Writing the City in British Asian Diasporas
Edited by Sean McLoughlin, William Gould, Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Emma Tomalin
Routledge – 2014 – 246 pages
In 1962, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act hastened the process of South Asian migration to postcolonial Britain. Half a decade later, now is an opportune moment to revisit the accumulated writing about the diasporas formed through subsequent settlement, and to probe the ways in which the South Asian diaspora can be re-conceptualised.
Writing the City in British Asian Diasporas takes a fresh look at such matters and will have multi-disciplinary resonance worldwide. The meaning and importance of local, multi-local and trans-local dynamics is explored through a devolved and regionally-accented comparison of five British Asian cities: Bradford, the East End of London, Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham. Analysing the ‘writing’ of these differently configured cities since the 1960s, its main focus is the significant discrepancies in representation between differently-positioned texts reflecting both dominant institutional discourses and everyday lived experiences of a locality. Part I offers a comprehensive, yet still highly contested, reading of each city’s archives. Part II examines how the arts and humanities fields of History, Religion, Gender and Literary/Cultural Studies have all written British Asian diasporas, and how their perspectives might complement the better-established agendas of the social sciences.
Providing an innovative analysis of South Asian communities and their multi-local identities in Britain today, this interdisciplinary book will be of interest to scholars of South Asian Studies, Migration, Ethnic and Diaspora Studies, as well as Sociology, Anthropology, and Geography.
How have British cities been transformed by the settlement of Asian immigrants and in what ways did these cities crucially shape newcomers’ lives? Like a kaleidoscope refracting alternative patterns, the answer to this question lies, this marvellous collaborative volume shows, in the multiple voices writing the Asian diaspora’s urban experience – anthropologists, sociologists, poets, novelists, oral and cultural historians, politicians, policy-makers and journalists. Avoiding sweeping, essentialist generalisations, the book’s comparative scholarship and fine attention to detail demonstrate the depth and subtlety with which the Asian diaspora in Britain has been researched and analysed. Recommended reading for anyone teaching on migration and diaspora, and a must for new researchers on the Asian diaspora.
Pnina Werbner, Keele University
Britain’s cities have been indelibly shaped through centuries of migration and settlement. In this wonderfully evocative and richly textured book, the authors trace the historical and contemporary inscriptions of five iconic British Asian cities – Birmingham, Bradford, Leicester, London and Manchester. Exploring multiple ways and scales of ‘writing’ the city, these essays remind us that ‘all cities are global cities’, woven from diasporic and local (hi)stories, journeys and the imagination of home.
Claire Alexander, University of Manchester
Part I: Cities 2. Writing ‘Bradistan’ Across the Domains of Social Reality
3. Representing British Bangladeshis in London’s East End: The Global City, Text, Performance and Authenticity
4. Writing British Asian Manchester: Vernacular Cosmopolitanism on the ‘Curry Mile’
Virinder S. Kalra
5. Discrepant Representations of Multi-Asian Leicester: Institutional Discourse and Everyday Life in the Model Multicultural City
6. Between the City Lines: Towards a Spatial Historiography of British Asian Birmingham
Part II: Themes 7. South Asian histories in Britain: Nation, locality and marginality
William Gould and Irna Qureshi
8. Writing Religion in British Asian Diasporas
Seán McLoughlin and John Zavos
9. Writing British Asian Women: From purdah and the ‘problematic private sphere’ to new forms of public engagement and cultural production
10. From Writing to Embodied Vernacular Cosmopolitanisms: The British Asian City and Cultural Production
Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Seán McLoughlin is Senior Lecturer in Religions and Diasporas at the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds, UK. He is co-editor of European Muslims and the Secular State (2005) and Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities (2010).
William Gould is Professor of Indian History in the School of History, University of Leeds, UK. He is the author of Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India (2004); Bureaucracy, Community and Influence in India: Society and the State 1930s - 1960s (2010); and Religion and Conflict in Modern South Asia (2011).
Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature at King’s College London having previously lectured at the University of Leeds, UK. Her publications include Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir (2009) and Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971 and Modern South Asia (2013).
Emma Tomalin is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds, UK. She is co-editor/author of books including Biodivinity and Biodiversity: The Limits to Religious Environmentalism (2009) Dowry: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice (2009);; and Religions and Development (2013).