Copyright © 1999 by Bronwyn T. Williams, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
I've always been quite envious of people who have talked about "going home". Even now people don't know quite what to say to me. . .If I were to arrive in England, people always say to me "Good to be back home, isn't it?" I'm never sure when I see them looking at me, if they are thinking, "Well, is this his home?" And when I arrive in the Caribbean, people say to me, "Ah, good to have you home, man." Personally, I don't feel that on a professional level, on an aesthetic level, I don't feel any culture shock between the United States, Britain, and the Caribbean. I've been traveling in that triangle for so long. On a personal level, yes, it would be nice to feel a sense of belonging somewhere.--Caryl Phillips (Interview).
I would say that I was a British writer. . .For people like me and Caz (Caryl Phillips), we are British writers. There is nothing else we could be. It is quite difficult, though, because what that entails is another view of Britain. Of Britain as being a genuinely plural, multi-cultural place, where, somehow, everything gets different. I think that is quite difficult for people, English literature having been English, as it were, in the strict sense for so long. --Hanif Kureishi (Interview)
I think one has to be comfortable with the notion that one has one's own cultural identity and that one doesn't necessarily have to be at "home", so to speak. But having had that cultural identity, or whatever else it is that is established for you, wherever you are rooted, whatever you are rooted in. . .I think we have to accept that we are going to be perpetually wandering. We are bound to, I think. That's the kind of crisis that we're in now, that we're forced to be in a state of perpetual wandering. I mean we can't be at home. Even if we sit at home, we are forced to travel, just because of what is going on around us.--Sunetra Gupta (Interview).
Well I was quite keen to live here, again because I considered London to be an international city. I didn't think of London as being part of England. . .I don't feel like I live in England, which is why sometimes it's difficult for me to answer questions like, "What do you think of the situation here? And what's like being an Indian in England?" The truth is I don't live in England, in a way. That's just how it is. That's what I've chosen to do is create a space that is somewhat outside of being anywhere (Interview).
Here race and class barriers had been suspended. There were businessmen in expensive suits, others in London Underground and Post Office uniforms; bowed old men in salwar kamiz fiddled with beads. Chic lads with ponytails, working in computers, exchanged business cards with young men in suits. Forty Ethiopians sat to the side of one room, addressed by one of their number in robes (109).
Not only have class and race barriers been suspended within the mosque, but so have cultural and national identities. The Islam that is represented by the men in the mosque is as shifting a sign as the emblems of the state in the uniforms of Underground and Post Office workers. There is not a simple definable culture that can be identified within this mix. There are only the multiple narratives of the multiple voices that re-position the subjects in ways that not only disrupt the homogenous mythology of the dominant culture, but necessitate a way of considering the narratives that, as Chakrabarty urges, go beyond the limits of the nation/state to allow us to begin to comprehend what is being said.
Stuart Hall writes: "You have to look at the curriculum, at the Englishness of English art, at what is truly English poetry, and you have to rescue that from all the other things that are not English. Everywhere, the question of Englishness is in contention" (178). Back
It was also a reminder that the forces on the margin, in an attempt to define themselves through negation, could be as exclusionary as the forces of the center. Kureishi, notes that second-generation Black British youth who turn to a strict interpretation of Islam do so as:
. . .a process of differentiation. You know? "Weíre not gay and we donít like gays. Weíre not Jews and we donít like Jews. We donít like this and we donít like freedom. We donít like democracy. We don't like this. We donít like that." So, all the time, sifting through everything, all the notions that we live in all day, as it were, to make up your mind. There was a lot of making up your mind all the time and rejection, "Thatís not me. Thatís not me." Asserting the difference. And, that is quite interesting. After all, there were people who had their difference, as it were, asserted all the time, but society looked right over it. Yet they were continuing to assert their own difference on their own turf which seemed, in perverse sense, to be an act of freedom (interview). Back
In addition, Black British cultural criticism and Black British artists in all media have, by and large, embraced cultural expression of all kinds, from literature to film to visual arts to pop music to dub poetry to street theatre, thereby further disrupting the high-culture/low-culture divide so central to maintenance of the British class system. Back