- ABOUT SAY NO
- AROUND THE WORLD
- THE ISSUE
- TAKE ACTION
by Andrea Anderson
I grew up in a working class neighbourhood where there were few opportunities for kids from my community to go to university. So despite being a bright student I did not consider further education as a realistic prospect for me. I left school at sixteen and struggled to find my way in the world. I did several menial jobs which failed to provide me with any sense of satisfaction or achievement.
I later returned to education as a mature student after having three children. I wanted to work for Women’s Aid or similar organisations so I was advised to do an access course at the local college which then led me onto HNC in Social Sciences. I really thrived in this environment and I decided that I wanted to go to university although I was unsure about applying as I was still haunted by my working class background and the idea that people like me don’t go to university. Despite this I applied to study a MA at the University of Aberdeen and to my great surprise I was accepted onto the course.
In the first couple of years of my undergraduate studies I read sociology, women’s studies and politics. I developed a love for sociology and women’s studies as these seemed to resonate with my experiences of social inequality and injustice. I continued to be passionate about working in the area of violence against women and my undergraduate dissertation focused upon the impact that education (specifically, Women's Studies type courses) is likely to have upon women's experiences of domestic abuse. I received Carnegie funding ‘for undergraduates of exceptional merit’ for this project and went onto achieve first class honours in MA Sociology with Women’s Studies.
From there I was keen to continue with my studies and was fortunate enough to secure funding to undertake a Masters degree in Social Research, with the option to go onto PhD upon successful completion. During the Masters year I spent time researching child custody cases where there had been domestic abuse.
I went onto PhD research in Sociology/ Gender Studies at the University of Aberdeen. The PhD research focuses on the cultural context in which domestic abuse is constructed and understood. Upon completion I hope to continue to work in this area, raising awareness and improving understandings of domestic abuse.
Multiculturalism in My Community
Having being asked to write a piece on multiculturalism in my community I set about planning what I was going to write. Living in the north of Scotland, I felt that multiculturalism was not as big an issue here as in other parts of the UK. For example, many of the issues that were raised in the recent Channel 4 documentary, ‘Make Bradford British’, seemed very different to the concerns faced by those living in my predominately white, Scottish community. That said, there is undoubtedly a greater diversity of cultures and faiths in the community than there would have been ten or twenty years ago. For example, there is a growing number of Eastern Europeans living and working in the area as well as a significant number of EU and International students who attend the local university.
Yet the fact that there is greater diversity in demographic terms, says little about how people actually live and work alongside each other. For me, multiculturalism is not simply who is there but also how people interact, communicate and get along with each other. In this respect, things have changed significantly since I was a child, when the only ‘non- British’ people that I ever came into contact with worked in local shops and takeaways. Any interactions or communications were limited and sadly, often racist. Thankfully, I believe this is changing and people are now more aware that differences are not necessarily negative. More than this, I hope that people are more accepting of difference and can appreciate that no matter we may perceive ‘others’ to be, that we are all human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, no matter where we come from, what we look like or what we believe.
The National Front recently applied to march in the town centre much to the horror of the majority of the local community and the local council and police refused permission for the march to go ahead. This no doubt shows progression at some level but I was still unsure if this says anything about multiculturalism, specifically, if people are interacting with each other in any sort of meaningful way.
I have come to the conclusion that there is little meaningful interaction or communication going on within my local community, where people generally live quite separate, isolated lives. Yet, I am not convinced that this problem is related to multiculturalism (or lack of it), rather, it seems that any sense of community has disappeared altogether. People do not live in segregation based on culture, nationality or faith; instead they live in relative isolation, regardless of culture, nationality or faith. From this I would suggest that my local community is blighted by the culture of individualism where we have forgotten how to appreciate and care for each other.