Challenging discourses on BSA Muslim women through an intersectional analysis of everyday experiences across spaces of home, work and public space

  • Rashida Bibi

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the intersectional identities of British South Asian (BSA) Muslim women, examining their everyday lives across different spaces of home, work and public spaces. It draws on interviews, photos, diary extracts and walk-along interviews with 28 women, aged between 25-40 years, living and working in Oldham. The thesis examines how dominant discourses on Muslim women -- which present them as extreme, and a threat, yet as also a silent, oppressed minority – affect their interactions with family, co-workers and community members in everyday situations. The thesis utilises intersectional thinking (Crenshaw, 1989) when looking at the lives of BSA Muslim women. In particular, it explores how applying an intersectional lens, which takes into consideration gender, ethnicity, social class age, as well as religion, can provide rich, nuanced and holistic accounts of everyday encounters and interactions across spaces of home, work and public spaces. Importantly, this approach provides a powerful tool with which to challenge stereotypical, normative and narrow understandings of BSA Muslim women. The thesis unsettles assumptions about home, work and public space through emphasis on the different aspects of Muslim BSA women’s everyday lives including employment, motherhood and family ties. The thesis further explores how discursive discourses shape understandings of BSA Muslim women, as well as how these influence affect BSA Muslim women’s interactions and experiences as the minority ‘Other’. The thesis begins by considering the home as a social field (Bourdieu, 1998) the family as a ‘realized category’. Through an intersectional lens which considers gender, ethnicity, religion and culture the thesis challenges perceptions of the home as a private ‘sealed space’. Instead, analysing the socio-cultural of home, as a site of nested influences situated within a particular community and locality illustrates the porousness of the home for BSA Muslim women. Furthermore, through the use of Goffman’s (1959) concept of the ‘performative self’ the home is further troubled, as a space where women must continuously perform in accordance to expected social norms. In this chapter the experiences of working from home or establishing home based businesses further complicates the dichotomy of public/work and private/home spaces, and seeks to understand the motivations behind such entrepreneurship as well as the effect on family and spatial practices in the home. The second chapter explores the space of work and analyses the difficulties faced by BSA Muslim in work environments. Analysing institutional practices through an intersectional lens highlights the way stratification of gender, race and religion are already in place in organisations. The chapter also challenges stereotypical discourses of economic inactivity of BSA Muslim women through the need to consider locality, life stages and discrimination as barriers to employment. The chapter further explores what happens when a visible religious identity such as the hijab enters the workplace, and analyses BSA Muslim women’s experiences of othering in the workplace through micro-aggressions, infantilization or interpersonal discrimination. The final chapter explores how the dual discourses of BSA Muslim woman as victim/threat vacillates according to the types of space that BSA Muslim inhabit. This vacillation is considered using the concepts of hypervisibility, invisibility and ‘double consciousness’ (W.E.B Dubois’, 2007), and considers how these concepts can highlight the experiences of BSA Muslim women as they move across everyday spaces of hospitals, public parks or public transport. I argue that these concepts are interlocked and that BSA Muslim women are generally solely understood through dominant discourses, which not only ensure they are ‘hypervisible’ in public spaces, but that this visibility in turn renders BSA Muslim women ‘invisible’, as t
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJames Rhodes (Supervisor) & Vanessa May (Supervisor)


  • space
  • public
  • home
  • work
  • women
  • intersectional
  • Muslim
  • gender

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