BEAST: Racial Inequalities in the Creative and Cultural industries

British East Asians on Screen and in Television

My new research project on racial inequalities in the creative and cultural industries is entitled BEAST: British East Asians on Screen and in Television, and has been funded by the Department of Sociology, City.

This research explores the experiences of British East Asian actors in the film and television sector in the context of growing public debates over racial discrimination, exclusion and inequalities in the wider creative and cultural industries. Despite media coverage, research on the experiences of racialized minorities in the cultural sector remains marginal in the academic literatures (Hesmondhalgh & Saha 2013). In the UK, existing work focuses primarily on African Caribbean and South Asian groups (e.g. Hylton 2007; Saha 2013) or is based on aggregated data that erases the specificity of experiences of different groups gathered under the category ‘BAME’ (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) (ACE 2014). In the context of a pluralistic cartographic of racisms (Song 2014), where cultural value is assigned or denied to different ‘racial’ groups in specific ways (O’Brien & Oakley 2015), a finer-tuned analysis is required to unearth the particular challenges faced by different groups and within particular subsectors of the creative and cultural industries.

The objectives of this study are:

  • To identify the challenges and barriers faced by East Asian actors in order to ascertain whether, and if so, how specific perceptions of East Asians contribute to inequalities in employment in the film and television industry. This will make a significant intervention into public and academic debates, which currently treat BAME individuals as a homogeneous group, and shed light on the experiences of one of the fastest growing but invisible minorities.
  • To assess the needs of users and stakeholders by examining the views of actors and industry professionals on the prevalence and nature of inequalities faced by East Asian actors in the film and television industry and how they can be addressed through research and industry practice.

Through collaboration with the award-winning independent film-maker Rosa Fong, verbatim dialogue from my research interviews has been restaged in the form of classic British film or TV dramas in a series of short films to highlight invisibility of British East Asians on British mainstream screens and show why their exclusion occurs despite the proliferation of diversity discourses in recent years. See for more info and to view the films.