Kureishi 1995, 274)



Download 323.5 Kb.
Page1/4
Date09.08.2018
Size323.5 Kb.
  1   2   3   4



Introduction
How could anyone confine themselves to one system or creed? Why should they feel they had to? There was no fixed self; surely our several selves melted and mutated daily? There had to be innumerable ways of being in the world.

--- (Kureishi 1995, 274)1


During the second half of the twentieth century Britain has experienced a process of cultural transformation. This included the demise of the Empire, immigration from former colonies, and multiculturalism, respectively. The appearance of the British society has increasingly changed. In the postcolonial era, the notions of identity and national affiliation become indistinct, ambiguous and complex.

It is mainly the metropolis of London that represents a transnational space which undergoes processes of ‘postcolonializing’. The less it is constituted by its past as the centre of Empire, the more it comprises a ‘world’ which it formerly ruled and which is in the present day getting hold of it. By many postcolonial migrants it may still be considered a symbolic place which reflects England’s former imperial hegemony but it can be also seen as a kind of postimperial ‘contact zone’2 (Ball 15). The contemporary Western metropolis has become a place in which people, who were once separated by geography, ethnicity, race, or nationality, are rearranged and concatenated (Ball 25). London exemplifies a metropolis which is a place of social mixture and encounter, a site which is saturated with possibilities and potential for intermixture of cultures. Iain Chambers comments on the disorder which is engendered by the cultural complexity of the modern metropolis: “It is a reality that is multiformed, heterogeneous, diasporic. The city suggests a creative disorder, an instructive confusion, an interpolating space in which the imagination carries you in every direction, even towards the previously unthought” (Chambers 189). London has always been linked to different places and has always constituted a site with multifarious interconnections with numerous ‘elsewheres’. The heterogeneous shape of London with its diasporic communities and hybrid cultural forms prompts and stimulates the negotiations of identity and place. As diasporic people negotiate their cultural identities through what Paul Gilroy calls ‘the tension between roots and routes’ (Gilroy 1993, 133), old perceptions of home, nation and homeland must be continuously revisited (Ball 25). The encounters and meetings of diverse groups of people prompt a multiple and impure shape of London. Consequently, the heterogeneous character of the metropolis stimulates the creation of cultural identities that are neither fixed nor stable. Rather, these identities are constantly in the process of transformation and never complete.

The present thesis addresses the novels The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) and The Black Album (1995) by Hanif Kureishi. Kureishi is often labeled by the term ‘postcolonial’ writer due to his cultural and national position. The issues surrounding colonialism and postcolonialism are visible in his writing but despite this fact, I do not want to imply that Kureishi’s novels must be seen as purely postcolonial. The issues connected to the concepts of postcolonialsim form only a part of the novels’ concerns and should not be seen as the one and only preoccupation of Kureishi’s writing. Kureishi portrays an ‘in-between’ experience in his novels, aware of the changes needed to be wrought on traditional notions of British identity in order to involve the migrant’s experience and recognize the new British ethnic mix brought about by the post-war diaspora (Childs 21-22). The thesis scrutinizes these texts whose view of Britain is fractured and refracted. It addresses issues of ethnicity, location, and belonging, among others, and looks at how these notions influence the characters’ perceptions of their cultural identities which appear as unstable and in constant transformation. Especially the metropolis of London, in which the novels’ characters predominantly live, instigates the creation of cultural identities as relational rather than essentialist models. The thesis attempts to show that the characters’ need to define their cultural identity as fixed and unchangeable is not the primary aim of Kureishi’s novels. Rather, as I have alluded to in the opening passage of this paper, they tend to embrace the multiple possibilities, complex and plural ways of being, and permanent process of movement, development and change.

The thesis consists of two parts. The first part tries to prepare the ground for the later discussion of the novels in question. The three chapters of this part focus on historical context, postcolonial literature and the ‘second generation’ novelists, and relevant concepts of postcolonial theory, respectively. In this section of the paper I place the colonial and the postcolonial subjects in the historical framework and provide a brief overview of postcolonial literature and Kureishi’s generation of novelists. The last chapter of the first part offers a brief overview of the postcolonial theory and its development, addressing relevant concept developed by Homi K. Bhabha and Stuart Hall. Although the writing of these two theorists serves as the supportive material for the discussion of the novels in question, I allude, occasionally, to other theorists such as Paul Gilroy. The second part of the paper introduces Kureishi’s novels and takes into account several issues that play an important role in the characters’ creation and perception of their cultural identities, such as ‘race’, nation, origins and location. The last chapter of the second part concentrates on the influence of London which, as a heterogeneous, diasporic, transnational metropolis with its web-like connections to other places, instigates the creation of cultural identities that are unstable, unfixed and never complete. The creation of these cultural identities is perceived as a process that is in constant transformation. In this sense, the emphasis in connection to the concept of identity is placed on the process of becoming rather than on the state of being. Cultural identities in the novels are, then, perceived as plural and imagined as relational rather than essentialist models.



A Note on Terminology
As the title of the thesis suggests, one of the major concepts I will be using to refer to the novels in question is ‘postcolonialism’. As mentioned by a number of literary and cultural theorists who have been preoccupied with the concept of postcolonialism in their writing, the term is not easy to define. As John McLeod, one of the major contemporary postcolonial theorists, suggests, there exists a “variety of activities often called ‘postcolonial’ that it is not very easy to find an appropriate point of departure” (McLeod 2000, 2). He notes that literatures from countries such as, for example, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan and Jamaica have been called ‘postcolonial’ and continues to suggest that despite being labeled postcolonial, these literatures can be read in various ways (2). He also states that the way postcolonial literatures are read is influenced by a variety of concepts “taken from many other critical practices, such as poststructuralism, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis and linguistics” (2). Theorists such as Homi K. Bhabha, Stuart Hall or Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak have turned in their writing on postcolonial theory to a variety of intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, Jacque Derrida or Jacque Lacan (McLeod 2003, 192). The concept itself is problematic because it emanates from a variety of different scopes and temporalities. Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin employ the concept to “cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 2). The concept of postcolonialism covers a variety of issues. Similarly, the reading strategies of postcolonial literary works can be heterogeneous. In this sense, defining one critical approach that might be called typically ‘postcolonial’ is, according to McLeod, not possible (McLeod 2000, 3).

Another point in connection to the concept of postcolonialism is the form in which this word appears in various writings and the different meanings it suggests. Here, I am referring to the two different ways in which the words ‘postcolonialism’ and ‘postcolonial’ are spelled. Firstly, the hyphenated forms ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘post-colonial’ imply a historical period ‘after colonialism’. In this sense these forms designate the period after the independence of the formerly colonized countries and the period after the end of Empire. Secondly, the forms ‘postcolonialism’ and ‘postcolonial’ (without the hyphen) indicate not the period after colonialism but the working through of the effects of colonialism and its lingering effect on politics, culture, literature etc. This second description of the term implies not just historical periodisation but refers to “disparate forms of representations, reading practices and values” (McLeod 2000, 5) As McLeod puts it, it “acknowledges that the material realities and modes of representation common to colonialism are still with us today, even if the political map of the world has changed through decolonisation” (McLeod 2000, 33) and at the same time it “asserts the promise, the possibility, and the continuing necessity of change” (33). It might be more helpful, according to Ania Loomba, “to think of postcolonialism not just as coming literally after colonialism and signifying its demise, but more flexibly as the contestation of colonial domination and the legacies of colonialism” (Loomba 16). Considering postcolonialism in this way would allow, in Loomba’s view, the inclusion of people who have been “geographically displaced by colonialism such as African-Americans or people of Asian or Caribbean origin in Britain as ‘postcolonial’ subjects although they live within metropolitan cultures (16). It is in this sense that I use the word ‘postcolonialism’ and more frequently ‘postcolonial’ to refer to the London novels of Hanif Kureishi. This second meaning of the terms is relevant for my analysis of the novels that are set mainly in the metropolis of London.

Further, the thesis discusses issues connected to the creation of the characters’ cultural identities. Therefore, I find it helpful to define the term ‘culture’ that is relevant for my analysis as there exist several definitions of this term. The ‘culture’ I am concerned with in my paper is not one of the first definitions of ‘culture’ as defined in connection to the concept of civilization which stood in opposition to barbarism and therefore indicated some kind of hierarchy. Neither do I use the term in the German tradition which suggested that ‘culture’ should be perceived as indicating the highest artistic and intellectual achievements only, which stood in opposition to ignorance and backwardness. The term ‘culture’ that I use is that of intellectuals who were active at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, more precisely Raymond William’s description of ‘culture’ as “a whole way of life, material, intellectual, and spiritual” (qtd. in Grossberg 4). This pluralist model suggests no hierarchy as all cultures are worth looking at. ‘Culture’ in this sense includes symbolic behaviour, beliefs and habits in our daily lives.

Part One
1. Situating the Colonial and the Postcolonial Subjects

Before I concentrate on Hanif Kureishi and engage in the discussion of his novels, I want to place postcolonialism in the historical and cultural context. In order to understand and analyze the novels as having connection to the concept of postcolonialism, it is necessary to briefly touch upon the implications of colonialism and place the contemporary situation of the postcolonial subjects in the historical framework. My aim is not to present comprehensive information but rather offer a brief historical and cultural background to the subject of my subsequent discussion.

The history of Great Britain is far from homogenous. As Peter Fryer notes in Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, “from that day to this, there has been a continuous black presence in Britain” (Fryer 12). He argues that Britain had experienced the presence of African people before the arrival of the English. These were the African soldiers who served in the Roman imperial army that invaded the southern parts of the present-day British Isles for three and a half centuries. In the later centuries and predominantly from the middle of the sixteenth century onward, Africans were part of the British expansionist activities. Many of them were enslaved and transported to the New World but some of them arrived in Europe. A number of literary testimonials and autobiographies are well known, as Mark Stein accounts, for example Ignatius Sancho (1782) and Olaudah Equiano (1789) in the eighteenth century, and Mary Prince (1831) and Mary Seacole (1857) in the nineteenth century (Stein 4).

When we look at the turn of the twentieth century, the British Empire formed a world power (on which the sun did not set, as it was said) that spread over a vast area of the globe, from Africa to Asia, Australia, Canada and the Caribbean. Thinkers from Ruskin to Seeley, as Dennis Walder remarks, “saw it as the special genius of the Anglo-Saxon race to rule the world” (Walder 38). At the time of the reign of Edward VII, the glory of Britain was at its peak, despite the increasing anti-imperialist sentiments at home and abroad. During the twentieth century, and especially by the mid-1960s, a number of British colonies gained their independence after the dismantling of the Empire. A period of decolonization followed during which millions of people who were subjects of the British Empire in the past, experienced a new era. John McLeod points out that the phrase “‘the British Empire’ is most commonly used these days in the past tense, signifying a historical period and set of relationships which are no longer current” (McLeod 2000, 6). At the turn of the twenty-first century, the number of British colonies is relatively small. But despite this fact, Britain continues to exist as a colonial power (with several territories in the Caribbean, for example). Moreover, the material and imaginative legacies of both colonialism and decolonization remain, according to McLeod, “fundamentally important constitutive elements in a variety of contemporary domains” (7), for example anthropology, economics, art, global politics, the mass-media and literature.

Before proceeding, it might be helpful to draw a distinction between ‘colonialism’ and ‘imperialism’. Colonialism can be seen as a specific phase of imperialism and can be described as a project with political and cultural dimension. Denis Judd points out in his book Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present, that it was the desire for “profitable trade, plunder and enrichment” (Judd 3) that constituted the primary force “that led to the establishment of the imperial structure” (3). In Judd’s view, colonialism was in the first place a commercial trade project of the Western nations and a lucrative commercial operation that secured wealth through its economic exploitation. Hence, it can be argued, colonialism can be seen as a midwife of capitalism. Looking at the distinction between capitalism and imperialism, the difference between the two is in the emphasis on settlement. Whereas imperialism is defined by Childs and Williams as “the extension and expansion of trade and commerce under the protection of political, legal and military controls” (Child and Williams 227), colonialism is only “one form of practice which results from the ideology of imperialism” (McLeod 2000, 7). In other words, colonialism constitutes a particular historical manifestation of imperialism and specifically concerns occupation by settlement. It can be more closely defined as the “settlement of territory, the exploitation or development of resources, and the attempt to govern the indigenous inhabitants of occupied lands” (Boehmer 2). To sum up, the three main elements of colonialism are the settlement of land, the economic exploitation and the unequal relations of power which colonialism constructs.

As mentioned above, the twentieth century was a period of decolonization of countries that had constituted a part of the British Empire. Firstly, Britain lost the American colonies in the late eighteenth century. Secondly, the nations of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand became dominions (or settler nations) that gained full governmental control in 1931 when the Statute of Westminster abolished their obligation to “defer ultimate authority to the British crown” (McLeod 2000, 9). Thirdly, the colonized lands in South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa (although not all of them) became independent mainly after the Second World War, as a consequence of the struggles of the indigenous populations against the colonial rule. Most of these lands gained their independence after the end of the Second World War, as for example India and Pakistan in 1947 and Jamaica in 1962. With the independence of many formerly colonized countries, Britain lost its status of a world leading economic power. Colonialism, as it existed during the period of the British Empire, came to its end. However, the aftermath of colonialism and imperialism is still visible and its consequences, especially the psychological ones form a lingering trace in the minds of millions of people today. Salman Rushdie writes in his Imaginary Homelands about the British situation:

But British thought, British society, has never been cleansed of the filth of imperialism. It is still there, breeding lice and vermin, waiting for unscrupulous people to exploit it for their own ends. One of the key concepts of imperialism was that military superiority implied cultural superiority, and this enabled the British to condescend to and repress cultures far older than their own; and it still does. (Rushdie 131-132)


Similarly, Paul Gilroy argues that “the imperial and colonial past continues to shape political life in the overdeveloped-but-no-longer-imperial countries” (Gilroy 2004, 2). The cultural impact of colonialism on the psyches of the colonized people as inferior subjects is reflected in the majority of postcolonial fiction as well as works on postcolonial theory on which I will focus in the third chapter of the thesis.

In the beginning of this chapter I pointed out that the history of Britain is not homogenous. After the end of Empire, the influx of immigrants from the former colonies into Britain was significant. Steven Connor argues that “the movements of decolonisation and neocolonisation produced a massive feedback of previously colonised peoples into their ‘home’ countries (Connor 87). During the Second World War, before the West Indian colonies gained their independence from Britain, West Indian soldiers served in the British army. When the war finished, Britain was in need of workers which, as Mark Stein asserts, “facilitated immigration from its colonial possessions, and starting in the 1960s, Britain actively recruited labor in the West Indies for the National Health Service, London Transport, and factories in the North” (Stein 4). Half a million of migrants arrived in the British Isles, predominantly from Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad. Other immigrants arrived from countries such as India and Pakistan. The influx of these newcomers had as its effect the decreasing popularity of immigrant population in Britain that was originally perceived as returning to the ‘Mother Country’ by migrants and British citizens alike. In the 1960s this was no longer the case “as xenophobic responses were matched by the passing of increasingly restrictive immigration laws, to the point where immigration for black Commonwealth citizens has become nearly impossible” (Stein 5). Bills like 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act were passed to discourage the arrival of immigrants from former colonies. By this Immigration Act the post-war ‘open door’ policy was ended (Head 163-164). In April 1968 Enoch Powell, considered to be one of the leading and most influential postwar racist politicians in Britain, articulated in his “Rivers of Blood” speech his point of view that black immigrants would never “truly” become British despite the fact that they might obtain British citizenship. In this infamous speech he stressed the impossibility of racial integration. McLeod asserts that “Powell’s declarations of race and nation sadly granted political respectability to racism and attracted instant popular support, the effects of which were immediately felt on London’s streets (and elsewhere)” (McLeod 2004, 129). Hanif Kureishi recalls that after Powell’s speeches were reported

graffiti in support of him appeared in the London streets. Racists gained confidence. People insulted me in the street. Someone in a café refused to eat at the same table with me. The parents of a girl I was in love with told her she’d get a bad reputation by going out with darkies. Powell allowed himself to become a figurehead for racists. He helped create racism in Britain and was directly responsible not only for the atmosphere of fear and hatred, but through his influence, for individual acts of violence against Pakistanis. (Kureishi 2002, 28)
McLeod points out that by the 1970s “racist attitudes were at the heart of authoritarian forms of state control and clearly animating the discourses of nation, citizenship and law and order which impacted readily in London and elsewhere” (McLeod 2004, 130). The Immigration Act of 1971 “limited domicile to those born in Britain, or whose parents or grandparents were of British origin” (Head 164). The threat of Powell in 1968 made, in Caryl Phillips’s view, the 1976 Notting Hill riots inevitable (Phillips 127). He also claims that it set the tone of the 1970s which set the stage for Thatcherism and “the industrial decline and depression of the 1980s” (2). However, the 1970s witnessed also positive approaches towards black Britons and their acceptance into the mainstream, as Phillips points out: “[…] the mid-1970s were also the years of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the film Pressure, and the emergence of black footballers and sportsmen” (Phillips 3).

Perhaps the most significant redefinition of nationality and citizenship, according to Dominic Head, “was enshrined in the 1981 British Nationality Act, which abolished the automatic right to British citizenship for children born in Britain” (Head 164). Head further argues that after WWII the acceptance of the subjects of the former Empire, who were sometimes positively supported to migrate to the ‘mother country’, rapidly decreased “in the light of economic change and political expediency” (Head 164). He also claims that the shifting policy indicates that identity founded on national affiliation is a political construction that is mutable and unstable (Head 164). The way the migrants from the former colonies were responded to is, in his view, an instance of how policy, despite its pragmatic intentions, has “colluded with public misperceptions of nationality, and has helped to foster a denial of postcolonial obligations and a rejection of the postcolonial heritage” (Head 164). From the end of the twentieth century the number of immigrants to Britain has rapidly increased. The diverse range of cultural and ethnic groups has stimulated the image of a multicultural Britain. Today Britain comprises a large number of heterogeneous groups of people whose presence contributes to the changing face of the country.

It was mainly the metropolis of London that came to represent ‘the world’ with its migrant and heterogeneous population. In the decades after the Second World War international citizenry of the former Empire settled in London, a process that came to be called ‘the reinvasion of the centre’ or as the Jamaican poet Louise Bennett indicates, ‘colonizin in reverse’ (Bennett 33). London, a world metropolis that once governed a vast area of the globe, became a ‘transnational’ city. As Peter Acroyd states in his book about London, in the year 2000, at the turn of the millennium, London comprised over two million non-white residents (Acroyd 715). The metropolis has undergone transformation and become racially, ethnically and even nationally considerably heterogeneous. The former centre of the British Empire has become ‘decentred’, a phenomenon that has become London’s most visibly constitutive trait in the recent history. The manifold appearances of the metropolis have been depicted in a variety of postcolonial literature. As John Clement Ball asserts in his writing about the metropolis, “London is an English place; as the hub of a network of global relations, it has always been a transnational space. Any postcolonial “me” who ventures to write about contemporary London has all that expansive history and geography – which ‘made’ the city and the self – temptingly close at hand (Ball 4). Hanif Kureishi has employed London as the main setting of his novels. He presents London as the location in which he places his characters whose perception of themselves and their cultural identity is strongly influenced by the fact that they live, most of the time, in the metropolis.


Download 323.5 Kb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3   4




The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2020
send message

    Main page