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Identity Politics of South Asian Enclaves


prominent examples in the United States, as cited by



, are the African Americans who “have been compelled

to live in ghettos, not so much by legal devices as by economic and

social pressures.” In general, “ghetto” in both its historical and

current usage has been a negative and derogative term, meaning

that the residential areas are segregated and that the residents are

of ethnic minority groups, poor, underprivileged, and unwelcomed

in mainstream society. Moreover, as previously discussed, in

contemporary Britain and, in particular, after the race riots in 2001,

and the bombings in 2005, residential segregation in British cities

has been increasingly associated with British people’s fear of

extreme violence stemming from the ghettoization of ethnic

minority groups.

Is residential segregation equivalent to racial segregation? Is

assimilation the only way to deal with race relations and enhance

community cohesion? What are the risks of confusing racial

segregation as an ideology, that is, “a politically constructed

problem,” with racial segregation as a practice, namely “a feature

of the material world” (S. J. Smith, 1993: 129)?



, except that the residents of Hounslow are

mostly desis, Malkani clearly represents no ghetto at all. His desi

characters are, firstly, not poor, nor do they belong to the lower or

working class. They drive luxury cars, such as Benzes and BMWs,

and wear designer clothes, shoes, and the watches of famous

brands. Hardjit’s father, for example, is a successful businessman,

running “nine twenty-four-hour local convenience shops in

partnership with two a his cousins” (Malkani, 2006a: 71), and

Ravi’s father has been “offering financial advice from behind an

IBM Thinkpad” and has “made good bucks by it” (2006a: 73).

Also, in sharp contrast to the decayed, deprived, and over-crowded

council estates where ghettos are often found in many parts of the

world, the house of Amit, another desi boy in the novel, has

“expensive coffee tables with the golden legs” and “expensive silk

an satin sheets that’d been laid down especially to protect the