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Identity Politics of South Asian Enclaves


In her introduction to

Imagined Londons

, Pamela Gilbert

comments on the different faces of London at different historical

times and to different people:

London: world city, global city, capital of empire. Literary

London. The East End. Jack the Ripper. The Beatles.

Beefeaters. The Tower. Village London. Merry Olde

London. The London of St. Paul’s and the Milleninum

Dome, the London of the Fire, of Dickens, of Blake. The

London of Elizabeth, of Victoria, of tourists, of Londoners.

The Londons of the Imagination. (2002: 1)

In particular, while underscoring the plurality of London, Gilbert

draws the reader’s attention to the fact that, because of its long history

as the cultural, socio-economic, and political center of Britain, London

has been depicted in literature for centuries. Nevertheless, as a literary

setting, London has appeared not only in the works of white British

writers such as Dickens and Blake, but also, more recently, in the

works by Black and Asian British writers. According to John Ball,

London can be said “to be the single most frequently used

geographical signifier and setting” in “all English-language fiction

from the postcolonial Commonwealth” (2004: 5). It can be attributed

to the fact that London is a global city and was once the capital of the

British Empire. Thus, as Fatimah Kelleher points out, “ethnic minority

groups are always heavily concentrated in the urban centres, with

nearly half of the total population in London alone” (2005: 241).

Here Kelleher appears to agree with Ball’s statement above when she

argues that, “since 1991, everyday London tales are very much

becoming stories that once belonged on the fringes of society” (2005:

241). Postcolonial and post-imperial as it is, contemporary London

has become a multicultural city where immigrants and ethnic minority

groups live with one another as well as with the host society.

In contemporary South Asian British literature, not only the

inner city of London, as exemplified more recently by Monica Ali’s

Brick Lane

(2003), but also its suburbs have been depicted in a

string of novels. Although, as Rupa Huq maintains in “Darkness on