A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain by Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

By Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

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I was helped by some of Babu Mohammed’s contacts to catch a flight to London. On the aeroplane I wore my best suit, I had a five pound note in my pocket and a paper with addresses given to me in Karachi by Babu Mohammed. indb 32 15/12/2005 08:39:14 Arrival 33 Airport. At passport control there was only one woman sitting in a shed-like room. She stamped my passport without comment and I collected my little raggedy bag, and came out of the airport. I wanted to get to London, so I started showing the paper with the address on it and the five-pound note to anybody and everybody, hoping they would help me.

When the postcolonial has been used to address political issues, for example the ‘right’ or the ‘good’, it has done so largely by being refracted through a cultural prism, seeing culture broadly as practices of representation defining what Charles Taylor has called in the context of multiculturalism, a ‘politics of recognition’ (Taylor, 1993). Thus the postcolonial analytic has tended to focus on politics as practices of cultural representation. g. nationalism, so-called fundamentalism). While useful within the realms of cultural studies, this has left unattended transnational political questions of power and coloniality, which can only be summarised under the theme of interrupted decolonisation, as a persisting and relevant idea in the contemporary age.

1969; Bagchi, 1973; Patnaik, 1975; Nazir, 1981; Hall, 2001), as well as the power hierarchies that currently characterise the British social formation. Identity, as we know, is simultaneously subjective and social, and is constituted in and through culture. Indeed, culture and identity are inextricably linked concepts. The sections that follow are concerned with identifying how, and in what ways: a notion of ‘Asian culture and identity’ became a major subject of political and cultural debate in Britain; this debate panned out over the different phases of post-war South Asian settlement; South Asian groups appropriated or resisted the meaning of these representations; and the everyday life of Asian people articulated with these discourses.

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