Seeking to redefine British multiculturalism
This article is from 2008.
‘The immense diversity of British Asians even surprised me,’ admits author and journalist Ziauddin Sardar, who has spent the last three years investigating the many identities of Asians in this country. Named after the fabricated ‘Indian’ dish which originated in Birmingham, his book Balti Britain explores the communities created by generations of migrants and British-born Asians in all corners of the UK. Sardar questions our abridged version of Indian history and the words we use: just what constitutes a ‘curry’? And who exactly are ‘Asians’? Entire cultures and peoples, Sardar argues, are hidden behind these bland words invented by a Western, colonial perspective. ‘In reality, the Indian subcontinent has always been truly multicultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multilingual and a multi-civilisation place,’ explains Sardar. We are awestruck by this mindboggling diversity and don’t really know how to handle it.’
After an inauspicious start to the 21st century, there seems no better time to re-evaluate and redefine our multicultural society. Sardar agrees that ‘British Asians, like most people throughout the world, are going through an identity crisis. I think this is the hallmark of our time.’ Looking back through India and Britain’s intertwined history; from the first Indian to settle in England in 1644, to the many servants, sailors, doctors and soldiers who have come to these shores since, Sardar breaks apart the stereotypes. ‘Identities are not fixed and immutable. They change. Balti Britain is my attempt to reinvent and reshape what it means to be Asian in Britain today.’
14 Aug, noon, £9 (£7).