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Identity Politics of South Asian Enclaves


The first two stages correspond to the views of defensive

multicultural policies and those of their opponents regarding

ethnic minority immigrants as either victims to be protected, or as

aggressors to be feared. The third stage

the social equilibrium

between victim and aggressor implied by “desi”

can be argued to

be developing in Malkani’s novel in the more recently formed

ethnic enclave in Hounslow, a suburb in West London. Although

enclaves “have traditionally been viewed as existing only in inner

cities,” as Mark Abrahamson points out, “communities with all the

features of enclaves have recently formed in otherwise

conventional suburbs” due to the fact that “the metropolitan areas

around cities have grown in size and complexity” (2006: 2). In

general, the suburban enclaves “tend to be newer, physically more

attractive, with wealthier residents, and more economic

opportunities” (2006: 2). Malkani similarly notices in his reading

guides on the website of the Penguin group that, in comparison

with the better known South Asian community in East London, as

seen, for example, in the Bangladeshi ethnic community in Ali’s

Brick Lane

, the desi community in West London is “more

economically affluent, thereby reducing the role of class or racial

struggle” (n.d.). Thus, although the novel opens with a beating

scene, the narrator Jas has actually verbally exaggerated it, for, as

he later admits, “[y]ou hardly ever saw a brown-on-white beatin

these days, not round these pinds anyway” (Malkani, 2006a: 12).

It is not only because the “[r]ising levels of education and

income have enabled upwardly mobile Blacks [and Asians] to

choose where to live rather than having the choice imposed on

them” (Varady, 2005: xiii) but also because the internal diversities

formed in Hounslow’s ethnic enclave give its residents a wider

sense of belonging that the novel attests to the emergence of

interculturality in contemporary British society. According to

Cantle, as opposed to the earlier forms of multicultural policies,

“interculturalism” can be adopted as a new model to accommodate

the super diversity of the more complex multicultural society in