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Identity Politics of South Asian Enclaves


Heathrow Airport, Hounslow borough “lends its unique character



,” for “[i]t’s an in-between kind of place where sixty

percent of the population comes from the Third World and where

most people have their eyes fixed on the airport, whether for

cheap trips abroad or for its links with the home country” (Basu,


Hounslow is a diverse community notorious for the

disengagement of local youth from mainstream society, providing

evidence, to some critics, of the “failure” or the “end” of

multiculturalism (Cantle, 2012: 53; Elia, 2010: 8; Gabriel,


& Rocha

, 2012: 271; Murphy, 2012: 1-2).


In 2003, the first

UK-based suicide bomber to strike in Israel was from Hounslow;

since then, a couple of Hounslow youths have been subject to

investigation about their involvement in the London bombings and


According to Cantle, however, the notion of the failure of multiculturalism “has

confused rather than assisted a debate about how we learn to live together in an

increasingly interdependent and interconnected world” (2012: 53). The notion is

perilous when one confuses multiculturalism as a descriptive reality for most

immigrant countries around the world with multiculturalism as state policies and

blame immigrants for threatening the security and solidarity of the host country.

It is thus important to make the distinction between state policies and social

reality and to know that “[t]he reference to ‘failure’ is based on the perception

that the


of multiculturalism have been an inadequate response to the

changing composition of societies” (2012: 53; emphasis original). In his book,

Cantle proposes “interculturalism” as a new model and encloses “failure” inside

the quotation marks to emphasize his special use of the word as a reference to the

failure of state multiculturalism which is based on ethnicity identity politics and

which advocates color-consciousness. Murphy has also limited his discussion of

the “failure” of multiculturalism to policies and political philosophy (2012: 1, 3).

I take my cue from these critics for my reading of Malkani’s novel. I argue, on the

one hand, that the “failure” of multicultural policies in Britain paradoxically

proves the inadequacy of ethnicity and the need to redefine multiculturalism that

“is now much more complex” and that is “no longer simply revolving around

majority/minority visible distinctions” (2012: 5). On the other hand, I perceive

the “failure” of multiculturalism as an irony and attempt to point out how easily

and popularly the notion is manipulated to equate the failure of multicultural

policies to the failure of multicultural society.