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Have (or how have) representations of the ethnic or national 'other' changed in post-war Britain?

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Introduction

Have (or how have) representations of the ethnic or national 'other' changed in post-war Britain? In order to address this question we must firstly define what is meant by the 'other', migrants often labeled under the umbrella term Blacks. For the purpose of this essay it will refer to mainly Asian and Muslim ethnic communities. We will explore various discourses concerned with identity and subjectivity with particular attention being offered to issues of gender, religion and migration. The implications of the Rushdie affair and the September 11th atrocities will also be highlighted. Attention will be given to Enoch Powell's 1968 'Rivers of Blood' speech and comparisons made with the proposals suggested by current Home Secretary, David Blunkett in the government's 2002 white paper entitled 'Secure Borders, Safe Haven'. These two examples will be used to analyse whether or not the discourses surrounding 'otherness' have in fact changed. Essentialist and anti-essentialist approaches will be compared. It will extend to illustrate examples of these discourses through visual as well as written texts and through media representation. The key elements of Blunkett's proposals contain issues of legal migrants, asylum, citizenship, marriage/family and border controls. (Travis, 2002, p.1) Therefore, an appropriate point from which to begin will be to firstly consider Sarup who adopts an essentialist approach when he discusses the meanings of home, borders and boundaries in relation to constructions of identity and the migrant experience. He suggests that migrants are often subjected to a plethora of opposing reactions, from hospitality to hostility, inclusion to exclusion. In order to protect themselves, minority groups seek strength from their religion, language and culture thus uniting and confirming their collective identity. (Sarup, 1996, p.3) For example, Islam is for many British Muslims a fundamental part of their cultural identity. This is evident today, as Islam is currently the most followed faith other than Christianity. (Bunting, 2001, p.23) In East is East, George takes his religion very seriously, 'you're only really going to be safe if you stay within the cultural fold - if you leave it - you'll be subject to racism.' ...read more.

Middle

He emphasises the importance of cultural racism in indirect discrimination. For example, every community has its own dress codes and customs in the workplace and educational institutions and religious practices such as attending church on Sundays, yet in the West, Muslims are expected to work on weekdays despite Fridays being their day of worship. Hence, hegemony will reside with the dominant group, in Britain's case, Christians. (Modood, p.167) Parekh's study illustrates that 'respect for religious diversity imposes severe limits on the demand for cultural assimilation.' (Parekh, 1982, p.15). In other words, Parekh argues that as religion is the fundamental principle of many cultures it is insincere to recognise diversity of religions yet still insist upon cultural assimilation. Modood supports this view, he concludes that the Rushdie affair is predominantly about the rights of non-white, non western religious and cultural ethnies in the context of a secular hegemonic society. (Modood, p.274) Modood highlights how the controversial publication of The Satanic Verses, with its bad language and explicit sexual imagery was considered a profane attack upon Muslims as well as evoking much misunderstanding by the West about Muslims in Britain. Yet both he and Parekh suggest that Rushdie had not intended it as an 'intellectual critique of their faith. ' (Modood, p.269) Cohen and Waldron reinforce Rushdie's claim that the book 'celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling.' (Grillo, 1998, p.232) However, Modood believes that the Rushdie Affair might actually encourage some Asian Muslim youths to 'return to the mosques and religious classes.' (Modood, p.271) In other words, to become fundamentalists as a reaction to The Satanic Verses. It is therefore necessary to consider the ambiguous life of an immigrant which according to Parekh, often lacks 'roots ... depth and richness,' (Hall S, 1992, p.323) in order to fully recognise the importance of their religion in the construction of their identity. He goes on to point out that 'their dignity as human beings is constantly mocked by the hostile "host" society; their sacred family ties are brutally snapped by evil immigration laws; their children ... ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, Butler and Manzoor argue that many British Muslim women now choose to wear traditional dress again in order to reassert their identity. Thus, this is part of their culture that they willingly wish to retain. (Manzoor, p.56 & Butler, p.19) Solomos and Back consider the changing discourse regarding the black presence in Britain. Their argument suggests that it has shifted in very particular ways since the second world war, from fear of miscegenation, where mixed race children were often referred to as a 'casualty of war' (Solomos & Back, 1996, p.180) to the image of the 'black mugger' representing racial crime in 1970s. Black crime shifted from against the individual to crimes against society. Peter Hulme refers to 'stereotypical dualism' where ethnic minorities were considered either as the criminals causing these social problems or as victims of racism. (Solomos & Back, p.183) These notions can be seen in Sapphire, where the underlying fear of miscegenation as a consequence of Sapphire's pregnancy, felt by David's white middle class family had resulted in her murder. Also, Johnny being represented as a pimp and a criminal. A further example is evident in Bhaji on the Beach, caused by Hashida's pregnancy with her secret West Indian' boyfriend, Oliver. Anxiety arises at the possibility of producing a child, which is non-identifiable as either black or white. Oliver would only have been accepted if he had been Asian. In the same film, Ginda's husband is shown as a violent wife beater, which introduces a criminal element into the narrative. If we compare Sapphire (1959) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) to more recent film productions such as Bhaji on the Beach (1993) and East is East (1999), it is evident that representations of the 'other' and the way stories are told have changed in the discourse of film and cinema over time. Underlying themes of race and prejudice run through these films. Sapphire adopts a modernist approach, which responds to the ethnic tensions, which were erupting in Britain in the late 1950s. ...read more.

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