A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain by Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

By Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

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Post-national ethicised minorities became part of the national majority, through the expansion of the process of nation-building. It was the establishment of national languages with national standards (rules of grammar, dictionaries), compulsory or wide-spread schooling, conscription, expanded administrative machinery, dislocations and relocations of national economies, which induced and coerced the domestication and eventual absorption of European ethnic minorities. Unsurprisingly then the ‘immigrant’ imaginary articulates the arrival of ethnically marked ex-colonial people as another instance of the postnational minority thesis, hence postcolonial people become available if not ready to be domesticated and assimilated into the national fold by using the same techniques and practices that made nation-states out of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, economic groupings.

It meant—in the colonies—speaking in a certain way, behaving according to a code of regulations, and even feeling certain things and not others. It meant specific judgements, evaluations, gestures’ (Said, 1978: 227). In addition it meant embodying the administrative cultivation of ‘race’, in which policies implementing a governing form of racism, were indispensable attributes of the colonial authority, ascribed to the disposition and the orientation of the ‘white man’. As far as the lineage and legacy of coloniality is concerned, the modern, global, colonial way of being the ‘white man’ involved, …the culturally sanctioned habit of deploying large generalisations by which reality is divided into various collectives: languages, races, types, colours, mentalities, each category being not so much a neutral designation as an evaluative interpretation.

Hence Asian workers came to occupy some of the lowest rungs of the British employment hierarchy. Additionally, as ex-colonial subjects, they belonged to a group whose country was once ruled by Britain. From the beginning, therefore, the encounter between Asians and the white population was circumscribed by colonial precedents. As Zubaida points out: These cognitive structures (beliefs, stereotype and ‘common-sense’ knowledge) in terms of which people in Britain experience coloured [sic] minorities must be profoundly imbued with accumulations of colonial experience.

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