July 11, 2021
The final episode of season 4 is here and joining us is Dina Begum, a British-Bangladeshi cook and writer who is passionate about highlighting the underrepresented recipes and authentic food traditions of Bangladesh.
For Bengalis and Bangladeshis, and across much of the South Asian continent, food is inseparable from humanity, community, purpose and love. I ask Dina why food is so important to her and whether she always saw herself as a cook. Food is a very visceral experience. Flavours, spices or certain dishes can be nostalgic if we associate them with a particular memory or event. Food can symbolise traditions, rekindle a sense of identity and bring people together; that’s why Bengali hospitality is second to none. We look at why food is so critical to familial spaces and what it symbolises for us.
In the UK, most of what we class as “Indian food”, is curated by Bangladeshi restaurant owners and chefs. The recognition and appreciation for homemade-style food and the desire to seek out unique flavours is a more recent phenomenon which has empowered the Bangladeshi diaspora to spotlight their cuisine, rather than grouping it under “Indian” or “curry”. Dina has written about how recipes are passed down from one generation to the next, usually not by writing them down, but by demonstrating. We consider the contrast between the observation/estimation styles of Bangladeshi cooking versus the meticulous measurements in English recipes. Finally, we talk about our favourite Bangladeshi dishes and our three staple spices for the kitchen.
You can follow Dina on Twitter: @dinasfoodstory.
June 27, 2021
Deborah Broomfield is a doctoral candidate in Women and Planning. Her research focuses on spatial inequalities, urban planning and their intersection with deprivation, race and class. Urban planning overlaps with both politics and technical knowledge because of its focus on land use and the built environment, encompassing infrastructure, water, the air we breathe, transportation, networks, and communications. Deborah talks about her career journey and how she got into urban planning later in life.
I ask Deborah how she thinks urban planning will respond to the challenges we have seen during the pandemic, such as limited mobility and increased home-working and how we might respond to future environmental threats. The role of safety for women and girls in public spaces has been rising up on the public agenda, particularly since the Sarah Everard case. How do we plan more effectively with women in mind to improve our towns and cities without encroaching unreasonably on our privacy? Redesigning a city with a feminist philosophy is one where all sexes can be treated equally; it’s ultimately about security and services, and being mindful of how men and women use space differently. We look at some examples of safer cities for women and how they make a difference.
We also reflect on the intersection of race and space and how the impacts of climate change affect the vulnerable and poor the hardest.
Follow Deborah on Twitter: @DebsBroomfield If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please consider supporting it so it can continue to provide you with engaging, meaningful content. You can donate via Patreon: www.patreon.com/browndontfrownpod.
June 13, 2021
Today’s guest is Dr Lisa Mckenzie, Assistant Professor, Ethnographer and Sociologist, currently based at Durham University who has written and spoken extensively about classism, social inequality and leftist politics. We begin the conversation talking about her roots coming from a mining town in Nottingham and the pride of her working class identity growing up, defined by values of community, family, and hard work.
We speak about our unhealthy obsession with class hierarchies in the UK, and the inherent prejudice against the working class. The recent Sewell Report, albeit heavily criticised, identified the defining roles that class and geographical inequalities play in people’s life chances and we talk about the intersection of class, race, ethnicity, gender and location when it comes to discrimination and inequality in the UK. Lisa speaks about her latest kickstarter project, “Lockdown Diaries of the Working Class” which comprises a collection of diary entries from 38 working class people in the first month of lockdown. She tells us about her motivations behind spotlighting the illustrations and stories of the working class.
Lisa is a vocal opponent of social mobility. I ask her why she thinks it is ineffective and whether aspiration can ever be a bad thing. Cultural Capital now forms part of Ofsted’s teaching framework and requires education providers to give learners “the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life”. Given its historical association with who you know, not what you know, and having the right networks, we talk about how, in some ways, it might polarise the middle and working classes by equating self-worth with an idealised way of life.
Follow Lisa on Twitter: @redrumlisa. If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please consider supporting it so it can continue to provide you with engaging, meaningful content. You can donate via Patreon: www.patreon.com/browndontfrownpod.
May 31, 2021
Today, I am joined by Dr Fatima Rajina and Hajera Begum of Nijjor Manush, an independent campaign group which empowers and educates Bengalis and Bangladeshis in the UK.
Brick Lane’s legacy is synonymous with Bangladeshi cuisine, culture and history. It is both a symbol of struggle and success for Bangladeshis, from Altab Ali to infamous curry houses and everything in-between. It’s somewhere I frequented during my childhood as a Tower Hamlets resident, and now as an adult. I saw it through the lens of unadulterated fascination as a child, and now through the reality of gentrification. The Old Truman Brewery plans to build a five storey shopping complex in the middle of it. We discuss whether this gentrification of Banglatown is an inevitable response to changing consumer demand and economic growth, while also questioning the broader, underhanded motivations at play. We also talk about the potential impact of gentrification on first and second generation Bangladeshi women in East London.
We consider whether there is a sense of solidarity in the UK between different South Asian ethnic groups and also within the Bangladeshi diaspora itself. We each talk about our experiences as British Bangladeshis growing up in the UK, as well as the experiences of our families.
The portrayal of Bangladeshi, and particularly Muslim, Hijabi women in the media can be incendiary and damaging. The current mainstream feminist narrative simultaneously portrays Muslim women as threatening and oppressed, invalidating their agency and undermining their integrity. We share our perspectives on this narrative and whether we think it will ever evolve.
Follow Nijjor Manush on Twitter: @nijjormanush and Instagram: @nijjormanush.
If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please consider supporting it so it can continue to provide you with engaging, meaningful content. You can donate via Patreon: www.patreon.com/browndontfrownpod.
May 16, 2021
What are the challenges of dating, particularly in pandemic times? Has the pandemic accelerated innovations to dating apps for a more realistic dating experience? Has dating culture commodified romance and set unrealistic expectations for relationships? Today, I’m joined by Nichi Hodgson, a journalist, dating expert and author of ‘The Curious History of Dating’ who answers these questions, and more.
We also talk about our long-term relationships with our respective partners and what they have meant to us during the pandemic, as well as experiences of interracial dating and sexual fluidity. We reflect on how the growing acceptance of sexual fluidity and interracial relationships has had a positive impact on tackling prejudice, discrimination, and 'otherness'.
Finally, we discuss the importance of normalising rest and relaxation and slowing down. The first lockdown compelled many of us to take a step back from our fast-paced lives and leave FOMO behind. We consider whether our collective experience as a society during this pandemic has destigmatised opening up about our mental health and how we can ensure that the government prioritises it going forward. Some of us are looking ahead to our lives post-pandemic, though equally, some of us remain anxious about the future and the risks of the virus. We share our conflicting sentiments towards socialising and what ‘going back to normal’ might mean for us.
If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please consider supporting it so it can continue to provide you with engaging, meaningful content. You can donate via Patreon: www.patreon.com/browndontfrownpod. To stay updated on the latest news, sign up to the BDF newsletter here.
May 3, 2021
Season 4 kicks off with Shalina Patel, an award-winning history teacher and co-founder of The History Corridor on Instagram. Shalina tells us about her career journey and what motivated her to become a history teacher. We talk about the tendency to be tokenistic when it comes to teaching diverse history, for example a gloss over the Windrush Generation or the glorification of the British Empire, without much reflection of the consequences of exploitation and racism. The relevance of these isolated stories is then buried within the broader curriculum. So I ask, how do we create spaces for important stories to be told, and, is the current teaching curriculum compatible with diverse storytelling?
Shalina shares some advice on how teachers can embed intersectionality into their teaching curriculums and widen their pupils’ perspectives. Social media is saturated with facts, opinions, controversies and conspiracies, which can confound the truth. It might mean that children and young people are misguided about what they read and understand, which can be particularly dangerous because they lack the foresight and intuition that comes with age and experience when distinguishing fact from fiction. Within that context, we discuss how teachers can uphold integrity and objectivity when it comes to teaching history.
I also ask Shalina what discovery of the past has surprised her the most, what it means to her to be a feminist, and what particular intersectional, feminist piece of history inspires her.
You can follow the History Corridor on Instagram: @thehistorycorridor and you can find out more about Shalina here.
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April 25, 2021
Brown Don’t Frown is back! Season 4 drops on Monday 3 May! Make sure you hit the subscribe button and you will be notified as soon as a new episode goes live.
We will be bringing you six episodes and hosting some wonderful guests talking about a range of topics, including an award-winning history teacher who shares how to build a diverse and fairer teaching curriculum, a grassroots-led movement which educates Bengalis in the UK, celebrates the histories of the diaspora and challenges the issues facing women, as well as a dating expert and journalist who talks about modern dating and the benefits of a slower-paced life post-pandemic. We’ll also be featuring an Urban Planner who speaks about building feminist cities, a working class academic who argues against social mobility, and an award-winning Bangladeshi chef and writer.
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February 14, 2021
“Disabled people are infantilised, sensationalised or they’re just not believed.”
We end Season 3 on a thought-provoking note and I’m pleased to welcome Lucy Stafford to the show. Lucy is the Director of Patient Led Engagement for Access (PLEA), a non-profit which advocates for access to medical cannabis through mainstream healthcare. She speaks about her experience as a long-term patient of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare, life-long genetic disorder which can cause debilitating effects. Drawing from her own experiences, she explains how we can facilitate greater accessibility for those with disabilities. As an able-bodied person, the discussion makes me confront some of my own ignorances about disability.
To cope with her long-term pain and the effects of surgery, Lucy was prescribed strong opioids for a long time, until she came across medical cannabis. She tells us about her journey with pain management and how her experience with medical cannabis has differed from taking traditional prescribed pain medication. She has become an advocate for decriminalising medical cannabis for those with serious medical conditions. She talks about her work with PLEA and a new initiative called ‘Project 21.’ As someone whose life has changed for the better from medicating with Cannabis, I ask her what she would say to someone in a similar position to herself, who might be experiencing serious pain and is looking for alternatives to opioids or surgery, but is worried about the stigma attached to cannabis.
The pandemic has accelerated remote engagement, whether working, studying or socialising, and makes participation much more accessible. We think about what that might be like post-pandemic. We end with Lucy talking about the most empowering aspects of her advocacy work so far and what she has learned from it.
You can find out more about Lucy and PLEA at:
You can also reach her on Instagram: @lucystaffie and Twitter: @lucystaffie.
January 31, 2021
Today we’re joined by Adiba Jaigirdar, author of Young Adult fiction books The Henna Wars, and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. She shares with us her journey from Bangladesh, to Saudi Arabia to Ireland, her sense of identity and belonging, and her motivations for writing.
As a Queer Brown author, whose books are about Queer Brown girls, I ask whether she had any challenges with finding an agent who she could trust to represent her and her written work. Adiba talks about personal influences and experiences which inspired the main characters in her books and what she learned about herself when bringing her characters to life. The main character, Nishat in Henna Wars, stays true to herself in the face of resentment from her family after she comes out as a Lesbian and Adiba explains what she hopes Queer teens and young Women of Colour will take away from such themes in the book.
Adiba also tells us a bit about her second novel, Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating, which comes out this summer. As a newly published author, Adiba shares some advice for aspiring Queer novelists from the South Asian, and particularly Bangladeshi, diasporas. Finally, we leave you with our gripes about mainstream feminism and thoughts on reclaiming and reframing its narrative to be inclusive of Muslim women, the Queer space, and especially Queer Women of Colour.
You can follow Adiba on Twitter @adiba_j and Instagram @dibs_j.
January 17, 2021
Our first guest of 2021 is Sangeeta Pillai. She is the founder of Masala Podcast and Soul Sutras, a feminist platform tackling taboos in South Asian culture. South Asia is made up of diverse countries, ethnicities, cultures, faiths, and traditions. One thing that we share universally across the continent and beyond, is patriarchy. It forms a part and parcel of our social fabric. As a Keralan born Indian having spent a large part of her life in India, and now in the UK, Sangeeta talks about what intersectionality means to her and the patriarchal values which hold all women back universally.
Sangeeta has spoken openly about sexual empowerment, and while in Britain and in much of the West, sexual confidence has been reclaimed by women, the trajectory is not quite the same in South Asian countries. There is a correlation between inequality and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health facilities, which is often a barrier to sexual empowerment. By contrast, the conservative arm of feminism, both Western and Eastern, might argue the other way, and interpret sexual freedom as promiscuity and we reflect on these contrasting attitudes.
Globally, South Asian women have made significant inroads in industries including tech, medicine, scientific research and film-making. While that’s progress, we’ve also seen the personification of Indian “aunties” in mainstream television, with shows like Indian Matchmaker and Never Have I Ever, which highlight examples of internalised patriarchy. Societal structures shape our way of thinking. South Asian cultures centre around multi-generational extended families and strong communities, while in the West, the focus is on individualism and self-sufficiency. These structures still dominate women’s positioning, especially because women were designated home-makers up until relatively recently. We reflect on the impact of these structures on women and how they have evolved over time.