Ken Hassell Conducts Research In South Asian London Community
Recently retired Professor of Art Ken Hassell just returned from conducting three weeks of research in the South Asian diaspora of Southall in West London.
Hassell visited the town of Southall, which is densely populated by South Asians particularly Punjabi Sikhs. His work will apply postcolonial and feminist theory to this diasporic community in order to help dispel assumptions about immigrants that lead to systemic stereotyping and othering.
Hassell spent much of his time in conversations with activists, borough council members and everyday residents about the salient issues in this highly diverse and multilayered diaspora. While what came out of these discussions reaffirmed much of his thesis, the extent and depth of the compleities greatly expanded what needed to be included in the research. It is remarkable how local yet global a small community like Southall is in its social content and its political effect.
The purpose of this research project is to help dispell long-held notions that immigrants and diasporic communities simply embody tradition, insularity and stasis that, in turn, reinforce negative stereotypes and othering. indeed, communities like Southall are spaces that are filled with multiple narratives, hybridities and even quite radical change. Often the residents in these communities must be especially resourceful and innovative in order to make fufilling lives for themselves, their familiies and and the groups with which they identify.
Hassell's research will focus the experiences of South Asian women activists whose motivations are inspired by their marginalisation and objectification not only by white British but also by highly paternalistic familial, religious and cultural contexts within the community. Although women were always going to play a major part in this research, Hassell's extensive conversation with the director of the Southall Black Sisters cemented their need to be the project.