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Research Case studies

British Asian Females Racialised and Gendered Experiences of Identity and Womens Football

Aarti Ratna
In 2002, the film ‘Bend it like Beckham’ was released in England, propelling the visibility of women’s football and British Asian women who played the game. Capturing this surge in popular interest, my PhD studies aimed to unpack stereotypical assumptions about British Asian women and sport.
For example, the idea that sport is antithetical to South Asian cultures and religions. The research filled an important lacuna in knowledge, revealing the dynamic intersections of power and identity particularly in regards to gender and ‘race’.
The research was based on the experiences of 19 British Asian women footballers, and involved interviews and participant observations.
The research findings falsified popular myths about British Asian women and sport. I found that although racism is evident in the game, they were able to enter and progress through the elite spaces of women’s football. Some of the players had even represented the England women football team (at student and under-16 levels).
Although, being ‘inside’ the spaces of women’s football did not necessarily mean that they felt accepted and valued in this space. The vagaries of British Asian women’s experience suggest that their sense of belonging was engineered and negotiated at different points, throughout their football playing careers.

Research outputs
  • Ratna, A. (in-review) ‘Who are ya?’ The National Identities and Belongings of British Asian Football Fans’, Patterns of Prejudice.
  • Ratna, A. (2013) Intersectional plays of identity: The experiences of British Asian female footballers, Sociological Research Online, 18 (1) February.
  • Ratna, A. (2013) ‘British Asian Female Footballers: Intersections of Identity’ in J. Hargreaves and E. Andersen (eds.) Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexualities, London: Routledge.
  • Ratna, A. (2011) ' "Who wants to make Aloo Gobi when you can Bend It Like Beckham?" British Asian Females and their Racialised Experiences of Gender and Identity in Women's Football', Soccer and Society, 12(3): 381-400.
  • Ratna, A. (2011) ' "Flying the Flag for England?" Multiculturalism, National Identity and the Social Belongings of British Asian Female Football Players' in D. Burdsey (ed.) New Perspectives on Football and Race, London: Routledge: 117-130
  • Ratna, A (2010) 'Taking the Power Back! The Politics of British Asian Female Football Players', Young, Nordic Journal of Youth Research,18(2): 117-132.
  • Ratna, A (2009) ' "Off with their headscarves, on with their football kits?" Unveiling myths and exploring the identities of British-Muslim female footballers' in S. Wagg and P. Bramham (eds.) Lucky Leeds: Sport, Leisure and Culture in a Postmodern Northern City, Aldershot: Ashgate Press: 171-188.
  • Ratna, A. (2008) 'A "Fair Game?": British Asian Females' Experiences of Racism in Women's Football' in J. Magee, J. Caudwell, K. Liston and S. Scraton (eds.)Women, Football and Europe: Histories, Equity and Experiences, Oxford, UK: Meyer and Meyer Sport: 77-96.
student standing by a goal post

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