Enterprising Women by Sallie Westwood, Parminder Bhachu

By Sallie Westwood, Parminder Bhachu

"Enterprising ladies" brings jointly black and white British ladies in a set that confronts stereotypes of black British girls and former debts in their lives.

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Crucial to an analysis of this kind is an understanding that goes beyond an account of patriarchal relations and ‘women’, positing instead the articulation between racism, class relations, cultural forms, and gender in the highly dynamic situation of contemporary Britain. Thus, we see minority women as classed and white women as having a cultural background which may be regionally and class specific. This approach marks one part of the critique of culturalist accounts previously offered as a way of explaining the lives of minority people in Britain which have often cast the women of these communities in the role of victim.

For the women of the shopfloor, motherhood and mothering constitute real and important work, and are worthy of celebration, offering all women status and pleasure as well as responsibilities. Page 11 Culture, ethnicity, and ethnography One of the central premises of this collection is that culture is a dynamic and multi-textured entity, requiring ‘thick description’, not a set of fixed characteristics which are used to distinguish the normal from the abnormal. We reject the way in which ‘culture’ has been used in the ethnic relations literature to mark out specific populations and practices as aberrant.

But, as Sallie Westwood’s contribution shows, many black women found that working lives in factories were not just about technical processes. As workers they were inducted into working-class culture and the forms of resistance developed in response to the capitalist labour process. It is important to insert these issues into the debate on the articulation between racism, gender, and class because it too easily falls into an analysis of inert categories, rather than the material processes whereby subjects become classed, ‘raced’, gendered.

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