Social Sciences: The Big Issues

By Kath Woodward | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Where do you come from?

Place and race

Introduction

Where do you come from? As was suggested in Chapter 2, this is a question frequently asked when we meet someone for the first time in order to gain some idea of who they are; of their identity. Place, especially the place of origin, is an important part of knowing who we are. Individuals want to know where they were born, where they come from, as well as who their parents are. It may well be that we are trying to gain some understanding of who someone else is by locating them in relation to a particular place. Knowing where someone lives gives us all sorts of clues as to their identity. It is often through place that we position people, not only as individuals, but this is also how governments and official agencies situate us, according to our address or place of birth. Place, especially the place where we were born, or the place where we live, may offer some security in a world which is characterized by mobility and movement, even movement across nations and continents. However, responses to the question 'where do you come from?' may not be so simple. This is the answer given by the athlete Zaf Shah: 'I'm a Bradfordian, a Yorkshireman and I'm British.'

Shah seems quite certain about his identity as British. He is not only British, he is from Yorkshire. As an athlete competing at a high level one might expect him to represent the UK or England at national level. However, he has applied for dual nationality and prefers to represent Pakistan in international competitive sport. He goes on to say, 'My father fought in the British army, but he came from Kashmir. And I am hungry to show the world that Asians can compete at the highest level and do well' (in Arnot 2002:2). This is a complicated story. It is not so easy to read off who we are from where we come from, nor is it easy to decide which place is the most important. Different places have different meanings. However Shah's story is a particular story, which links specific places; Kashmir in Pakistan where his father came from and Yorkshire, the particular region in which Bradford, the town in the UK where he lives, is situated. Shah offers a specific brand of Britishness that has different strands. Indeed, he is suggesting that he wants to retain his identity in relation to his parents' country of origin. Shah was a promising cricketer in his teens but, in spite of being praised at the highest levels, was not

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Social Sciences: The Big Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - You and Me, Us and Them 19
  • Chapter 3 - Citizenship 51
  • Chapter 4 - Buying and Selling 77
  • Chapter 5 - Where Do You Come From? 103
  • Chapter 6 - Globalization 131
  • Chapter 7 - Conclusion 157
  • Glossary 169
  • Further Reading 175
  • Bibliography 177
  • Index 183
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