Family abuse in Scotland : contesting universalisations and reconceptualising agency
By focusing on women’s lived experiences of family abuse, this thesis argues that state policy shows a lack of understanding of the nature of family abuse in one of Scotland’s largest minority communities: South Asian Muslims. Through a combination of a critical exploration of mainstream conceptualisations of domestic abuse, empirical research and policy analysis, I argue that by focusing on one-dimensional explanations such as gender and culture, state policy and some research evade the more practical and structural issues that operate against women. By adopting an intersectional approach, I focus on the complex interplay between factors such as socio-economic status and structural inequalities at the micro- and macro-levels bound up with experiences of family abuse. Through in-depth interviews with South Asian Muslim women, this thesis highlights the specificity and complexity of South Asian Muslim women’s experiences of family abuse within the home, framed through the impact of kinship structures and immigration status. Furthermore, my focus on the macro- as well as the micro-level brings to light structural inequalities and harmful policies, such as immigration rules, that act as additional constraints on women in abusive relationships. This thesis then examines women’s strategies and choices within abusive relationships by exploring the relationship between agency and oppression. I identify a crucial point: access to resources, such as economic support, ultimately shapes women’s strategies, including if, when and how to exit. I do not posit an overarching theory to explain family abuse, nor do I offer one key solution to the problem. I do, however, argue for nuanced and sensitive policymaking not only for South Asian women, but for all marginalised women, By underlining the specific experiences of one group of women I emphasis that needs are likely to differ in other groups of women.