British Pakistannis: The role of kinship networks in political participation
Sociology University of Bristol Bristol, UK
My paper addresses a question central to the ethnic minorities and political participation literature: how do young people from minority backgrounds view and experience "the political"? My paper examines this question in relation to a specific group, British Pakistani Muslims, about whose political engagement there has been a significant amount of public and policy debate, but less research. My main finding is that young British Pakistani Muslims are disenfranchised in two ways: first, in relation to mainstream society; and, second, in relation to their own community. Politics is a "lived experience" for many British Pakistani Muslims: the stereotypes of Muslims in mainstream media and in popular discourse have an effect on their everyday lives, through for example segregation in schools and in housing. My research also suggests that within segregated Pakistani communities, biraadari, or kinship politics, is influential. As a consequence, younger British Pakistanis are turning away from the political mainstream and towards other forms of participation. Within arenas such as community organisations, I argue that there is evidence of a concerted effort among young people, of both sexes, to broaden their horizons and build up their own cultural capital; in other words, to develop the confidence required to feel comfortable and confident in the decision making process.