AHSS 1: British Asians’ Fight against Racism, 1950s-1990s

Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Supervisors: Prof Lucy Bland, Dr Mirna Guha, and Dr Jonathan Davis

Interview date: 23 March 2022

This research will address British Asians' contributions to the fight against racism in the UK from the first wave of South Asian immigration in the 1950s and ‘60s through to the end of the century. It will examine their collaboration, across religious and cultural differences, with each other and with the British Black Power Movement and other anti-racist groups.

Scholarly work on British Asian activism is scarce or focuses solely on certain aspects of the Asian migration narrative. There is a lack of a comprehensive examination about how organised British Asians, as a distinctive group, challenged racism, discriminatory practices and laws in the period 1950s-late 1990s.

Legislation enacted by respective governments on issues such as immigration, citizenship, housing, policing, and education have all been challenged by Asian groups, but this history of resistance has largely been subsumed within wider narratives of anti-racism.

This project proposes to address that lacuna. British Asian activism against racism not only helped to unite Asian communities that were divided by religious and cultural differences, thereby contributing greatly to a sense of inclusion, but also, their taking on of racism in its many forms contributed substantially to a sense of individual and community safety.

The successful candidate will access primary sources, including various organisational records, local newspapers, local government and trade union reports located in archives in cities with a long history of Asian migrant activism such as London (National Archives, Bishopsgate Institute, Black Cultural Archives, George Padmore Institute), Bradford (West Yorkshire Archives), Manchester (Race Relations Resource Centre), Coventry (Warwick University Library Archive) and Birmingham (Cadbury Research Library).

Other primary sources will include interviews with prominent Asian political activists as well as accessing existing oral and video transcripts, for example oral histories in Birmingham Black Oral History Project Archive.

The candidate will be supported by an expert team of researchers with experience in supervising doctorates. Prof Lucy Bland teaches and researches on ‘race’ including mixed-race war children of Black GIs and British women.

Dr Mirna Guha has expertise in Asian women’s resistance and activism to everyday violence and prejudice (through research based in UK and South Asia), and teaches topics related to decolonising sociology and global social change.

Dr Jonathan Davis teaches and researches in modern 20th Century history specialising in the period 1980s-1990s.

Apply online by 27 February 2022

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2022/3 this will be £15,609 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.