CAN I BE BRITISH?


HYEIN YOO


Hyein Yoo is a space practitioner who tries to lead social discussion in spaces through her own design engagement methods.



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Her final project ’Can I be British?’ poses questions about the definition of ethnicity in modern society, especially in culturally diverse countries, such as the UK, and discusses how to redefine ethnic identification. The project shows the journey of an Other Asian/Asian Morris dancer discovering what forms Britishness and how to reconfigure ethnic identification. Through her journey, it helps people to understand the complexity of ethnicity and unspoken yet clear segregation between ethnic groups by grouping ethnicity into certain classifications such as Ethnic Minority or BAME.
 






 





“Group” functions as a seemingly unproblematic, taken-for-granted concept, apparently in no need of particular scrutiny or replication. As a result, we tend to take for granted not only the concept “group”, but also “groups” - the putative things-in-the-world to which the concept refers.

Especially ethnic groups continue to be understand as entities and cast as actors. To be sure, constructivist approaches of one kind or another are now dominant in academic discussions of ethnicity.
Yet everyday talk, policy analysis, media reports, and even much ostensibly constructivist academic writing routinely frame accounts of ethnic, racial and national conflict in groupist terms as the struggles “of” ethnic groups, races, and nations. Somehow, when we talk about ethnicity, and even more when we talk about ethnic conflict, we almost automatically find ourselves talking about ethnic groups.

(Brubaker, R., 2006. Ethnicity without groups. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p.8-9.)








A tendency of grouping people by ethnicity encourages people to think that each group is not related and segregated. Moreover, it stops people from considering of the variety range of ethnic culture and makes it one big monotonous piece. Also it makes the the character of groups is more expressive and consolidated. Being categorised as Other Asian/ ethnic minorities makes me feel uncomfortable being in a wrong ethnic identification as well as excluded from the main actors of the society.

However, the boundary of identities is becoming more blurred. In modern society, people have freedom that they can choose the country to live, religion to believe, identify their own gender. Identity is no longer the label that you are given to. Ethnicity is not an exception. Then the habit of reifying the ethnic groups and framing certain bias on them, which enhance the ethnic conflict should be reconsidered as well. I consider the UK is the best place to talk about this topic, which is a melting pot, culturally diverse.






For the design device, Asian Morris dance uniform becomes a bridge between White British and ethnic minorities. As Morris Dance is an English folk dance, it softens the subjects which can be very sensitive for some White British people during the interview. Also, the emblem of Asian Morris dancer that represent the Other Asian shows how ethnic minorities are reflected in the British society. Patches are generally used for showing a sense of belonging and engagement to a certain group. Also, You can receive them when you accomplish a task you are given. I could hear what forms(frames) Britishness while collecting the tasks (patches) that I should complete to be British.  

  1. Most interviewees answered that the UK is a great melting pot country, very diverse and well integrated. However, what forms Britishness narrows down to the character of Local British(English British). Even British interviewees from different cultural backgrounds define Britishness as someone named ‘Susan/ Helen’(7) or ‘man like Harry’(8)
  2. I was wondering if British people consider me as British when attaching these badges on the uniform (Experiencing, accomplishing Britishness). Can people be in the same ethnic category when they share common set of values and beliefs?