University of Leicester eBulletin

Passive Asian Female: Myth and Migration

May 2003
No 115

Research being carried out at the University of Leicester defies the stereotype of the ‘passive Asian female’ and has also countered traditional mainstream views on Asian migration.

The study by Joanna Herbert of the University of Leicester’s Centre for Urban History is based on first hand accounts by Asian people living in Leicester.

She will present some of her findings at a seminar on May 9 held at the Centre for Urban History. Her presentation is entitled: Gender and Migration: Narratives of 'Asians' Living in Leicester.

Ms Herbert said: “The aim of my thesis has been to investigate the effect of waves of 'Asian' migration on both the White and ‘Asian’ communities in Leicester. A significant part of this research has involved exploring the perceptions and attitudes of 'Asians' who migrated to Leicester in the second half of the twentieth century, including their experiences and responses to racism. 

“Findings highlight the internal differences and dynamics within the 'Asian' communities and this paper will focus on one of the most salient dimensions: the gendered nature of experiences. 

“For many women, racism was not the defining problem, instead isolation and a lack of social life was their main concern.

“Consequently, these women consistently developed new found strategies to overcome and creatively circumvent constraints.  Research is based on existing oral history archives and recent life course interviews with 'Asians' from diverse backgrounds and overall stories portray the strength, resourcefulness and determination demonstrated by ‘Asian’ women in coping with change.

“This not only serves to defy the stereotype of the passive 'Asian' female but also counters traditional mainstream literature on migration, which has tended to present a homogenised male perspective.”


For more information, please contact Kate Crispin, Secretary, The Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, telephone 0116 252 2378 email

For information on the Centre for Urban History website:

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