Thursday, 22 March 2007


Sociology lecturer, Dr Claire Alexander from London School of Economics (LSE) university was a guest speaker at my sociology lecture this week.

Dr Alexander was talking about her research in the fields of race, ethnicity, masculinity and youth. The bubbly lecturer discussed her two books The Art of Being Black (1996) and The Asian Gang (2000).

The Art of Being Black explores how young Black Britons create their cultural identities. Dr Alexander rejects the common tendency to view black communities in terms of conflict and the book was based on her participant observation of Black British youth aged 18-25.

The Asian Gang depicted Asain youth identies and confronted myths of Bengali "gangs" whilst being based on the lives and experiences of Bangladeshi/Muslim youth aged 14-19.

Dr Alexander stated that in her books she wanted to explore the representation of Black and Asian youth, the stereotypes attributed to them and the actual experiences of these young people.

Media representation was an aspect she touched on. Dr Alexander said that Black and Asian families were often portrayed as having something wrong with them. For example she states that Black families are seen as too matriarchal due to absent fathers whereas Asian families are seen as too repressive with strict parents.

In fact this can be seen in the media today, as with the recent heavy reporting of gun crime and stabbings in the Black community has led to politicians, journalists, sociologists and ordinary members of the public including those within the Black community blaming absent fathers.

Another interesting point Dr Alexander raised that may be relevant in the current state of media representation of Black and Asian youth, is the concept of “folk devils” and "moral panics” (Stan Cohen).

These terms refer to the media portraying images to the public that demonise certain groups and this allows controls to be implemented to keep these “folk devils” restrained. For example the media portrayal of black males as muggers during the 1980’s led to moral panics amongst the public which then led to a disproportionate amount of black males being subjected to the stop and search policy.

Dr Alexander’s talk about media representation, stereotypes and moral panics led me to question whether these issues can shed light on the present representation on black youth in the media. The recent incidents of "black-on-black" crime has received heavy media coverage, whilst figures do actually show gun crime has decreased as a friend of mine - JR has illustrated in his blog "GunLondon".

Therefore the question I would like to ask is with the current heavy reporting of violent crimes in the Black community, are we witnessing “folk devils” and "moral panics"?

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