From Diaspora to Multi-Locality: Writing British-Asian Cities
From Diaspora to Multi-Locality: Writing British-Asian Cities Drs Sen McLoughlin, William Gould Ananya Kabir & Emma Tomalin Religious Studies, History & English Literature University of Leeds www.leeds.ac.uk/writingbritishasiancitie Introduction: Mapping the Conference Themes Types of Mobility In-Between Locations, Identities, Consciousness historical & (mostly) pw/contemporary, n.b. social
Introduction: Mapping Our Networks Aims To establish forum for scholars/others interested in UK South Asian presence (labour/forced migration) To compare the multi-local & trans-local dynamics of five British-Asian cities & examine changing; representation of (public) identities, 1960s - 2000s; how written by different genres of writing : ethnography; local/oral history; literary/cultural production; the media; official reports. To reflect upon the (inter)disciplinary perspectives of Social, Religious, Literary/Cultural Studies, History. To consider differently located/empowered insiders/ outsiders, scholars/civil society/cultural /community To establish a steering committee & community events To create www.leeds.ac.uk/writingbritishasiancities Introduction: Keynote Overview
1) The Dynamics of Multi-Locality: Five BritishAsian Cities Compared 2) From Diaspora to Multi-Locality: Theorising the Glocal City 3) Writing British-Asian Cities: genres, discourse, audiences & the politics of representation 4) Historical perspectives on changing BritishAsian identities in post-colonial Britain 5) British-Asian Bradford & Tower Hamlets Compared 6) Hidden Histories, Silent Voices? Gaps in the Writing of British-Asian Cities 1) The Dynamics of MultiLocality: Five British-Asian Cities Compared Birmingham:
Major centre of Desi beats, eg Apache Indian, Bally Sagoo. Home of the Balti. STWCs Salma Yaqoob. Largest Asian city outside London. Relatively even spread of communities. Pakistanis largest. Powerful industrial base, drew migrant workers, but decline from late 1970s. Recent renaissance. Bradford: Mecca of the North with Ayatollahs of its own (1991). Size, predominance, concentration of single ethnic group (Mirpuri Kashmiris/Pakistanis), reinforced by religious identity (Muslims) Mill town struggling with post-industrial regeneration. 1) The Dynamics of MultiLocality: Five British-Asian Cities Compared
Leicester: Iconic - largest centre for East African Asians, 1972 Spread of religious communities but 26% Indian heritage 72,000 highest Asian UK. 3rd biggest Hindu pop. Initial resistance to migration but cited for good relations. Manchester: Since 90s, home of Northern cool. Curry Mile (Rusholme). Large diffuse Asian presence. Pakistani Punjabi-Muslims in rag trade. Also significant others e.g. white-collar Hindus. Decline & spectacular regeneration reflecting economic /cultural presence e.g. Bollywood at Trafford Centre. 1) The Dynamics of MultiLocality: Five British-Asian
Cities Compared Tower Hamlets, London: Iconic - East Ends history of accommodating immigrant groups. Lascars. Restaurant trade. Monica Alis Brick Lane. Size, predominance, concentration of a single ethnic group (Sylhetis/ Bengalis/Bangladeshis) reinforced by religion (Muslim) but significance too of secular ideology City within a global city different yet comparable in having a recognisable civic personality.
2) From Diaspora to MultiLocality: Theorising the Glocal City Locality & place significant aspects of empirical study of UK Asian migration, diaspora, identity, since 1960s. Asian cultural production of interest to Literary / Cultural Studies (another way into diaspora studies) But until 1990s main texts studied sociological, geographical & especially anthropological with interest in state structure / cultural agency respectively. Anthropological & later Religious Studies (1980s) focus on ethnic/religious communities in particular cities. Often multi-local as researchers studied both homeland and diasporic ends of the migration chain.
2) From Diaspora to MultiLocality: Theorising the Glocal City The local is but the point at which multiple local, The local is but the point at which multiple local, national and global forces converge. Gardner - desh (home) & bidesh (away), can be seen as different locations of the same society (1995: 8). Triad of translocal circulations / flows connecting UK diasporas, South Asian homelands & beyond Although interest in social change associated with deterritorialization, few compare multiplicity of localised dynamics/trajectories in individual cities. No rejection of diaspora but attempt to underline discrepant experiences in divergent locations. 2) From Diaspora to MultiLocality: Theorising the Glocal City there is no such thing as a city. Rather, the city designates the space produced by the interaction of historically and geographically specific institutions, social relations of production and reproduction, practices of government,
forms and media of communication, and so forth. By calling this diversity the city, we ascribe to it a coherence or integrity. The city, then, is above all a representation. (Donald, 1992: 422) this city, despite all its specific details and insular claims on experience, cannot avoid acquiring a part in other stories, other idioms, other possibilities. It is ineluctably transformed from being a self-referring monument to becoming an intersection, a moment of rendezvous, a site of transit, in a wider network. Set loose from its moorings, the city begins to drift, to enter other accounts. The parochial hold on reality is compromised by economic and cultural forces being narrated elsewhere. (Chambers, 1994: 107) 3) Writing British-Asian Cities: genres, discourse, audiences, politics Genres and Discourse:
The city is constructed through & in writing. All write it. Different genres together constitute discourse or web of representations through which power diffused & contested. Discourse most powerful way British-Asian city-space mediated to the world. Power of insider voices? To what extent do different genres construct place, community, etc differently? E.g. policy vs novel? Mapping genres commonly deployed in writing cities; do some cities attract particular genres? Bradford/travel writing. How has the image of a city been impacted by genres /discourses that write it? Tower Hamlets / the novel. A literary /cultural studies perspective sensitizes us to genre, discourse & the politics of representation. 3) Writing British-Asian Cities: genres, discourse, audiences, politics Market and Audience:
Who finances publication/production, publicity/distribution? Who reads/views novels, films, etc? The market as interface between writer/director, reader/viewer & subjects /subject matter. North-South divide also shapes politics of publication. Concepts such as gaze help analyze power-relations. Attraction of the British-Asian to the mainstream? Dangers of consumption of exotic other: cultural capital vs commodification. From Asian cool to war on terror. Promotion of stereotypes/ voices/ view-points. Mainstreaming message of integration in Bend it Like Beckham 3) Writing British-Asian Cities: genres, discourse, audiences, politics Cultural Capital and Resistance:
Understanding self-perceptions crucially involves examining their diverse cultural production (novel, film, music, art). A source of positive cultural capital in diasporic & homeland spaces. But is being written about - necessarily empowering? Is writer perceived as an insider or an outsider? Probing relationship between perception, self-positioning, authenticity & resistance to dominant discourses? Cf novelists Tariq Mehmood & Monica Ali. A&H focus also arguably contributes to empowerment Inflecting social policy & engaging community self-regard. Away from problem-oriented social science discourse? Is this really possible? Aim to bring differently-positioned constituencies into contact through city events & website. 4) Historical perspectives on changing British-Asian
identities Limitations of discipline of historical writing on British-Asians and false memories of the imperial past. Contexts: UK nation state context of legislation (immigration, race relations, security) /public policy context (multiculturalism) UK multi/trans-local Sub-continental & global multi/trans-national/regional/local. Changing British-Asian identities in the public space:
ethno-national i.e. Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/AfricanAsian race / culture i.e. pan-Asian politics/Brit-Asian pop culture religion i.e. British-Muslim, British-Hindu, British-Sikh 4) Historical perspectives on changing British-Asian identities UK state, immigration & transformation of public identities against the background of an imperial past: 1948, 1962, 1971 and Rivers of Blood. Race relations, multiculturalism & institutionalisation of the politics of difference. Community based political representation in UK. Cf France. Colonial and postcolonial state discourses on religious
communities / minorities. Class based political movements & organisations the Indian Workers Association 1950s & 1960s. Anti-racist Asian Youth Movements 1970s & early 1980s. Class. Generation. Self-defence is no offence. Pertinence of religious identities from the mid 1980s. Reuniting of families, redundancy & global revivalism. 4) Historical perspectives on changing British-Asian identities British-Asian identity complicated by trans/multi- local connections Gujarati & Punjabi East Africans. Twice migrants. Different cultural capitals. 1991
Census. Increasingly distinctive socio-economic trajectories: African Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis. Consequences of different points of origin? Islamophobia? Shared values, lifestyles & patterns of consumption? Growing power of globalised South Asian cultural industries & products impact on idea of BritishAsian-ness? Conclusions How are public identities affected by state, class, generational, global changes differences in UK, South Asia & beyond? 5) Bradford & Tower Hamlets Compared The place of the five city based workshops in the life of the network (two completed so far) Genres, history & dynamics of locality in Bradford & Tower Hamlets
Importance of engagement with people outside the academy. Location of workshops: Mumtaz restaurant (Bradford) and Kobi Nazrul Centre (Tower Hamlets) Reflections on the evolving / experimental structure of the workshops 5) Bradford & Tower Hamlets Compared Genre: 1. 2. 3. Academic: tendency for academic writing to portray BrAsian cities as problem to be solved? insider/outsider dilemma issues of authenticity and representation; The novel and other artistic forms: comparative advantage in portraying complexity of human experience and identity?; Participation from local authors (Yunis Alam Annie Potts is Dead (1998) and Kilo (2002); Tariq Mehmood Hand on the Sun (1983) and While there is Light (2003) and the issue of Brick Lane (2004) by Monica Ali; music, art, theatre etc
Policy: Reference to a history of Bradford (eg Turning Point 1980s; Ouseley 2000s) and Tower Hamlets written in policy documents. 5) Bradford & Tower Hamlets Compared History: global and national socio-political change over the past fifty years; Bradford: Rushdie (1989) & riots (1995, 2001) shifts in thinking about multiculturalism; shift from race and ethnicity to religion: marker of public identity; Tower Hamlets: racism by 1980s; bewilderment at the shift from a secular to a more religiously inflected identity politics over recent decades; East London Mosque, Glynn (2002) and New Labours faith related initiatives; Oral History projects; The dynamics of locality: what is distinct about each city? How has this been shaped by its different histories? 2012 London Olympics vs 2008 City of Culture.
6) Hidden Histories, Silent Voices? Gaps in Writing British-Asian Cities Limitations of any project/network: in setting particular limits & boundaries it inevitably creates silences. Importance of self-awareness and reflexivity. Language: the network is English language rather than vernacular focussed Gender: goes beyond gender inclusiveness at workshops and raises concerns that structure of network is not conducive to capturing womens histories (i.e. our focus is upon public representations) Ethnicities and religions: dominance of certain groups in cities, other groups silenced. Reflects how written. Major urban conurbation focus
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