If we juxtapose against the multiculturalists narratives of 'ethnicity' the work of Michel Foucault, we see that ethnicity is fast acquiring the kind of significance and signifying value that Foucault attributes to sexuality in the period since the seventeenth century. (Michel, 1989) One of the most well-known of Foucault's arguments is that sexuality is not natural but constructed, and that in the multiple processes of discursive constructions, sexuality has, however, always been produced as the hidden, truthful secret that intimate something people take turns to discover and confess about themselves.
The narrative character of the productions of sexuality means that even though our institutions, our media, and our cultural environment are saturated with sex and sexuality, we continue to believe that it is something which has been repressed and which must somehow be liberated. The same is the case with cultural differences and identities. Foucault calls this the repressive hypothesis, by which he refers to the restrictive economy that is incorporated into the politics of language and speech, and that accompanies the social redistributions of sex. Foucault is clear on the educational and indeed religious implications of the ethnic differences that repress hypothesis.
The discursive ferment and mechanisms that surround 'ethnicity' in our time share many similar features with the 'repressive hypotheses' that Foucault attributes to ...
In order to facilitate this liberation, it is not enough that we identify the hidden motifs and inscriptions of ethnicity in all cultural representations; it is believed that we also need to engage in processes of confession, biography, autobiography, storytelling, and so forth, that actively resuscitate, retrieve, and redeem that 'ethnic' part of us which has not been allowed to come to light. (Chow, 1998, p. 101)
In context with Britain, ethnicity refers to the South Asian people particularly women in post-war Britain, as both are racialised and gendered subjects, and are determined by a complex matrix of 'race', class, gender and ethnicity. Rather than looking at how certain categories have become racialised or gendered, the focus of my discussion is on the role of a racialised category in Britain i.e., South Asian women, in determining and constructing gendered action. (Andall, 2003, p. 79)
It is argued that the search for the 'real' or 'authentic' South Asian woman is misguided in Britain as it homogenises and naturalises this category, especially as the term 'Asian', itself constructed in the West, encompasses diverse ethnic groups with differing histories, interests and experiences. While challenging the notion of a unitary South Asian woman's experience, the essay is intended to present a generalised picture while also highlighting the complex and multidimensional nature of their knowledge, experiences and narratives critical to any deconstruction. In setting this out, if we consider the factors towards which the South Asian women have attempted to create a 'third space' in an attempt to challenge racialised exclusions, we would come to know that transformation of