Being and Belonging in Scotland

Exploring the Intersection of Ethnicity, Gender and National Identity among Scottish Pakistani Groups

Through an analysis of the views and attitudes of a small sample of the largest minority ethnic group in Scotland, I seek to examine two key issues in relation to recent research on ethnicity, national identity and belonging in Scottish social and political studies (McCrone and Kiely 2000; Bond and Rosie 2002; McCrone 2002; Bond 2006; Miller and Hussain 2006; McCrone and Bechhofer 2010). Firstly, I analyse how Scottish Pakistani groups name and claim their hyphenated identities as a practice of asserting their belonging in Scotland – in spite of systematic institutionalised racism and exclusion. In particular, I demonstrate how Scottish Pakistani groups appear to occupy the identity of ‘Scottish’ on fairly unproblematic terms. That Scottish Pakistani groups are able to claim a hyphenated identity that incorporates Scottishness seems to signal an important process taking place within a Scottish nationalist discourse whereby nationalist political elites have been able to advance an inclusive identity of Scottishness and this has created space for some minority ethnic groups to name and claim this identity and thus enhance their sense of belonging in this country. Secondly, I pivot from discussions about ethnicity and national identity to consider the gendered implications of belonging in Scotland. By analysing the gendered inequalities of autonomy embedded in some Scottish Pakistanis’ hyphenated identities, I argue that whilst a particular form of inclusive Scottish national identity creates spaces for minority ethnic groups to adopt Scottishness as part of their identities, patriarchical gender relations are left unchallenged thus limiting the autonomy of Scottish Pakistani women to create different types of identities that might subvert the essentialised gender inequalities they encounter. To identify and challenge hierarchical power relations embedded in identity, I argue that an intersectional approach which analyses the relationships between ethnicity, national identity and gender (alongside other identities such as race, class, disability and sexuality) must be enacted in order to obtain a more complete picture of what being, belonging and inclusion might mean for different groups in Scotland and beyond (Crenshaw 1991; Hill Collins 2000; Hancock 2007; Bassel and Emejulu 2010; Yuval-Davis 2012; Cho, Crenshaw and McCall 2013).

I will begin this article by discussing the distinctive practice of nationalist politics in Scotland that appears to allow for different forms of hyphenated identities among various minority ethnic groups. Drawing on twenty-three in- depth interviews with Scottish Pakistani women and men, I will then move on to analyse how research participants understand and construct their identities – discuss the gendered inequalities in autonomy that these identities signify, generate and re-enforce.

I will conclude with a short discussion about the need for greater intersectional analyses of national identities in order to capture the multi-dimensional nature of what belonging and inclusion might mean for different social groups based on their race, class, gender and ethnicity.


Emejulu, A. (2013) ‘Being and Belonging in Scotland: Exploring the Intersection of Ethnicity, Gender and National Identity among Scottish Pakistani Groups’, Scottish Affairs, 84(3): 41-64.