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Identity Politics of South Asian Enclaves


that there is no question of authenticity in his novel because the

novel is actually about a group of boys who pretend to be gangsters

living in a ghetto, whereas in fact they are mommy’s boys and live

in five-bedroom houses. What is at issue in the novel is thus

“inauthenticity” rather than authenticity. That is, instead of fixing

the cultural identity of desis purely in terms of race and ethnicity,

as the early forms of multicultural policies did,


can be

read as a literary attempt to redefine multiculturalism and to

illustrate the multifaceted nature of contemporary identity when,

through the everyday practices of the desi characters, the author

portrays how other differences such as gender, age, and class

impact the roles desis play in the ethnic enclave.

In this article, I attempt to explore the political implications of

some reviewers’ expectations that they will discover the ghettoized

nature of disaffected, urban, Asian youth in an almost

self-segregated London suburb, and to examine Malkani’s literary

strategies of irony in characterizing an earnest desi narrator, who

turns out to be a white, and in recreating a pseudo-ghetto world in

the novel. I suggest that, in so doing, the novel can be read as a

parody of the stereotyped tale of Asian immigrants growing up in

the midst of poverty and violence in the ghetto, and living in

separation from the host society. While exploring the questions of

place, identity, and ethnicity with a focus on the (in)adequacy of

(in)authenticity and multiculturalism in the novel, I further argue

that, even if, on the surface, the concentration of South Asian

immigrants in Hounslow may reflect ethnic segregation and

support the critique of the end, or failure, of multiculturalism, if

read in depth, through the portrayal of the diversity of subcultures,

the nuances of South Asian diasporic identity, and the rudeboys’

use of hybrid language in the ethnic enclave, Malkani’s novel

challenges the supposed “failure” of “multiculturalism” as a policy

based simply on ethnicity identity politics. More importantly, it

redefines multiculturalism and points out that, in contemporary

London and Britain, even in an ethnic enclave, it is evidently a