a different ideology than her parents and is willing to educate her daughter about all the possible conflicts that could go through in her mind.
She strongly stressed that she would not impose any burdens on her about anything but instead she will explain to her why she was asked to act in a certain manner. She mentioned:
“At the age of five, she has already questioned me about, you know, why we have a different colour? Why do we wear things differently: why can my friend wear a skirt and show her legs and I can’t wear a skirt and show my legs?” (C66).
She has also explained that one thing what she would not want her to do is to keep unanswered “Whys” in her mind. As a result Seema claimed she tries to explain to her daughter to the best of her ability instead of ignoring or rejecting her curiosities by, e.g., shouting. (See C68 in Appendices.)
“…I’m conscious at the fact that I’ve got a daughter who, is going to go through the same things that I’ve been through. So, it’s not only about educating others, I’m already thinking of educating my daughter.” (C65)
She further added that parents are already becoming more lenient to her younger siblings, especially her sister who is eleven years younger than her. Seema’s parents are behaving a lot differently towards her younger sister (who is currently going through the “transition phase”) than they were to her when she was of similar age. Likewise with their grandchildren (like Seema’s daughter): her parents treat them very differently and are less demanding of them. (C65)
“Religion” is another major theme which has principally covered most of the description and interpretation of the discussion (see figure 1).
Seema discussed that parents should give their children options and knowledge about their religion rather than their cultures. She disagreed with her parents’ cultural beliefs which contrast to what she has learnt about her religion by self-education. Perhaps this could be the reason why she is raising her daughter differently to the way she was brought up by her mother.
This seems to reveal that in order to find peace within one’s self, a person must be educated by his/her parents about his/her religious values as well as cultural norms. Seema’s experience about the distinction has been described as;
“We have to learn about what our culture is and what our religion is, and also learn to differentiate between the two.” (C25)
And then she added that she rather call herself as British Muslim instead of British Pakistani.
She describes the reason, “I think the word Pakistani has a lot of other links to it as well…you are Pakistani, it’s got a label of Pakistan.” (C27)
Furthermore, Seema stated that after visiting Pakistan at the age of 18, where she went for a close family wedding, it was a spontaneous “turning point” for her. She claimed that after returning from that visit she suddenly realised that her roots were different to what she had thought she had in Britain. She said she felt like even though she had a close insight of her Pakistani culture whilst visiting the country, when she actually started acknowledging herself, Seema went to the pathway of being a Muslim, not a traditional Pakistani, as according to what she has shared, it is more in favour to live under the umbrella of a religion and not as a Pakistani person.
“…our culture is something else, we have to remember that as well, that’s a fight within ourselves – never mind British-Pakistani, but it is British Muslim…” (C25)
She has also stated that,
“I have lived here in Britain my whole life, so I can’t have kept my Pakistani roots – I’ve kept my faith, because that’s who I am: I’m a Muslim.” (C27).
Moreover, Seema said that lack of knowledge about each other’s beliefs can create intolerance between people. In her example she explained that only through sharing information she could make her life easy at work.
“When I first spoke about my prayer, they wanted to know “right, is there a certain time? Why do you have to pray…I have explained it to them so they now they know, and are more understanding towards it.” (C54)
However she stressed that to create an ideal environment you must be aware of your limits of doing it. She added that it is inappropriate to keep going on about it, nor should you overly do it: “I would only explain things to others when there is a need for it.” (C55)
She also said that it is pivotal that you become more understanding towards the people you live with or spend more time with, in your day to day life. She said you have to accept and understand that everyone has their own way of thinking and belief system. The only way it can be worked in a community cohesively is if you believe in keeping the balance and accept that each individual is important, with his or her own faith and cultural beliefs, and s/he must allow others behaving in their own preferred way of life.
Seema has explained that you have to respect each other’s boundaries and you should not intervene in any other personal or cultural beliefs: “People have got their own beliefs…I have to be understanding towards them as well, umm, as them (work colleagues) being understanding towards me…I think I have managed in my life to kind of balance the two…” (C50)
She then added that this is the reason behind why she is feeling more happy and content as she does not have any concern of feeling isolated in her own identity choices. (C50)
Another example she gave in further dialogue is that when a certain work event arises – things like celebrations and going out for meals with work colleagues – everyone is so tolerant and would decide the venue and date through mutual discussion and agreement solely because they want to include everyone at work and not make any ethnic minority group to feel left out in any work-related affairs.
Seema claimed that she as a Muslim can’t attend any dinner parties where they sell alcohol, therefore her fellow work-mates will be mindful of this and book a venue where halal or vegetarian food is served: “They acknowledge the fact that I can’t drink alcohol because that is not part of my religion.” (C44)
Seema has pointed out that she believes, as time progresses, the religion would be the only major factor that will survive, whereas the culture will gradually be fading away.
She added further that even practicing her religion at work such as praying during the day, time is also negotiable with her work colleagues.
“My colleagues are understanding towards that, they would let me have my breaks so that I go and pray…” (C53).
Seema describes her work colleague as very understanding and it is only because she claimed that she does not interfere in their lifestyle and they don’t argue with her beliefs and norms. In fact as she has claimed they are more understanding and caring.
“I have never let the fact that obviously being a Muslim, being a British Muslim is a minority and I never let that affect me.” (C52)
She further added that even being in a minority she did not have any urge to be part of the majority any more. “I am happy to say that, I’ve been content in what I am and that’s not bothered me…” (C52)
Seema has also shared that she considers herself lucky where she found people accepting her as the way she presents herself. “I am sure there are many Muslims that go into circles whether it is carrying off their education or they get a job and their situation where people are not so accepting, so maybe it’s more difficult for them.”(C46)
There is an immense need to examine and be aware of the way parents bring their children up when they are living in a multicultural society. Seema believes she is part of the generation whose parents both directly came from their homeland (Pakistan) and the asset they brought with them were rich – as seen by the way her own parents have maintained a set of cultural norms.
She shared that whilst she was growing up, her parents used the values and the ways they were used to in Pakistan but tried to implement all of the norms here in Britain which seemed inappropriate for Seema. According to Seema it is difficult to teach someone values and traditions which do not match with those outside of the home environment.
Seema explains she struggled to practice what her parents asked her to believe in contrast to what her school and college friends were presenting. This was a hurdle and a big barrier to practicing the ways her parents forced her to behave, and she resisted complying with those rules. She suggested that the values her parents had tried to input into her lifestyle could have worked if she had been living in Pakistan herself, so there was congruency of what she had been taught and what was being practiced outside her home environment.
It was not an easy experience for Seema; she shared that the big struggle was to match the in-house reality to the actuality of the outer world. This contrast gave her a constant struggle to live with. However as she described in her interview that as soon as she turned 18 and visited Pakistan, she felt like the journey changed everything for her – she could see reality more clearly and also could see the match between what her parents had been teaching and how the people of Pakistan were behaving.
In a similar way, even small things such as respecting elders, not answering back to your parents, wearing Asian clothes, eating Asian foods such as curries biryani and samosas, etc., are supposed to be preferable in contrast to western food such as pies, jacket potatoes, fish and chips etc.
A relatively positive and clear message appeared through this study is that every human is unique and life can become easier if we use our parental taught messages in a balanced and appropriate manner. Seema is a very bright and insightful woman. She was aware of her unmet needs even though there was a phase in her life when subconsciously was driven by the environmental pressure. Nevertheless, when she avails herself of the opportunity of finding ways through her struggle, she developed a new way of living her life and discovered that nothing can ever sabotage her as long as she is happy and content within herself.
She systemised herself by keeping the values of her religion as a Muslim but was not willing to practice her culture as it was imposed on her when she was young and was living under her parent’s dependency.
Seema has given a new pathway to fellow members of the Pakistani community who are British and use religion as a tool to defend their culture. She has highlighted the many apprehensive beliefs she had been carrying in her mind where she had to adapt to a different role at home. However, when she was out with her mixed friends – mainly white British – she conformed into the lifestyle that was required to get validation and to fit in around her peers. She believes by doing so she was getting positive strokes and self-recognition which were considered a fundamental need throughout the process of living in a culturally rich society. At the same time, in order to avoid negative strokes, Seema preferred to adapt to the demands of her parents.
It was very powerful listening to her as it gave me an insight about how life can change when you struggle to get validation of who you are and how you actually find yourself.
Seema has established that through a person’s own input, one’s perception of the world can change. Seema’s way of getting recognition changed clearly: from diverting the internal demands of getting accepted by her peers to fulfilling those needs for herself.
As soon as Seema grasped who she really is and what she had been initially trying to do to develop an identity, she realised that she cannot be fully British nor she can class herself as fully Pakistani.
The reason for this can be argued that since she was not born in this country (she migrated when she was three years old), this perhaps does make her British. She can speak her native language without hesitation; however there is some form of reluctance in speaking her mother tongue. Despite the fact that she is fluent in speaking the national language, she feels she does not fully represent the colour and race of the indigenous population of this country.
The description of Seema’s story was related to my personal experiences most particularly where she described the struggle in finding her own space and her identity “hardship”. I migrated to this country about eighteen years ago, when I was twenty. I came from Pakistan, a country where I grew up sharing the culture, religion and language of the majority of the indigenous population. I never had any concept of how it would be to become part of the minority in a country that was completely new to me.
I struggled in early years of my stay in Britain about how to communicate in English, how to keep up my Pakistani identity, and also to get accepted by the people I was living with. As a result the crucial years of my life were those where I had to invest in finding my own “space” and getting recognised by first and second generation people from a Pakistani cultural background. I never found myself at ease in communicating with these people as to them they are “always right”; as a Pakistani woman I could not have known anything better than them.
Now when Seema started sharing her thoughts and feelings, about when she had to struggle against her parental teachings about cultural norms, I felt as if I was going through the same hardship. The difference could be interpreted as Seema facing hurdles in finding her place among her generation, whereas I had to face a struggle with members of my family. I was living with the family playing multiple roles of a wife, a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law.
From the cultural perspective these roles are demanding anyway, even when you don’t have to move out from your homeland. I had to face pressure for following the rules generated in contrast to my determined self. As a result I experienced being on a constant journey of identity struggle.
Seema highlighted that she started to feel secure in her late twenties when she had entered into her practical life as a primary school teacher and when she got married at the age of 23. Peace developed in her life when she found out that religion is relevant to her life as it gave her “ground to stand on”. Culture, on the contrary, carries different values to the other subcontinent heritages. She decided to keep herself on one path (religion) so as not to get confused about following some of her typical (and to her meaningless) cultural values.
I decided to work on this project due to my personal interest as well as aiming to educate the reader on how a British Asian sees himself/herself: particularly those individuals whose families have directly come from Pakistan and are ensuring that their coming generations follow the footsteps of their parents and even grandparents.
Seema also discussed how it might be possible to remember all the values you have been forced to practice that are purely from the country of her parents’ origin. These are contradictory to some of the cultural values in everyday life. She said that it might have been possible if she had been living in Pakistan – then it would have been possible to apply those norms and beliefs in practice.
However, it is enormously difficult to adapt to a culture which is only presented in a household environment among a wider population which tends to follow what the so-called native population’s beliefs were.
In order to conduct this research there have been some strengths and limitations which have been acknowledged during the whole process of this research project starting from choosing the client to conducting the interview.
To discuss the limitations: one of the major issues from my perspective is that the co-researcher was a female candidate. In Asian culture, Muslim Pakistani women are clearly expected to behave differently compared to male candidates. There is different range of freedom allowed to males and females in this particular culture (where woman are “soft targets”), and it would have been interesting to explore what roles and responsibilities are expected from a Pakistani man and how he would he respond to the expected behaviours by his parents.
However since the aim of the research is to understand the life story from a British Pakistani’s perspective, this study works well as to how an individual lives her life in a rich, multicultural society. It explores the struggle to find and keep her identity and make her life acceptable, and to develop a feeling of belonging to her cultural and religious heritage.
There’s also the possibility to be considered that the reason Seema has claimed she feels very content and not affected by being part of a minority religious group in this country is because she was born in Pakistan. Although she claimed that she only has very vague memories of Pakistan, she may still have become different to other people of her age and found her own space living in the wider community by being able to remember her preverbal experiences, perhaps not so much behaviourally, but through embodying it.
This study has provided information about the real life experience of a British Pakistani female part of the Muslim faith. I felt it was important to pursue some research where the themes of the story can actually make the reader understand a person’s perspective of how she has lived her life with this struggle of identity.
Britain has become a rich, multicultural country and people from all walks of races, colours and religions are working in any organisational sector from civil servant to professional doctors, teachers, and psychologists as well as many others, so it’s important that there should be enough awareness of the felt experiences of a person from non native British cultural and religion backgrounds. This will enhance understanding and make this society function more cohesively.
However, further study is needed among people who were born here, who have lived with their parents for a long time, and for those, whom one of the parents is British born. Study could reveal whether those people are struggling more or have an ambivalent understanding of who they really are.
There were not any apparent issues in the interview transcription, analysis or findings, as the whole process went very smoothly and the purpose and the aims of the research were met.
I have had an opportunity to develop greater insight in how a British Pakistani views the world. The interesting development was the modification of my original aim with the discovery that Seema was not actually had born in UK, but three years old when she left Pakistan, having only visited Pakistan three times in her life. The brief duration of these visits were not in any way enough for her to recognise her true cultural heritage.
To reflect on Seema’s analysis, it seems that as a mother of two young children she is not going to follow her “cultural parent’s messages” (Drego, 1983) when it comes to parenting.
She mentioned that she likes to be liberal regarding her children’s upbringing. She even shared that although her parents told her to follow her culture; she opted to follow a religious pathway in order to clear her misconceptions.
The reason she said she was more comfortable to follow her religious rather than her cultural traditions is because religion is universal and is practiced across cultural boundaries, therefore she does not feel isolated in following her religious obligations (such as reading prayers five times a day). This is the same for people who have come from Pakistan and those who belong to, say, Egypt or any other Muslim country.
Applications of TA theory
The following TA theory (, Berne, 1961, Stewart and Joins, 1987) was discovered in relation to my study.
- Strokes – Through analysing Seema’s transcription, one of the core concepts of TA theory known as “strokes” has appeared in her hunger for recognition and desire for strokes from every phase of her life.
- Injunctions and Drivers – Seema has expressed her childhood parental messages of “don’t be important”, “don’t belong” and most importantly “don’t be you”. These negative messages are known as Injunctions in the theory of transactional analysis. The behaviour Seema has portrayed in response to her injunctions is called Drivers, (Counterinjunctions). In present study, the “drivers” that Seema had commonly played out were “Please others” and “Try hard”. However it was presumed that if future dialogues take place with her, she may play out some traits of other “driver” behaviours such as “Be Strong” and “Be Perfect”.
- Ego States – In regard to ego states model, Seema has stayed mainly into her “Adult” self as she was very much behaving from a “here and now” perspective. However, as she was talking through the process she expressed how she been playing her adopted child by either rebelling (wearing western clothing, dye similar hair colour) or complying to the demanding messages (conforming into cultural rituals when around her parents).
- Existential Life Positions – During the whole process of the interview Seema has clearly exposed her existential life positions. She started her journey from “I am Not OK, You are Ok” at least up till the age of nineteen. However as time passed on Seema progressed as a mature woman, this facilitated her to evolve into the healthy life position of “I am OK, You are OK”.
The happy ending of her story was to see her “Adult Self” functioning so well for her. Evidently, Seema has grasped the real autonomy by of which she can now make conscious decisions for herself.
To conclude the project of what has been brought to light through listening and analysing to the things Seema has shared. She has very clearly described her life changing experiences, her struggles, her upbringing and the implications of religion and cultural practices. She has comprehensively distinguished how she felt when she was growing up as a teenager and how she has totally changed herself into a unique and completely different individual.
Seema has stressed that the outcome all depends on how you are as a person when exposed to the wider society. She added that she believes there are certain rituals in our lives which we can only freely practice if we deeply understand the demands on us and our obligations.
Although there were moments in her life when she totally transformed herself according to the demands of the wider British society, nonetheless, with the passage of time and through visiting her cultural homeland, the following observations are clear:
From the age of 18 or 19 she began to reflect her cultural identity with her religious self. She discovered that she can have the best of both worlds: British and Pakistani. Additionally, her religion was the only power or motive which kept her within herself and helped her overcome her struggle of belonging.
After summarising several aspects of Seema’s lived experience as a British Pakistani, it seems that Seema was very much aware of what was happening around her and how she wanted to deal with certain situations.
She was even able to identify where gaps in her knowledge and identity were located and the ways to fill them. However, regarding her siblings, things have changed for them – which she was resentful about, at least to some extent, but she soon realised that it could be because her parents have now lived in Britain for so much longer, compared to when she was a child. Presumably they have managed to develop their beliefs. They may have finally acknowledged the fact that the environment is different and it is not practical to impose outdated beliefs on children of modern era.
Furthermore, as a member of a minority community, life can be made easier by sharing one’s thoughts and beliefs with other community members. This also lessens prejudice towards a particular race or religion. This can only be possible if you come from an “I am ok /you are ok” state of mind which helps reduce resentment towards other people. This means, as long as you hold onto your basic philosophy of TA and be fully aware that everyone is born OK, you can make your life easier, regardless of your colour, culture, race or religion.
References need to go here and not in a separate document please.