SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Gender and Linguistic Fieldwork Abstract

Gender dynamics in research on the multilingual literacy practices of migrants in Pakistan and the UK: exploring language in migration and researcher reflexivity.
Anthony Capstick,  Lancaster University

This workshop paper combines discussion of two related perspectives on gender dynamics in linguistic fieldwork. Firstly, I will explore the gender dynamics in a Mirpuri migrant family as they negotiate opportunities to sustain the chain migration which has developed between Mirpur (Azad Kashmir, Pakistan) and Lancashire (UK). My reflections are based on a four-year ethnography of the multilingual literacy practices of Mirpuri migrants in a range of sites in Pakistan and the UK (Capstick, forthcoming). I will look in detail at interviews with men who were part of the first wave of labour migration as well as how I approached interviewing their wives who made up the second, family reunion, phase. Next I will focus my discussion on the gender dynamics of the third phase, family reunion, with detailed accounts of the marriage between a Mirpuri man (who I interviewed as part of the data collection in Pakistan) and his wife in Lancashire (who I interviewed as part of the data collection in the UK). Drawing on Mellor (2011) I contrast the public discourse of recent media attention which focuses on the supposed oppression of Muslim women (for example forced marriage) with evidence from a British Pakistani woman who used education as a form of empowerment. I look at how she re-negotiated gender hierarchies in the Lancashire home when choosing a husband from Mirpur through her extension of the shared literacy practices of the family. I explore the notion of the ‘imported husband’ (Charsley 2005) when discussing how this woman’s husband negotiated his arrival in the UK while sustaining ties with family and friends back in Mirpur through an analysis of his online writing.

In the second part of the workshop paper I link the above discussion to my own positioning as a researcher. I will discuss how I approached gender as a factor in the researcher’s reflexivity, what this means methodologically for research where more than one language is used, and how gender relates to the experiences of fieldworkers.

In both parts of this paper I will draw on empirical data collected in both Pakistan and the UK.


Capstick, T. (forthcoming). Exploring migration from Pakistan to the UK: the multilingual literacy practices, identities and ideologies of Mirpuri families. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Charsley, K. (2005). Unhappy husbands: Masculinity and migration in transnational Pakistani marriages. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 11(1), 85-105.
Mellow, J. (2011). I really couldn’t think of being married, having a family with nothing behind me: Empowerment, education and British Pakistani women. In M. Bologani & S. Lyon (Eds), Pakistan and its diasporas (pp217-238). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.