Imagining Other Places
Cosmopolitanism and exotic fantasies in multicultural cities
Kandidatspeciale, Afdeling for Etnografi og Socialantropologi Aarhus Universitet, November 2001, Vejleder Martijn Van Beek
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Orientalism and the discourse of power in art
Multiculturalism, art and orientalism
The myth of the cosmopolitan: Kant's utopia and free-floating nomads
Actually existing cosmopolitans
A generalised condition of homelessness
The convenient fiction of space and identity
Imagining India - imagining home - imagining England
India of the mind
Parodic inventions of space and identity
Life in the fantasy lane
Spirituality and the city - Rati
The magic of similarity
A paler shade of racism
Silver screen fantasies - the significance of fictions in Indian and British film
Narratives and fantasies in Indian film
India in British film
The British Raj
Social realism in Thatcher's England
The global commodification of cultural difference
The exotic spectacle
Any representation of any place inevitably carries with it more or less conscious biases, agendas, ideologies and power relations. For a place as complex and heterogeneous as India, its image in the west - and especially in Britain - is inevitably connected to the history of imperialism and colonial subordination. Edward Said claimed that there has never been such a thing as a pure or unconditional Orient, but only one created in colonial and postcolonial discourses (Said, 1978). It can be argued that both Indian and British voices are so intertwined in colonial history that no-one can claim a voice that represents a fair and unbiased picture of India. Following Homi Bhabha there is no knowledge at all outside of what is being represented. In the shadow of post-colonialism, cultural difference is politicised which reveals itself through the "representation of unequal relations of power" (Bhabha, 1994).
My argument is that all knowledge of India or the East is representation, agreeing with Bhabha that nothing can be understood as unquestionable fact outside of how it is represented. Representation becomes reality, in the sense that how things are represented, especially in the media and in popular culture, becomes the reality to which people relate. However, my claim is that some representations are more fair/fairer than others. I am not looking for the true India or a truthful representation of India, or of Britain, or even to claim that any such truth is possible. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche compared truth to a woman clumsy philosophers have tried to get their hands on and that this woman has not let herself be won (Nietzsche, 1972:13). He also wrote that truths are illusions about which we have forgotten that this is what they are. Illusions play a prominent part in this thesis, especially illusions of places and homelands, so with sincere respect for the power of illusions, what I am looking for is not to unveil the illusion of truth but instead to search for a more critical and balanced approach to the image of India that is being represented through media and within the culture industry. Some ideas or images of India might look quite harmless, but what seems innocent on the surface may have a de-politicising effect and may promote a damaging ignorance about more "real" issues and problems. Implied harmless-ness is in some cases, as I will discuss later, a disguise for a real politics of hierarchical cultural differences, which thrives upon artificial and stereotypical illusion.
All representations may be social or political constructions, but they always have real consequences for real people and impact upon real peoples' lives. It is therefore important to look carefully at representations of India and examine how, who and what creates images of India, and how these images are interpreted into reality.
My focus in this thesis is the relation between East and West and how this relationship still seems to be build on orientalist lines of thought in the contemporary world of multiculturalism and globalisation. My particular focus is upon London and India and the examples I use are mostly taken from the presence of India in present day London. I have chosen these places because the themes I wanted to examine and include in this thesis - multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and post-colonialism - although global phenomena, are particularly salient in London because of the large mix and variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds amongst its citizens. I also wanted to read Said's Orientalism into contemporary examples of cultural life and thought it more appropriate and interesting to look in to this via postcolonial relations between Britain and India, than in societies without such a strong colonial history and with a less culturally heterogeneous population.
The representations of India I will examine are not only to do with how the place is described in books and films. It is not representation in the parliamentary sense of the word as in speaking for someone, as if they did not have a life and voice of their own. What I have in mind is how the idea of India is constructed in the everyday lives of people, in the streets, through gossip and rumours, in fashion, in music and in the media. And how the strange connections between the power of consumption and the power of the culture industry have an influence on how the idea of India is lived out by real people. How Sharwood's curry paste or Madonna's mehndi-coloured hands can contribute to the expectations of a hippie's journey to Goa, or a bit more critically, to blissful ignorance and even worse, a soft version of orientalist racism.
Orientalist stereotypes of South Asians in Britain are abundant. Unfortunately the better known versions are the rather racist ones as described by Zadie Smith in her 2000 novel White Teeth:
"He knew that he, Millat, was a Paki no matter where he came from; that he smelled of curry; had no sexual identity; took other people's jobs; or had no job and bummed off the state; or gave all the jobs to his relatives; that he could be a dentist or a shop-owner or a curry-shifter, but not a footballer or a film-maker; that he could go back to his own country; or stay here and earn his bloody keep; that he worshipped elephants and wore turbans; that no one who looked like Millat, or spoke like Millat, or felt like Millat, was ever on the news unless they had recently been murdered" (Smith, 2000:194)
Over the last few years though, the stereotypes of India and South Asians have gained an additional dimension; the "Asian Kool" phenomenon, which to a certain degree can be viewed as a welcome celebration of multiculturalism - on the surface. There has been an increased visibility of things Asian concentrated in the cultural spheres of life - from high street to high art. This is undeniably a step forward in a society where Zadie Smith's description only seems too readily to prevail.
In the last ten years there has been a noticeable change in the popular music market. The dance club scene in London has had an increasing number of both South Asian and British DJs playing a fusion bhangra/techno/Bollywood hit type of dance music. Tabla goes techno. And Sitar-riffs make it big in bands who create a quite catching hybrid sound. I have in mind examples like Cornershop, Nitin Sawhney, and retro-hippies Kula Shaker etc. Even Madonna - queen of fashion fads - had an Indian infatuation, with a short burst of interest in yoga and eastern spirituality, singing in Sanskrit and wearing bindis. (That was before she metamorphosed herself into a rhinestone cowgirl and embraced American folklore. The slow process of writing a thesis just doesn't seem to keep up with the ongoing reinventions of reality.)
Cinematic representations of India have also changed. First of all Indian films themselves are screened far more often in the UK than ever before. It is mostly the ones that come out of Bollywood that are no longer only playing in traditionally South Asian settlement areas like Southall or Bradford, but also in mainstream theatres in the centre of London
Western, and especially British, films about the relationship between Britain and India have also changed in tone from colonial historical Merchant Ivory production-like costume dramas (Heat and Dust, Jewel in the Crown, Far Pavilions) to more contemporary self-ironic films like East is East (or the deliberate kitschyness of Jane Campion's Holy Smoke). There is much more to say about this, (which I will in chapter 5) but generally speaking, I think this shows a change of attitude in the way the relationship between Britain and India is being represented. India is no longer only seen as a place of the past, as only a part of British history, where British people play the main parts anyway, but as something that is happening right now right in front of everyone. As part of the same cosmopolitan society. The use of humour and irony in films like East is East shows a much more relaxed, and trivial, picture of the relationship than the grandeur and distance in, say, Merchant Ivory productions.
Music and film are just some examples of the increased visibility of Asia in Britain. Another level of visibility is the way things Asian have been appropriated by the West in an attempt to follow a fashion fad seemingly without following the significance of the Asianness further than to the instant glamour of exoticism. The increased visibility of Asia in London can in particular be viewed at street level and in the expansion of a commodification of exotica: Western people devoted to Eastern religions, London clubs playing bhangra and showing Bollywood films, all this as a kitschy-ironic playground for trend-setters wearing bindi and nose rings. "Indian styled" fashion accessories made out of saris that are specially produced for a Western market and just don't exist in India. Supermarkets lined with microwave-able Masala TV-dinners and McDonalds launching a Tikka Masala Burger followed by a TV-commercial campaign featuring Indians singing "I'm a Londoner".
Beyond England's shores, tourists in Goa and Manali "go native" with drugs, yoga and endless sunsets. (Just HOW many pot-smoking Indians in yoga positions do you actually come across on the continent?) Generally there does seem to be a major trendification of everything and anything Indian/Asian visible in fashion, music, cuisine and cinema. This indicates an increase in the way the culture industry has been able to make the exotic globally marketable. The question is, what kind of appropriation is this? Rather than being a genuine respect that celebrates exotic difference it also has a less positive side to it, a disguised sort of neo-orientalism, yet another way of white supremacy claiming the rights to wear saris and bindis and skate on the surface of a glossy, magical mystical version of India.
Visibility of Asia in multicultural cities - especially London - is subject to a pervasiveness of cultural differences which especially the culture industry maintains. The notion of cultural difference is not the problem. The problem is when this difference becomes hierarchical, a difference between a rational "West" and a magical seductive "East", which the fantasised visibility of Asia and celebration of multiculturalism that resembles Said's orientalism do. As an attempt to avoid the hierarchical notion of difference that builds upon an skewed fantasy of the East, it is crucial to be aware of a more critical approach to the way difference is being represented - and to uphold a politics of difference that critically questions the multicultural, orientalist notion of difference rather than celebrates them blindly.
The enhanced visibility of things Asian is problematic and cannot simply be dismissed as the way multicultural societies work, because it is a fantasy version of India that is being presented and which disguises more real sets of issues related to India. The visibility of Asia in the West is a Disney version of a phantasmagoric subcontinent where all the nasty bits or less glamorous bits like poverty, colonialism, racism or nuclear powers are concealed amongst incense smoke, mystical spirituality and exotic illusions. The questions are how can the fascination with the East become so farfetched from any sense of reality and yet continue to thrive as fantasy? How does this affect the people who are subject to this fantasy; South Asians in the West (as well as the ones at "home")? In this set of issues, it is important to stress that the fantasised idea of India does not only exist among people who don't know any better, (or who ought to know better, i.e. anthropologists.) In many cases diasporic South Asians themselves have also adopted a sense of imaginary/fantasised/romanticised version of their homeland. As I will discuss later, an imagined homeland seems to be a very natural phenomena for cosmopolitans living in the diaspora. However a part of the process of imagining and fantasising about homelands can be interpreted in a Gramscian sense, that the idea of a magical, mysterious and de-politicised India that is so prevalent on the West, has a hegemonic impact on the way South Asians see their homelands. The way India is perceived in the ex-colony is reflected in the way the ex-colonised and now its various diasporas view their own 'homeland'. However, following Gramsci, hegemony is achieved via a combination of force and consent (Gramsci, 1992). Hegemony is not necessarily only expressed as an ideology coming from the rulers (read: ex-coloniser) to the oppressed (read: ex-colonised). This same ideology can have a dual purpose and also be used as a form of resistance, it becomes counter-hegemonic. It is important to take seriously the possibility of using the fantasy image of India as a conscious strategy for avoiding ignorance - or even racism - and using a fantasised version of India as homeland intentionally as a means of identity-construction, a way of gaining a positive and accepted role in society (better to be the exotic other than the ignored or discriminated against taxi-driver.)
Talking in terms of colonialism and post-colonialism in the relationship between India and Britain is unavoidable. But it is also risky business, like walking on thin ice. On the one hand it is important to bear history in mind and to be aware of the power relations still present between the old colony and the old colonised. On the other hand, keeping the focus on colonialism/post-colonialism, entails a risk of being stuck in history in that exact same relationship of exploiter and exploited and this diminishes the possibilities for the former colonised to have their own voice, unconnected to their role as the exploited. It is therefore crucial to stress that the orientalist representation of India as a fantasy place of magic and mystery, should not only be seen as coming from a strong hegemonic force of global capitalist consumerism. It can also be seen as coming from other directions, i.e. South Asians using the fantasy version of India as a way of creating a more spicy identity, or an increased desire in society for a more spiritual approach to life where the East then has become the symbolic target point in the quest for fulfilling that need.
The recurring keywords through which I discuss the visibility of neo-orientalism in the West in this thesis are multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and fantasies and imaginations of homelands. To frame my argument about the presence of neo-orientalism in the West and exemplified in contemporary London, I begin by presenting Said's Orientalism from 1978 and look at the main set of issues Said sets as the background for the hierarchical relationship between East and West during colonialism. In the second chapter, "Multicultural battlefields", I jump to present day London and discuss the concept of multiculturalism in a post-colonial society and look at the orientalist lines of thought that can be found behind the celebration of multiculturalism. A key assertion in this thesis is Said's statement that most people live in 'a general condition of homelessness' (Said, 1994: ). I will, however, argue that this is not necessarily a general condition as such, but more of a multicultural and cosmopolitan condition. As I emphasised, the geographical setting for this thesis is India and London. On a more abstract level, locality - as a fixed geographical setting, is leess important as my arguments focus around a condition of cosmopolitanism. This cosmopolitanism is to be understood as a grounded definition of people who live in so called multicultural cities and are attached to and identify themselves with two or more fixed (imagined) localities and cultures. I call it grounded to oppose it to an idea of cosmopolitanism as a group of privileged people, urban nomads, who have the means to spread themselves across the world in the pursuit of work or adventure - or both, (an idea that particularly Pico Iyer has depicted in his book Global Soul ). Grounded cosmopolitanism (Bruce Robbins calls it "actually existing cosmopolitanism" [1998:1]) is also in opposition to Kant's political writings about cosmopolitanism which illustrate a cosmopolitan utopia, only possible if every nation adopts liberal republicanism and effaces cultural difference.
Actual locality - compared to imagined locality or multiple localities - may be less important in my use of the term cosmopolitanism but it does not mean that locality and space is irrelevant, rather that they have become "differently territorialised" (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991). In this thesis I have interpreted and used this different territorialisation with the focus on homelands, as an emphasis of locality as imaginary places rather than tangible geography, meaning that locality - specifically left-behind homelands - for cosmopolitans is more of a cerebral fantasy than an experienced locality.
The condition of a differently territorialised world also implies different ways of identification. As an example of cosmopolitan lifestyles where identities are created by eclectic mixes of different cultural backgrounds and fantasised ideas of 'other' places (particularly with India in mind) and parodic (re)inventions (Clifford,1997), I have included four case studies of people (British and Indian) living in London with different relations to India. These examples illustrate the role of fantasies in the creation of identities, particularly happening in a cosmopolitan city (and a differently territorialised world). Imagination, fantasy, creativity and also a certain amount of performance, a staged individuality, characterises these people's way of identifying and presenting themselves. Although four very different people, their common ground is that they all have created a fantasy version of India and made that their spiritual homeland, their ancestral homeland or just a place to feel really at 'home'. I continue to emphasise the fantasy theme in a discussion of the influence of media-representations, especially film, on how distant places are imagined through cinematic representations. The large numbers of films coming out of Bombay and their equally large distribution to the Indian diaspora, has a major role in upholding a connection-at-a-distance between Indian cosmopolitans and India (which is particularly exemplified through Roshni, one of the case studies). As a way of understanding the changing attitudes towards India and colonialism in Britain, I also look at how this has been reflected and represented in British cinema.
In the final section I discuss how orientalism has re-emerged as part of the global commodification of exotica. In a world where difference rather than sameness is in demand, the exotic has become highly marketable. This is visible in the number of products and fashion fads that are being cheaply produced and distributed globally, but it is especially visible within the culture industry. This chapter sums up the implications of the fantasies of India that keep up an the orientalist idea of a magical, mysterious and exotic place and vigorously ignores the other side of multiculturalism and post colonialism - racism and exploitation.
In Orientalism (1978), Edward Said describes how the power of knowledge contributes to the creation of an unequal relation ship between the East and the West. He is in debt to Michel Foucault for theories of discourse and power relations developed through knowledge; in the case of Orientalism, the western knowledge of 'the East'. The Foucaultian theory is that knowledge is never innocent, but always connected to operations of power (1970). This theory is a thoroughgoing theme in Orientalism. Research, writing, thinking and acting on or of the Orient, all produced different kinds of knowledge, which in a Foucaultian/Saidian line of thought, shaped power relations between the East and the West. Said's argument is that knowledge of the East, as it was produced in the West by scholars and artists, was the ideological constitutive of colonial power.
Said's main point in Orientalism is that the Orient is not something that is just "there" as a geographical space with inhabitants defined by the basis of religion, culture or racial essence (Said, 1978, p.322). The Orient is a construction, it is constituted by the West because of the West's political and imaginary interests in the "other". But Orientalism is as much about how the West created itself in the reflection of the East. The East needed to be everything the West wasn't, and vice-versa, and because of the West's tradition of sovereignty and speaking for the East, this anti-thesis of the West could develop. Because the West needed an other in which to reflect themselves, the East was seen as static, backward and irrational. These stigmas allowed the West to believe itself to be progressive, modern and rational. According to Said, the West managed to succeed with a hegemonic idea of superiority because it could, because it was stronger than the East and because the East didn't resist. So he claims (Said, 1978, p.207). Said emphasises that these images of the East are not merely "an airy European fantasy" but a "created body of theory and practice in which, for many generations, there has been a considerable material investment" (Said, 1978, p.6). As I will discuss later, my argument is that airy fantasies and considerable material investments are not disconnected from each-other. The background for fantasies of Asia in the West have been and still are material investments which cause these fantasies to have real effects.
The idea of orientalism is that the East has been produced and managed politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively by the West. Said's explains orientalism as made up of several intertwined things. First of all orientalism is an academic term that describes the work of scholars; anthropologists, philosophers and historians who are engaged in the East.
Secondly orientalism is a line of thought that is based on an epistemological and ontological dichotomy between East and West. This dichotomy is particularly visible in the arts, where writers, painters and poets dealt with the Orient in a way that always, more or less obviously, has been built on an idea of difference. This implies a fundamental difference in custom and mind between Europeans and the peoples of the East. According to Said, the humanities have usually and wrongly been seen as a "true" and un-political science with little real influence on political matters (Said, 1978, p.9). In Orientalism he identifies the humanities, especially literature, as a crucial ingredient of Western hegemonic sovereignty over the East. It is probably one of the most important aspects of Said's work that he includes the political significance of the arts and their role in colonial history. Although Said is mainly pre-occupied with the 18th century arts, such as the work of the French novelist Flaubert, his argument still has relevance in pointing out the influence of contemporary popular culture on the emphasis of cultural difference. It is transferable to what is happening in the culture industry today and its hegemonic influence on the way people think.
The third point is a more historical and material point, and is concerned with the institutional relations to the East; the colonial ruling of the East. Said describes this as "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient " (Said:1978.3).
Orientalism is an important book because of its critical accounts of the development of the dichotomy between East and West. Said's force is that he sees the hegemonic powers that have developed this dichotomy in many different discourses, political, scientifically and as a product of the arts. However, the drawback of Orientalism, is that it fails in seeing the Orient as anything but passive and almost only existing through the interests of the West. The East has no agency of its own. Said claims that "in discussions of the Orient, the Orient is all absence, whereas one feels the Orientalist and what he says as presence; yet we must not forget that the Orientalist's presence is enabled by the Orient's effective absence." In his quest for seeking out the unfair and bad image of the East, Said does not include the fact that the Orient is also a place on its own and that although its has been ruled, (mis)represented, and abused, what Said defined as the East or the 'other' still - and probably especially because of that - has a voice and a will to speak back. As I mentioned in the introduction, a counter-hegemonic discourse of Eastern stereotyping can actively be used as a strategy for resistance against subordination. I am suggesting that even if the East didn't resist colonial subordination directly, as Said says, that does not exclude resistance or imply that the East is passive.
Orientalism has received a lot of criticism, in particular regarding the passiveness of the East, not least from 'other' scholars such as Homi Bhabha, Aijaz Ahmad and Gayatri Spivak. They have been some of the most vocal critics of Orientalism and questioned Said for oversimplifying the division between a dominant West and a subordinate East as a relationship of active and passive, of imperial villain and unresisting victim. Homi Bhabha has criticised Said for his unidirectional concept of colonialism. Said's emphasis on the West as the active bully and the East as the passive victim, unifies the subjects in the power relationship. Bhabha argues that Said promotes a static model of colonial relations that leaves no space for negotiation or change.
In this regard, Bhabha finds Said's use of Foucault's concept of power and discourse problematic, because for Foucault power-relations are not as symmetrical and dialectical as Said presents them (Bhabha,1994:72). Foucault's idea is that power comes from everywhere and refuses to see the subjects in a relation of master/slave or self/other. It is far more complex than that. As Ahmad (1994) argues, the East is capable of more than being an innocent victim and claims that Orientalism has taken the ability to resist away from the East.
Ahmad (1994) protests about the uncompromising denunciation of the whole of the Western civilisation Said presents in Orientalism. According to Ahmad, there is nothing at all outside of an orientalist discourse in Said's universe, in which the West is corrupt and the East is innocent. The orientalist discourse contains no class, gender, or history and no sign of resistance or any form of accumulated projects of human liberation (Ahmad,1994:165). Said's orientalist discourse seems in Ahmad's critique to be as static and inflexible as orientalism itself.
Ahmad's critique is especially pointed at the 'Third-Worldist passion' Orientalism expresses (and which he also finds within metropolitan academia) in which orientalism is an un-selfcritical "narrative of European guilt and non-European innocence" (Ahmad, 1994:169). The uncompromising nature of Said's orientalism (which is also applicable to Inden's Imagining India, 1990) has placed the East as so innocent and passive that it's own cruelties - Ahmad's examples are the bloodbaths conducted at the time of Partition and the caste system - are presented as products of colonialism. In a sarcastic note he explains; "How comforting such visions of one's own primal and permanent innocence are one can well imagine, because given what actually goes on in our own countries, we do need a great deal of comforting" (Ahmad,1994:166-167). By so stringently separating West and East and for dividing them into roles of corrupter and innocent victim, which Ahmad criticises Said and Third Worldist cultural nationalism for, all forms of agency on the part of the East is taken away. In this line of thought Ahmad suggest that Marxism, which historically has given sustenance to anti-imperialist movements can be dismissed as "a child of orientalism and an accomplice of British colonialism" (Ahmad, 1994:166). The presumably good-hearted critique of colonial subordination is, in Ahmad's view, also ignoring the agency and resistance from the East.
This is also the critique from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. She sees Said's dichotomization as pacifying subalterns and not acknowledging that they have a voice too. According to Spivak, Said does not seem to recognise the power of counter-hegemonic strategies for a subaltern resistance. At least it is being ignored in Orientalism. However, she acknowledges that colonial discourse after Orientalism has "blossomed into a garden where the marginal can speak and be spoken for. It is an important (and beleaguered) part of the discipline now" (Spivak,1993:56).
Keeping these critiques in mind, Orientalism can, however, still be seen as a useful tool with which to examine what is going on in a post-colonial setting. It does have a continuing political actuality that is transferable to temporary cultural currents in cosmopolitan societies. The concept of multiculturalism has been under much scrutiny, amongst scholars, as to whether the concept is as benevolent and vibrant as it seems on the surface - a perk of a world of ever increasing ppossibilities of travel and information. Or whether multiculturalism is just a nicer word for a continuing orientalism.
In the article 'From primitivism to ethnic arts', by Rasheed Araeen (1991), an 'other' artist living in London, the author questions the celebration of ethnic arts in the contemporary art world. His argument is that the Western subordination of the East, as Said described in Orientalism, is still prevalent in the 20th century. The worry is that this is being reinforced by "well-meaning socialists and art institutions" who want to celebrate multiculturalism (Araeen, 1991:179). What is not realised, according to Araeen, is that the fascination and admiration for exotica that is being promoted in Britain today are actually coming from essentialised and racist theories very similar to those Said describes.
Araeen's critique is also concerned, with the fact that 'other' artists, like himself, cannot escape their culture in their work as artists. Their culture always sticks to their work as a tag of 'oriental' or 'ethnic' art, whereas the work of Western artists can be acknowledged as 'modernist' or 'post-modernist' art. The labelling of ethnic arts and primitivism is, according to Araeen, a function of colonial discourse. The 'other' is seen as victim of timelessness, of a static condition who needs to be rescued by the West and put into museums for the sake of humanity (Araeen, 1991:160).
It's doubtful whether museum curators and well meaning socialists necessarily have to be accused of intentional racism. However, Araeen does raise an important point in his article, and shows that the attitude towards ethnic art in Britain, however benevolent and celebratory it seems, is still emphasising difference. And through this exoticising and objectifying, the notion of the 'other' is kept alive. Again, having notions of the 'other' is not the problem. It is the uncritical way this 'other' is being exoticised and represented in the pursuit of market interests, the 'other' is reduced to an 'exotic spectacle' (a discussion I will return to in chapter 6)
In the next chapter I will look at how the exoticising effect is lived out in the name of multiculturalism. The celebration of multiculturalism emphasises multitudes of possibilities of all sorts of exotic experiences - in your own hometown. However, this idea seems to address a mythic multiculti cosmopolitan life-style that includes only a small privileged group in society.
The effects of post-colonialism, globalisation, travelling etc, and the accompanying movement/displacement of people into diasporas, exile and ex-patriotism offer large spaces or fields for new fusioned cultural ideas to emerge. This is primarily evident in the major cities of the world, where the intermingling of people with different cultural backgrounds living in the same urban space, becomes a playground for the invention and creative expression of new hybrid cultures and ideas. But this cultural playground is as much a battlefield for equal rights and the difficulties of living together.
Urban landscapes in most parts of the world are a patchwork, a mix-and-match of elements and people from different cultural backgrounds, and it is this which is often being celebrated as the quirky and interesting landscape of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism celebrates the fascinating idea and vast possibilities of eating Chinese food for lunch, speaking into Japanese cell-phones, watching Iranian films in the afternoon and dancing to Cuban salsa-music in the evening. However, this idea of multiculturalism is often little more than an entertaining possibility reserved for the more privileged in society and rarely has the same beneficial and luxuriant potential for the 'exotic others' in society. The celebration of multiculturalism may have enhanced awareness of alternative lifestyles, but on a larger national political scale it has not proven to be a useful alternative or corrective to attitudes of difference and racism. Britain is at one and the same time the most multicultural country in Europe as one of the most racist countries in Europe, where institutional racism is one of the major problems. Multiculturalism is unfortunately not synonymous with inter-cultural harmony. It still thrives on stereotypes and following Araeen's argument, discussed earlier, a continuation of racist and orientalist lines of thought. The fickle nature of multiculturalism is poignantly commented on by Salman Rushdie (1991:137). who describes multiculturalism as a new catchword that means little more than "teaching the kids at school a few bongo rhythms, how to tie a sari and so forth." He continues to say that multiculturalism in the police (in England) means "telling cadets that black people are so 'culturally different' that they can't help making trouble". Multiculturalism is a catchword developed out of a fascination with and admiration for exoticism. It sounds good, but more needs to be done than to celebrate difference, especially in a society that has witnessed so many black and Asian deaths in custody since 1969 and where none of the police officers accused of the killings have been charged.
One of the pitfalls of so-called multicultural societies, is that the concept often thrives on stereotyped, fragmented and essentialised versions of other places. It is tempting to say, as does the "global soul" Pico Iyer (2000:248) that, England looks more American, more European, more Asian - more everything but its old self - and that meant that the food was better, the culture livelier, and the grudges were buried under a new glossy sheen; everything, including the colors was richer than before. He continues to describe the change of the old country; To some extent, the island was being forced to grow less insular, more tolerant to a whole world streaming into it (the Empire in reverse), and anyone who wanted to say, as Nancy Mitford had not untypically done, "Abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends" had to do so now sotto voce.
Undoubtedly the vibrant colours and varieties of tastier food leave a glossier sheen on the underlying realities of multicultural cities. But it is exactly the glossy sheen of a shallow celebration of things that is immediately visible, like ethnic restaurants and a livelier exotic culture that leads in an unfortunate way to continued notions of difference and stereotype. Iyer's evocation of multiculture and its positive changes to old England is not unwelcome in itself. It is the way that notions of multiculturalism skate safely on the glossy surfaces of a spiced-up England ignoring the politics of a globalised society that is worrying. In celebrating the surface of multiculturalism other and more prevalent issues are vigorously obscured. Rather than only celebrating the virtues of multiculturalism, a more critical approach would be welcome for making a difference in the existence of stereotyping - and at times neo-orientalism - that prevail in many multicultural societies.
In Iyer's book The Global Soul, the author describes the world seen from airport lounges and overexposes the world of so-called "cosmopolitans" who spend more time in the air than any fixed place on earth. Iyer describes a fascinating pulverised notion of space in which rootless people, who in their pursuit of work or love or adventure, have no fixed address apart from their e-mail address (Iyer, 2000:170). The problem with the global soul as Iyer describes it, is that it belongs to the very few who are privileged enough to have a choice of giving up connection and belonging or to exchange it for new dot.com tribes based in cyberspace rather than actual space.
One of the myths of globalisation of which Iyer's global soul is part, is that people no longer need to be connected to a specific place on earth. Along with the idea of a multiculturalist society of endless possibilities, exists a myth of the free-floating cosmopolitan nomads who in their embracing of the world have been detached from the nation state. According to geographer David Harvey, the kind of detachment from the nation state which the new cosmopolitanism apparently signifies, is seen by many, in particular Martha Nussbaum, as a Kantian "unifying vision for democracy". This vision opposes itself to local loyalties and nationalism and welcomes the new cosmopolitanism as a set of loyalties to humanity as a whole rather than restricted to the nation.
Immanuel Kant probably didn't have the imagination to foresee a world of global souls in the sense Iyer describes. In his political writings, Kant wrote about a cosmopolitanism that eventually would embrace all citizens of the world in a perpetual peace where everyone is equal and difference effaced. Cosmopolitanism did in Kant's thoughts not entail a dis-connection to nations, but an international society of hospitality and co-operation. Kant saw cosmopolitanism as the last step of perfection to a civil society of perpetual peace (Kant, 1991:38). The ideology behind Kant's idea of a cosmopolitan civil society in which nations can exist together in peace, is a condition of universal hospitality, where every stranger has a right to "not being treated as an enemy in the country in which he arrives" (Kant, 1932:35-36). Kant's belief in the fulfilment of his cosmopolitan utopia is that nature - the guarantee of this treaty (Kant, 1932:39) - previously has proven to overpower the weakness of man. The cause for the difficulties of fulfilling a cosmopolitan society is of course the nature of man. The human being has his own egoistic interests and a desire for power which has caused wars and hatred. But seeing that in smaller societies man has been able to succumb his own interest for the interests of a society, theoretically it would also be possible for nations to overcome their own interests so as to come together in the cosmopolitan goal of universal hospitality. The cosmopolitan goal is not a natural end but the rational endpoint for human history. Kant's prepositions demonstrate a universal humanity in which natural capacities for reason can be developed in the species of man, but not in the individual (Kant, 1991:42);"and this encourages the hope that after many revolutions, with all their transforming effects, the highest purpose of nature, a universal cosmopolitan existence, will at last be released as the matrix within which all the original capacities of the human race may develop"(Kant,1991:51).
Although a set of beautiful thoughts in the name of humanity, the largest obstacle for Kant's prediction of a cosmopolitan society being more than a utopian suggestion, is its ignorance of cultural differences. Kant's propositions are only possible as long as every nation adopt the same kind of liberal republican constitution which he finds the most egalitarian and democratic (Kant, 1932:24). This kind of cosmopolitanism can only become a reality if we all share a universal sameness and efface cultural and political differences. One of the main problems with the visibility of Asia in multicultural cities - especially London - is the pervasiveness of cultural differences that especially the culture industry maintains. What Kant's utopia suggests is however not the solution. Cultural difference is not the problem, it is the hierarchical difference between a rational "West" and a magical seductive "East" that the fantasised visibility of Asia and multiculturalism celebrates and which resembles Said's orientalism that is problematic. Living together in a world of actually existing cosmopolitans is not about erasing cultural differences which Kant suggests, but about being critical about the way difference is being represented.
Kant's ideology seems to have followers among contemporary scholars such as Martha Nussbaum which has caused critics of her and others who share this idea of a democratic nation-detached vision to suggest it to be an expression of neo-liberalism. The free-floating, un-attached cosmopolitan riding on the waves of multi-national liberal market forces has been compared to Marx's description of the bourgeoisie in The Communist Manifesto who has "through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country" (Marx and Engels, 1998:17). According to her critics, the vision for democracy Nussbaum speaks for relies on neo-liberal market forces to accommodate global capitalism. However, according to Bruce Robbins (1998), capitalism is not necessarily equal to being detached from the nation state, in other words cosmopolitanism and capitalism do not necessarily go hand in hand in a simple way. Anti-cosmopolitans have assumed that capitalism is a destroyer of collectivity, but Robbins' argument is that attachment to collective identities is actually a very good idea for capitalism. The profit motive leads corporations to strategically distinguish and nourish collectivities (any kind of imagined collectivity) which they can target with their products thus, "capital may be cosmopolitan, but that does not make cosmopolitanism into an apology for capitalism" (Robbins, 1998:8)
Kant's cosmopolitanism is a reminder to the fact that the idea of a cosmopolitan society is not a post-modern phenomenon and being cosmopolitan is more rooted than Iyer's version of continually global movement enabled by modern transportation and communication systems. However, neither of these two poles of cosmopolitanism seem to have come up with a really useful definition of what it implies to be a cosmopolitan citizen.
The reality of a world of people in motion does not mean that space has become irrelevant, but that it has been re-territorialised and differently territorialised (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991; Robbins, 1998). The existence of fast and relatively cheap communication and transport allows collectivity, solidarity and identity to continue and thrive without face to face contact. But the world of travel, migration and communication does not need to compensate or replace attachments to localised space.
Bruce Robbins punctures the myth of the free floating detached cosmopolitan in his essay 'Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism' (1998). He argues that the alternative to cosmopolitanism is not a romantic idea of strongly rooted belonging, as he claims the leftist critics of global capitalism idealise, because actually existing cosmopolitanism is not about detachment from the nation state, but "a reality of (re)attachment, multiple attachment, or attachment at a distance" (Robbins, 1998:3). The reality of a globalised world is that people are not connected to "a" place, but to multiple places, "causally if not always consciously, including many that we have never travelled to, that we have perhaps only seen on television - including the place where the television was manufactured" (Robbins, 1998:3).
A generalised condition of homelessness
The reason for including a discussion on cosmopolitanism in this thesis, is that in a post-colonial society a lot of people are - to use Robbins' term - "actually existing cosmopolitans", connected to multiple places. In this context cosmopolitanism should neither be understood as an adequate term for describing the privileged few who spend most of their time in transit waiting to go from one metropolis to the other, with no other attachment than a modem and a mobile phone connection, nor as a new neo-liberal democratic vision, a loyalty to humanity assumed to be an alternative to any kind of rooted-ness or cultural belonging. Instead I suggest to classify cosmopolitanism as Bruce Robbins idea of actual existing cosmopolitans, people who have or are crossing borders and people who live in so called multicultural cities and are attached and identify themselves with two or more (imagined) localities.
In a final note in the essay "Diasporas", James Clifford argues for a diaspora discourse that includes non-Western and "not-only Western" models for cosmopolitan life in an attempt to avoid the notion of business class cosmopolitanism (Clifford, 1997:277).
By using the prefix "actually existing" to cosmopolitanism, my aim is to include in the idea of cosmopolitanism a larger group of people actually living in motion and which transgresses gender, race and ethnicity; migrants, ex-patriates, people in diaspora, travellers, "not-only Westerners" etc., instead of just describing the myth of privileged high flying global souls.
The generalised condition of homelessness that Said describes as the fate of post-modernity, should in a post-colonial society rather be replaced with a general sense of multiple homes. Maybe the two do not actually exclude the other?
However, the word "general" should be used carefully. Although more and more people travel and move around globally, and people who don't move experience new groups of people moving into their homelands, there is still a very large part of the worlds population who never move and who do not experience this condition of multiple homes.
For Indians living in the diaspora as well as for British people living in England, the sense of belonging and the idea of homeland is not as unambiguous as the convenient fiction of fixed identities within geographical spaces that classical anthropology suggests. The presence of an Indian-ness in Britain, whether this "Indian-ness" is fantasised or not, is a reality that is prominent in society; art, music, film, food, faces in the street, at work, next door etc. Apart from the grey drizzle, some places in London have a cunning resemblance to Bombay and vice versa. However, as I will argue later, parts of the Indian presence in Britain and in other parts of the Western world have been exaggerated and orientalised for the sake of a commercialisation which has produced a skewed idea of an Indian presence in the West.
The convenient fiction that maps cultures into places and people (e.g. England is where the English live, India is where the Indians live) (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991) is a fiction that does not apply to the world of today, and probably never did. The fiction was convenient as a way of describing the world within academia, and then adapted to everyday life as a straightforward way of making sense of the world. The reality of today's world is that large parts of the worlds population live in diasporas, in exile, have migrated or moved because of all sorts of reasons, self-chosen or not. Clifford describes this condition as a world where syncretism and parodic invention have become the rule rather than the exception, where everyone's "roots" are in some degree cut, and therefore it has become "increasingly difficult to attach human identity and meaning to a coherent 'culture'" (Clifford, 1988:95).
Gupta and Ferguson (1991) set out to challenge the classical anthropological assumption that cultural identity is coherent with space/place. Their aim is to set up a way of re-thinking the idea of cultural identity as a fixed entity closely connected to space. Personally I think it has been a while since anthropologists unreservedly embraced that assumption, and the fear of using the word "culture" as an essentialised notion seems a bit paranoid, presuming that most anthropologists ought to know that the term is multi-dimensional, contestable and processual rather than essential - "never given but must be negotiated" (Clifford, 1988:273). Because there is life outside of representation, the real problem with the concept of culture is not the one found within anthropological representations, it is when it is being used as a pre-given un-contested entity to justify social hegemony and oppression. That is when it can have violent consequences as for example in the Balkan war where cultural, ethnic and religious identities were exaggerated and reduced in the pursuit of exclusion and scapegoating.
However, the Foucaultian discourse of the relation between knowledge and power should not be ignored in this context. The creators of cultural knowledge (specifically having anthropologists in mind) do to a certain extent posses the power of changing the representations of culture as a fixed entity connected to a fixed space. In writing monographs and organising the world into convenient cultural maps in the name of, or sometimes explicitly in the employ of imperialism, anthropologists described cultural identities as essentialised. So in that sense Gupta and Ferguson do have a point in the need for challenging and rethinking the anthropological notion of the relationship between space and identity.
The premise that Gupta and Ferguson set out is that the world has never consisted of inherently fragmented spaces but has always been "hierarchically interconnected" (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:35). Instead of assuming that each place has an autonomous identity as a community, Gupta and Ferguson turn the focus onto the hierarchical power relations of interconnected places which creates the idea of fixed identities. In this view, the process that forms the idea of fixed identities can be seen as partly a part of colonial history, which is also Said's point in Orientalism. To maintain a hierarchical relation between different places, it is crucial to enforce a hegemonic idea of a fixed communal identity which differs from other communities - in a hierarchical order. A community's identity is always based on difference from others, and in a colonial setting, to maintain the hierarchical top space of the coloniser, the identity of the colonised is hegemonically forced by the coloniser to be weaker, more backwards and more irrational than the coloniser.
By encouraging a re-thinking of the convenient fictions, Gupta and Ferguson aim for an anthropology that avoids essentialised notions of space and identity but which explores historical processes of the construction of difference (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:46) of which the orientalism that Said explores, is a part.
That the 'convenient fiction' of spaces and people is just that - a fiction - is indicated in the way space is imagined and fantasised about in the minds of people, most literally in actually existing cosmopolitans. As more and more people live somewhere else than where they believe "home" is, more and more different versions of culture and "homelands" are imagined rather than experienced. There is a disconnection between places, people and cultures, as discussed above, and in the distance between place and people, exists a place for imagination and fantasy.
Imaginations of places are not only confined to distant places. Benedict Anderson's main point in Imagined Communities (1991) is to show that even the communities you live your everyday life in - and his main focus is the nation state - are imagined. They are imagined because although the inhabitants of a community will never know or meet most of their fellow citizens, the existence of these is never questioned.
However, the imagination of lost, left and remembered places are often more pronounced or distorted. More than the immediate experience a person at home can have of his or her homeland, a person away from home experiences their homeland through film, novels, letters and more or less distant memories. Both homelands are imagined, but the person who is away is more reluctant to develop an imagination that does not get interrupted by the face of reality. A person away is more capable of having a selective memory because he or she is not liable to be reminded of facts that contradict those memories.
The novelist Salman Rushdie describes the state of being a displaced Indian in England as one haunted by a sense of loss and the urge to look back and reclaim the memories of the India that has been left. In doing so, he must also be aware that in looking back something is lost and it is impossible to reclaim precisely what used to be, instead what is reclaimed is a nostalgic fiction, "not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind" (Rushdie, 1991:10). As it is the case with the many other Indians living in England or outside of India, Rushdie's version of India is as he calls it "my India.... no more than one version of all the hundreds of millions of possible versions" (Ibid.). To come to terms with a world that doesn't fit the convenient fiction of fixed cultures in fixed spaces, Rushdie suggests that fantasy or the mingling of fantasy and naturalism is a useful way of dealing with the world. I think he means this in a double sense, both as a writer and as a person living in a diaspora. In both senses fantasies come in helpful either in describing the world, as the writer does, or in understanding and making meaning of the world, as the displaced Indian needs to do. The fantasy, or the fiction of India is of course never completely made up, but relies on memory, stories told, stereotypical notions of what India represents, pictures, film and TV and mixed together makes a personal version of India.
The paradox of a society of actually existing cosmopolitans in an actually existing multicultural context, is that as localisation, for cosmopolitans, becomes less significant physically, the memory and the imagination of place become stronger - and the fantasies of distant places are given free rein. As people are living abroad, the idea of "homeland" becomes an important anchor and the sentiments towards a lost homeland or the relations to other people from that place may be exaggerated or distorted.
One of the strongest producers of distortion is of course the media. The power of the media is its ability to create a more or less blurred line between fantasy and reality. Even though this blurring may not be a deliberate attempt, the way people perceive images and stories on screen can distort a sense of reality and enforce a sense of imagined places. Via satellite or the massive exportation of videotapes, especially of Hindi films to the Indian diaspora, a make-believe notion of homeland which is a more romanticised idea can be kept alive.
According to Anderson, one of the most important factors in the sustenance of imagined communities is the role of the print media. The mass production of newspapers and the simultaneously reading of them by the inhabitants of the nation state gives them a sense of shared experiences (Anderson, 1999:35). Anderson's focus point is the building and maintenance of the nation-state. To go beyond Anderson's nation state and into the sphere of the "differently territorialised" world, it is interesting to see how the contemporary media which more and more is taking over the print media ( i.e. satellite TV, video export, mass production of film and the internet) makes it possible for people scattered all over the world to maintain a sense of shared experience.
The further away people are from the experiences on screen the more likely they are to create imagined worlds. These imagined worlds from the media are, according to Arjun Appadurai "chimerical, aesthetic, even fantastic objects" (Appadurai, 1990:299). However chimerical and fantastic these images on the screen are, they do contain realistic effects of longing and identity construction. In some cases, especially within the Indian cinema the fictions on the screen have real political consequences because they, according to Appadurai, are capable of overwhelming and undermining the rhetoric of national politics. For example, he suggests that the myth of the law breaking hero in popular Indian cinema has influenced Indian politics to become increasingly corrupt (Appadurai, 1990:305). Another example of how powerful the media is in India, is the kidnapping of the Indian film-actor Rajkumar in July 2000, where the bandit Veerappan rightly thought the kidnapping of a major film star would cause more attention than any politician (those who are supposed to posses real power). I will go into a further discussion in chapter 5 on the Bollywood film industry as a producer of myths and fantasies.
The disconnection of places, people and cultures not only changes the world surrounding the people who have physically moved, but also the world for the people already living in the "new" place. The experience of displacement is in a somewhat different extent also felt by people who have stayed in familiar places, as new groups of people move in and as the lines becomes blurred between "here" and "there" and between colony and metropole (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:38).
Post-colonialism and globalisation have made Britain a cosmopolitan society that no longer matches the idea of an old England of five o'clock tea and green meadows. Not that this idea of England wasn't always also a myth and an imagined place. Iyer describes the idea of England as a metaphor for an unattainable woman who's doorstep people with illusions of England arrive at, only to find out she's given herself to some mobster from Las Vegas (Iyer, 2000:236). He doesn't mean this in a misogynist or negative sense, that England has given itself away, but that the ideal of England that is imagined, at home and from afar, cannot keep up with its idealisation. "Englishness" may now refer more to an imagined state of being and England more to a moral location than to an actual place (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:38), because the contemporary England (and in particular London) is just as much "Jamaican", "Hindu", "Muslim", "Chinese" etc as "English". The notion of England is likely to be most salient anywhere but England, as an Indian character in Iyer's Global Soul puts it: The only true English people you'll find now are born abroad - maybe because they share our romance of England, and don't know quite what the reality is. They're much closer to the good qualities of England, at least as I imagine them, than anyone in England is (Iyer, 2000:237).
Multicultural cities, like London, New York, Sydney etc., are in their position as hosts to a cosmopolitan population, probably less than anywhere in the world, prone to provide its inhabitants of a national identity in a sense of "English-ness", "American-ness" or "Australian-ness". Gayatri Spivak, herself an Indian scholar living in New York, has claimed that she would call herself a New Yorker, but never an American despite having lived in the US for more than 30 years.
The multitudes of possible ethnic and cultural backgrounds in cosmopolitan cities gives them an air of alienation - for good and worse - in the sense that no one really belongs there, yet no one is actually a stranger. The lack of a hegemonic cultural and national identity and the alienation of the big city, provide people with possibilities of creativity and self-invention in identity construction. A lot of people in multicultural cities have "roots" or imagined belongings to several places, either through movement or through family, which enables them to identity themselves with a re-invention of several different cultures. People might identify themselves as Jewish or Cuban because one or two of their parents are Jewish or Cuban, although they have never themselves been to Israel or Cuba. Or, as I will illustrate below in one of my case studies, second-generation South Asians in Britain maintain a strong sense of belonging to India or Pakistan although they have been born and brought up in Britain and never left the country.
And while waiting and hoping to return to the "imagined homeland", the cosmopolitan city provides copies and simulacra versions of those homelands. Culture is in cosmopolitan cities continually re-invented, copied and fantasised in what Gupta and Ferguson calls a "dazzling array of postcolonial simulacra, doublings and redoublings, as India and Pakistan seem to reappear in postcolonial simulation in London, prerevolution Teheran rises from the ashes in Los Angeles" (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:38). James Clifford calls these doublings and re-doublings, parodic inventions (Clifford, 1988:95). The affix 'parodic' is added because of the exaggerated identity these 'other' places often express in a new setting. It is necessary for Chinatowns to be more Chinese than any town in China to express a Chinese identity amongst other cultural identities. They become parodic and hyper-Chinese. These hyper-cities or parodic inventions are not only confined to doublings of 'other' and far-away places. The imagination of a place is also happening at home. The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas describes the contemporary city all over the world as generic. Cities are all the same, build and used to fit the same needs of its citizens. As cities become more generic the identities of these cities become meaningless, either they disappear or become an imagined caricature of themselves - unable to expand or innovate itself. Koolhaas names London as an example of a city that is perpetually becoming less London, more open and less static (perhaps because of its "dazzling array of postcolonial simulacra, doublings and redoublings" (Gupta and Ferguson, 1991:38). Unlike Paris that doesn't expand its identity, but becomes more and more Parisian, and re-invents and re-generates its Parisian identity and becomes hyper-Parisian. A parodic invention of itself. Or a polished caricature of Paris (Koolhaas,1995: 1248). The identity of a city becomes like a mantra repeated over and over again; Rome and its ancient-ness, Sydney and its harbour placement, Amsterdam and its canals and so on. "This thinning (of history and cultural identity; red.) is exacerbated by the constantly increasing mass of tourists, an avalanche that, in a perpetual quest for "character," grinds successful identities down to meaningless dust" (Koolhaas, 1995:1248).
Meanwhile on the other side of town, "Imaginary homelands" are re-appearing and re-invented in small pockets of the city. Again Chinatowns, which do not resemble any part of contemporary China, but rather an equally fantasised mix of exoticism for the western audience and romantic nostalgia for diasporic Chinese people. A similar whiff of exotica is Brick Lane in East London. It used to be an old Jewish rag-trade area which has undergone several transformations over the years, first with the emergence of Bengalis from Pakistan and Bangladesh after the partition, then young artists and designers moved in because of the low rent and "trendified" the Asian area which made it the hot-spot for the Asian underground music scene to develop, and lately an invasion of yuppies have moved in, which has sky raised the rent by re-furbishing loftspaces into expensive flats. The main part of Brick Lane today is an eclectic mix of cheap curry houses, sari shops, galleries and bars, where westerners go for the exotic foreign-ness of the place and Bengalis buy their groceries and cheap long-distance phone cards.
Parodic inventions of "other" places in multicultural cities do to a certain extent thrive on an orientalist idea in that they resemble timeless, essentialised and fantasised notions of these other places. For example the curved lacquered rooftops and dragons in Chinatown that resemble a long lost and mythic China and functions as exotica for some and an imagined idea and nostalgia of a lost homeland for others.
However, although these parodic spaces in multicultural cities can be accused for being an orientalist and essentialised place for a taste of mystic Asia, it is important to realise that they, parodic or not, represent an important symbolic anchor to imagined homelands. In an article about Vietnamese refugees in Melbourne, Terry Threadgold describes Victoria Street (a Vietnamese part of town), as a "place for cosmo-multicultural culinary experiments and visual delights, a foreign place" for "us" whereas for "them" it is a remade an translated space "full of metonymies for Vietnam, smells, tastes, sights and urban geographies which make them feel at home" (Threadgold, 2000:207).
Even though localised culture gets translated, copied and imagined in the distance between people and place, the importance of cultural backgrounds for identifying the self doesn't disappear in the crossing of borders. I have discussed whether place and culture ever did go together as classical anthropology so conveniently represented it, and looked at how post-colonialism and globalisation have re-territorialised the notion of space and made people cosmopolitans, attached to multiple spaces in complex ways. In this post-colonial and globalised state of re-territorialisation, imagination and fantasy have become a necessary alternative for "the real thing" (which is also imagined as Anderson points out). What I want to emphasise is that especially in multicultural cities, simulacra and parodic inventions have substituted homelands which point out that authenticity is not crucial, as long as the copies/fantasies can provide symbolic anchors and a ground on which identification can unfold.
However, although these parodic inventions of places can serve as symbolic anchors for some, the effect of the process of essentialising places should not be under-estimated as merely a way of cultural survival in a post-modern world.
This leads me to the next chapter, in which I will discuss the creativity in identity construction in cosmopolitan landscapes, where people more or less are capable of creating a meaningful way of life regardless of authenticity in their roots or belongings, but which unfortunately also resembles a continuation of orientalist discourses in the way the West essentialises and appropriates the East in its own interests.
"The seduction lay in the chaos. They thought they were simple. We thought they were neon. They thought we were profound. We knew we were provincial. Everybody thought everybody else was ridiculously exotic and everybody got it wrong." - Gita Mehta in Karma Kola (1993)
In the following section I will look at and discuss how India is being represented and mis-represented in the West on very accessible levels of everyday life (accessible in the sense that they are highly visible through all spheres of society) through four case studies and through one of the most influential products of the culture industry, film. The case studies I use are of four people, living in London and who exemplify the cosmopolitan and differently territorialised way of constructing a self identity. Two of them are English, one is American and one is half Pakistani, half Indian, according to their passports. What they feel they are, is quite different. They all have a sense of belonging to India although only one of them is born of Indian parents - and he has never been outside of England. The four cases, Rati and Dwijanani - Hare Krishna devotees - Roshni - a second generation South Asian and Tobias a taxi driver of "Karma Kabs" represent the kind of cosmopolitans who are capable of creating a self-made hybrid sense of identity from various different cultures and fantasies of such, available in multicultural cities.
The relationship these people have to India has a profound influence on the way they identify themselves. However what I aim to show with these case studies, is how the eclecticism and arbitrariness of a (multiply attached) cosmopolitan identification process, together with the strong influence of a global market selling exotic fantasies, especially in the form of film, adapts residues of orientalist thinking.
The four people I interviewed all have a fantastic perception of what India is. According to some of their expressions, it is a place full of spirituality, of happy glowing people, it's like a lagoon (that's just got a few bubbles and a bit of rubbish on the top), it's delicious, it is a living, dying fantasy full of music and culture. They call this fairy-tale place India, just like that big subcontinent in South Asia, ex-British colony, home to almost a billion people - most of them far under the poverty limit, a nuclear power, with a modern software industry- but what's fantastic about that?
Sure there is a part of India that is more "exotic" and more "glamorous" than the larger picture of India - poverty, war, nuclear-weapons and all - and which immediately catches the attention of visitors. This is the India of ancient religions, temples, hangouts for freaks - as Tobias the karma kab driver tells us - and one of the largest film industries in the world, that glintzes and glitters and provides viewers in India and in the Indian diaspora with exotica, erotica, glamour and beautiful people with voices and hearts of gold - all the things dreams are made of.
Although it can be argued - and I will argue this - that the India the four informants speak of is a very stereotypical and reduced idea of India, what I would call a neo-orientalist idea of India, their "Indian-ness" or relationship with India has a profound meaning to themselves and has a fundamental role in their sense of self. Therefore it would be unfair to completely dismiss their conception of India as untrue and fantasised, seeing that it does make sense to them and it functions as what I earlier described as a symbolic anchor of belonging.
Rati is a 28 year old North American now living in London. She has been a Hare Krishna devotee since the age of six, when her mother moved to New York and joined the temple there; "Immediately I loved it. You can imagine that as a six-year old girl I thought the saris were beautiful, the deities were beautiful and I loved the singing and dancing."
Her devotion to the Hare Krishna religion has developed since then, and she now spends most of her free time outside her day-time job as Anna - a beauty consultant, as Rati - a Hare Krishna devotee, studying the Bhagavad Gita, spending time in the two Hare Krishna temples in London and wearing traditional Indian Saris and bindis. She mantra-meditates two hours every day "to release the mind from all of the anxieties and stresses of the material world."
Rati has been to India once, for three weeks. She says that all Hare Krishna devotees try to go to India at least once, as a kind of pilgrimage. To her it made "such a difference" to see with her own eyes, what she had read about in the Bhagavad Gita.
The most "eye-opening" experience however for Rati, was to see how people "actually lived".
People were "very, very poor, but at the same time they were very happy, which I thought was really amazing. Because in the West - in London, we often think that in order to be happy, you often have to have a lot of material possessions. But here were these people, who had basically nothing on the material level. But because they had that inner peace and inner happiness you could just see their faces were glowing."
Dwijanani is also a Hare Krishna devotee. He is in his early thirties, he wears his hair cropped except for a longer wisp on the top of his head and has been a member of the Hare Krishna community since 13 years ago when he moved to London from North England and joined the temple. Although Dwijanani has been to India a few times, he seems to have a very fixed idea of what India is "supposed" to be like. He has found India disappointing and was shocked to experience how westernised it is; "It wasn't the India I expected. When you walk out of the airport you're expecting to be greeted by this idyllic, wonderful, spiritual place, but all you're met with is a barrage of Taxis." He says that he has since learned how to "avoid the rubbish and get the real India, but there is a real knack to it".
In the interview, he expresses his disappointment at the way India has sold its soul to the West and that it hasn't been able to maintain, what he believes, is a true India of idyllic spirituality. Instead, he finds that India seems to be polluted by materialism and commercialisation.
Tobias is in his mid-fifties. He wears a white pajama kurta and on the day of the interview he had a mehndi tattoo of an Om-sign on his hand. Tobias hitch-hiked to Goa from London in '68 and seems to have left his soul there. When he is not in Goa or Marrakech seeing old friends, he runs a taxi company in London called "Karma Kabs" with the transcendental slogan "Don't call us, just think of us." His three imported Ambassador cars from Calcutta are named Kama Sutra, Sheherazade and the Maharaja, and are lavishly decorated with saris, incense sticks, figures of Hindu Gods and plastic flowers.
Tobias invented Karma Kabs because, as he puts it, wanted to bring "a little bit of Indian magic back to London." Indian magic is, according to him, something that can't be captured on films and books, to understand Indian magic you have to go there and "smell the smells, see the colours and the Himalayas, and feel the spirit and the culture."
Karma Kabs is not just a mode of transport. It's a whole experience of a fantasy trip to India in which Tobias is as much a part of the act. He convincingly plays along the role of the anachronistic hippie spreading love and good karma around him.
However, he keeps an ironic distance to India and the sixties, as when he tells that he stayed in a house on the beach in Goa with "all the other freaks" or claims he had a spiritual experience - his spirit left his body, followed by "you know, back in the sixties, things like that happened."
Although Karma Kabs is a busy business, catering for a privileged group of Londoners paying for a few hours in a magical Ambassador-shaped India, the self-made kitschy kab company, is not all an intended act. Tobias claims that India is a part of his life now, "it's like being bitten by a mosquito. When you go to India you get bitten by India and it's in your blood and in your heart."
Roshni is a second generation South Asian, born of a Pakistani mother and an Indian father in England. He has never been outside of England, but has a strong sense of belonging to an Indian culture of which he only knows through Hindi films. He says that his mother used to take him to the cinema and watch Indian musicals nearly every day when he was little; "I think we (!) all have a bit of Bollywood in us because we've been brought up on Indian films, some of us are proud of it, other people sort of hide it inside."
For Roshni the fascination with Indian cinema has expanded into a job in a night-club for new Asian underground music where he performs in drag as a Bollywood film diva - a part of the "Chutney Queens."
Through film, Roshni seems to have developed a theory of the basic components of Eastern and Western culture; "Western film don't really have music in them, I think the Eastern culture is build up of music. I love Indian music, the rich colours and the dancing. I think we're just full of culture and colours."
Although film seems to be a very influential medium to reflect his Indian cultural background of which he has no actual experience, Roshni is fully aware of the easy seductiveness of the silver screen; "It takes you into its own world. It's like a living, dying fantasy, everybody fantasises to be Amitabh Bachchan or Sri Devi. For a night you go and watch these stars, people go and see these films and dress up in their best clothes. They are all wanna-be's - Roshnis."
Roshni's sense of home is both India and Pakistan. When I asked "How about England?" he answered "England's my home as well, but I think I've been here too long. I've never been abroad, I've never travelled and looking at me you'd probably think I am so rich of culture - which I am. But obviously I need to see it for real."
All four interviewees, Rati, Dwijanani, Tobias and Roshni have idealised and invented ideas of India that fits into their worldview. They are the nostalgic fictions that Rushdie calls "no more than one version of all the hundreds of millions of possible versions" (Rushdie 1991:10) The fact that Roshni is the only "real" South Asian, doesn't make his version of India any less fictitious. His idea of India is one experienced from the big silver screen of Hindi-musicals. His cultural background, which he emphasises ("I am so rich of culture" "it is something to be proud of and it is special") does not justify any more authenticity than Tobias' nostalgic trip to the hippie tourism of the sixties, or Rati and Dwijanani's perception of India as home of spirituality and of freedom from materiality - that is once you pass the barrages of taxis and get into the "real India".
Authenticity is therefore probably not the most useful frame through which to search in this context of who can claim India as their place. The four interviewees are all examples of lives lived in a post-modern world where self-designed identities are a primary way to create meaning. What makes a beauty consultant from New York, a Hare Krishna devotee from Sheffield, and a middle-aged taxi driver from London appear to be as Indian as a drag queen from Birmingham who performs as one of the "Chutney queens" at a trendy Asian underground club? Perhaps these are the composite co-ordinates of a post-modern identity process, in which identity has few significant connections to really existing physical spaces (Gupta & Ferguson, 1991, Appadurai, 1990, Clifford, 1988). The possible permutations of identification seem endless in a world (especially as the world appears in multicultural cities like London) of fleeing motion and travels, both physical travels but also cyber/media ones, which offer all kinds of desirable flavours of life.
The authenticity issue, however, should not be dismissed as an unreflecting alternative way of finding meaning in a what-ever-makes-you-happy multiculti globalised world. It is crucial to look at the processes and the effects of this invention of an essentialised India and to critically comment on the creation of a fantasy land that stems from an actual place that gains very little from its idealised reputation but on the contrary is subjected to a continuation of the orientalist project of representing the West as superior to the East.
But neither should these four people's way of living be totally dismissed as irrational fantasies and make believe, because people do, after all, live facts and not fictions. In his book Mimesis and Alterity (1993), Michael Taussig argues for a way of life that is directed by choice and the permission and freedom to "live reality really made-up" (Taussig, 1993:255). The illusions an anthropological deciphering reveals are after all real people's reality. According to Taussig everybody spends most of their time as "epistemically correct, socially created, and occasionally creative beings" in this "silly if not desperate place between the real and the really made-up" (Taussig, 1993:xvii). It is almost echoing what Rushdie suggested in the previous chapter, that the mingling of fantasy and naturalism proves to be a useful way of dealing with the world.
"I call it the mimetic faculty, the nature that culture uses to create second nature, the faculty to copy, imitate, make models, explore difference, yield into and become Other." - Taussig
Three of the interviewees, Rati dressed in a Sari, Tobias wearing pajama kurta and Roshni in film diva drag, are, through their appearance, examples of parodic inventions of identities. They are all dressed up as and copying "the other" and are in their way of dressing and acting creating a make belief of something, or someone they wish to be. Rati with her bindi and sari and Tobias in his pajama kurta are both dressed up as Indians, and Roshni is in his drag-queen outfit dressed up as a woman and a film star.
Tobias, the kab driver talks about Indian magic and how he can not describe what it is ("it is when you smell it", "it is in the Himalayas") However the real magic is not Indian because that is merely a fantasised version, the magic is the transformation into the Karma Kab universe and the magician is Tobias himself. He possesses the 'law of similarity' - a term Frazer used in The Golden Bough to describe one of the principles in sympathetic magic. The law of similarity means that the magician "can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it" (Frazer in Taussig, 1993:47). That is exactly what Tobias does, he creates an effect of a magical, karmic India by imitating and performing a stereotypical Indian taxi driver in a taxi decorated with all sorts of kitschy gadgets. An example of the success of the magic is once I was filming inside one of the taxis, a young woman from Hyderabad stopped the car and said she had had a miserable day and just wanted to go home to India. She stepped into the car, looked around all the kitsch and the saris and the incense sticks and exclaimed "I am home!"
Taussig's interest in using Frazer's theories of magic is to examine how the copy affects the original to a degree that the original acquires the same properties as the copy. Assuming that there is such a phenomenon as an original Indian and a copy of one, it means that Indians also adopt this fantasised image of India. That the idea of a mystical, exotic and timeless East has had a hegemonic effect in that it has become an un-contested idea, even among Indians. Both the woman from Hyderabad and Roshni are examples of how the copy has affected the original. Roshni's idea of India is just as made-up as Tobias' or Rati's or Dwijanani's. He is just as much mimicking and creating an effect by imitation, and in his sense it is a double act, both as a proud Indian and as a woman.
Vijay Prashad touches on the same subject in The Karma of Brown Folk (2000) and describes how Indians' search for authenticity can be seen as a paranoid reaction to the 'naturalness' of the dominant group. If a minority group were left in peace and not dominated or forced into a relationship with the dominant and hegemonic world order, authenticity or "seeking ones roots" would probably not be as meaningful or necessary (Prashad, 2000:123). He continues to ask whether the embracing of the dance, food and religion of the national Indian culture by young Indians, is a reaction to the alienation from the dominant western culture as well as because of the West's acceptance and infatuation of an exotic and spiritual East.
Going back to the discussion of the copy and the original and using Prashad's line of thought, this indicates that the fascination and the fashionable view of the exotic and spiritual East in London (the copy) affects the way Indians (the original) - in this case Roshni and the woman from Hyderabad - see themselves.
Walter Benjamin describes mimesis as "a rudiment of a former compulsion to be another" (in Taussig, 1993: 66). The mimicking Roshni expresses when he performs as a woman or exaggerates his cultural affiliations with the India of Bollywood glamour and when Tobias greets you with a "namaste" sign, are in a Benjaminesque sense a compulsion to be the other. Roshni's compulsion is to be a woman or a film star and Tobias' is to be Indian, in these cases how women and Indians act and look like in their imaginations.
Mimicking the other is not only expressed in acting or dressing up as them. Taussig also talks about "ideational mimetics" which means to embody the way the other thinks and perceives the world. This is the kind of mimicking Rati and Dwijanani do in their devotion to the Hare Krishna movement. Their ideologies are from the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripts. They eat vegetarian, meditate for two hours a day and spend their time in the temple with other pale people in saffron robes.
According to Taussig there is no such thing as identity, only "longings lounging in the interstices of quaint necessities" and continues "- nevertheless the masks of appearances do more than suffice. They are an absolute necessity" (Taussig, 1993:254). The way people look and dress up is a way of identification. Following Taussig's argument, by mimicking the other (the Indian, the woman) Tobias and Roshni (and Rati in her sari and bindi) becomes a fantasised Indian or a fantasised woman. It is not their identities but their longings for being that other person that becomes themselves - a social construction. What is interesting about Taussig's argument is that he would not consider any of the people interviewed as freaks with no sense of reality, dressed up in pyjamas or women's frocks, but as people creating themselves through masks of appearances - in the case of Roshni and Tobias almost parodic inventions - of someone they want to be. As mentioned above a freedom to live reality as really made-up.
Taussig's way of thinking about life as "really made-up" is mostly appropriate in a post-modern world where the sense of self is easily changeable and multiply influenced. However, this way of thinking seems to lack a critical comment on the effects of make-believe lives. In the case of the four interviewed people, who all represent self-fabricated "really made-up" ways of living, although none of them could ever on a personal level be claimed to be imperial criminals they are engaging in an act of difference making between East and West which to a certain extent resembles white supremacy and a continuation of the same orientalism Said described. By representing a fantasy India (and this fantasy of India is also widely available within the culture industry) all the attention obscures other and less magical sides of India and its relationship with the West; poverty, child labour, racism, and discrimination etc. I have no intention of 'setting the record straight' - or as mentioned in the introduction find a truth - to provide a counter to a fantasy India which would document the poverty, child labour or any other less magical sides of India. It would suffice to say here that regular reading of political and anthropological journals would suggest other images of India.
The fantasy of India might seem harmless and celebratory on the surface but it represents an unrealistic and essentialised image of India, and living in a fantasised India is part of the orientalist project that includes stereotypes, essentialising and at worst a soft version of racism.
Although the fascination for things Indian that makes the eyes of the four interviewees shine is well-intentioned, it can be interpreted as a newer version of orientalism, soft racism and unacknowledged white supremacy (Prashad, 2000 and Lipsitz cited in Hutnyk, 1999). In the act of praising India for its spirituality while dismissing the west as materialist and stressful as Rati does, or bringing back "Indian Magic" to London as Tobias does, or claiming that Southeast Asians are "full of colour" as Roshni insists, they clearly continue along an orientalist path. The East is perceived as simple, mysterious, magical and irrational, whereas the West is modern, stressful and material. This dichotomising between a spiritual East and a practical West, which the four interviewees over and over express, is exactly the same distinction that Said criticises in Orientalism (1979).
The admiration for or well-intended statements about India or Indians that the interviewees express, and which is also highly visible within the culture industry in Britain, can be seen as an act of neo-orientalism, in the sense that they are conceptualisations of people based on hierarchical difference and of an emphasis on these people as being exotic and accordingly essentialised. According to Prashad, this neo-orientalism in actually existing multicultural societies, which sustains a notion of difference can be seen as an act of racism. Racist thought not only entails negative statements but also deploys the notion of difference and different qualities. Prashad's main argument is that this kind of seemingly positive statements create an unhealthy and hierarchical relationship between different ethnic groups in a multicultural society. In what is seen as the crisis of black America (and a similar situation is seen in Britain), Indians are seen as mediating difference so as to appear to be the "solution" to the "problem", "If only they could be more like Indians."
Difference does not entail racism as such. Difference can be positive, inspiring, important and necessary in society. It is when it is being used to create hierarchical relations that the notion and emphasis on difference becomes unhealthy.
In the four case studies, fantasies clearly work as a way of life and as a sense of identity, but should that be accepted as all right, taking into account the orientalist lines of thought that lie behind their expressions? The first step is to acknowledge the make-believe and to question that, rather than ignore it, accept it blindly or celebrate it as a genuine respect for the East. It is important to be wary of the underlying residues of an orientalist line of thought. In the following chapters I will discuss the influence cinema and the commodification of exotica have on the way people relate to the East as it has especially been exemplified in these four case-studies.
As I have mentioned several times before, the influence of the media is paramount in the creation of fantasies and longing for other places. India has the largest film industry in the world with a yearly production of around 900 films. For a country where large parts of the population are illiterate, film is the most popular form of entertainment. As Roshni mentioned in the interview film is like a fantasy that takes you into its own world. In the following I will examine how the fantasy and dreams in - and of - Indian popular cinema evokes real solutions in peoples' everyday life and how fantasies often prove to be more than just pipe dreams.
The uniqueness of the Indian Hindi-film tradition lies in its narrative structure. The story is usually very melodramatic with villains and good guys, beautiful heroines and heartbreaking love stories.
The storyline is continuously interrupted by dreamlike singing and dancing sequences that may seem confusing if viewed with a western film-trained eye. These songs, however, are not mere interruptions or arbitrary pieces of entertainment, as they most often function as a way of helping the story underway. Sometimes they function as substitutes for love-making - which still can't be shown on screen - or emotional crisis (Barnouw and Krishnaswamy, 1963). The melodramatic storytelling and the dreamlike song sequences may seem incomprehensive in comparison to a western narrative tradition. However, the use of songs and dances creates certain atmospheres in the film which is a more poetic and un-explicit way of telling a story.
The popularity of the Hindi-musicals is immense. And even more popular than the films are their soundtracks which are often released before the film. It seems as if almost everybody can hum along the most current film hit. Not only are the films big in cinemas around India, there is also a big video market for them that is being marketed around the world and especially within the Indian Diaspora.
Many film critics have criticised the popular Hindi-films for being mindless, immoral and a medium for escaping into a fantasy far from reality (Dickey, 1993). Western critics have often unfairly criticised the Hindi-film in terms of western film making traditions, which has resulted in either a dismissal of them as un-serious b-films or as "patronizing congratulations for quaint achievements" (Thomas, 1985:117-118).
Sara Dickey's project in "Cinema and the urban poor in South India" (1993) is to see Indian cinema from the viewers' point of view and what effect films have on viewers. Although the stories in most films are set in a much more glamorous environments than is accessible for most viewers, and although the love stories are often less restricted by society's moralities than in life outside of the silver screen, the viewers do relate their lives to the lives represented on screen. They share feelings of love, revenge, struggle etc. with the superstars on screen.
Dickey does not see the movies as a media for passive escapism. The stories in the films are drawn from reality, they are not sci-fi or pure fairy tales and they do bear resemblance to the everyday life of the viewers.
It is important to emphasise the question of reality vs. fiction, as it seems to be of importance in most social and humanistic sciences. It seems as if there is in general - and especially in relation to film - too much emphasis on the distinction between fiction and reality that does not match up with the way people live their lives and understand the world. In real life, fiction is much more prominent than reality. As Taussig has said, life is mostly lived as reality really made up (Taussig, 1993). And Rushdie suggested that mingling fiction and naturalism is the best way to grasp the world (Rushdie, 1991). According to the film critic Andre Bazin, realism in film is not achieved by mimicking reality. Instead reality has to be expressed through more artistic forms. Film is not able to reproduce reality - because it is never value free - but by using aesthetic devices or fiction, it is possible to produce a realism that is more real than that which the camera can grasp alone (MacCabe, 1976:10). Bazin also takes into consideration the fact that people generally perceive and understand life and reality through metaphors, symbolism and poetry in any case. Which probably is part of the explanation of why Indian cinema is so popular, exactly because they contain these elements of metaphor, symbolism and poetry.
Dickey acknowledges the utopian fantasy the films provide for the viewers, but does not see this as mindless escapism because the viewers can relate themselves to the film, through the levels of fiction and fantasy, and find some kind of solution on a personal level. The escape is desirable and not pacifying because it derives "its roots in real-life social and psychological stresses" and provides "soothing of those stresses through melodramatic crisis resolution" (Dickey, 1993:175). The emotional structure of the films gives the viewers a sense of connection between themselves and the story on the screen, and the melodramas "draw suppressed fears and desires into a public realm, but suggests personal solution" (Dickey, 1993:173).
There are certain similarities between Taussig's argument and Dickey's; they both argue that fantasy and utopia are acceptable as long as it gives real meaning to the people who live in the fantasy world. Going back to the four case studies, there are also similarities between the fantasy world the Hindi-film provides for its viewers and the fantasy Tobias, Roshni, Rati and Dwijanani live in. These worlds are all made-up, make believe, but even though, they also serve as real solutions, real possibilities for these people.
For Roshni, his way of perceiving Hindi films is a bit more dubious. He sees the Hindi-films as part of his culture, although he has never been outside of England, and translates the glitter of Hindi-film into a version of his more "cultural" and "colourful" roots. As I mentioned earlier, people living in some kind of diaspora are often susceptible to create an imagined and often more positive idea of a place they call home. Distance seems to be a perfect growing place for myth-making and idealisations. These idealisations are always a fiction, a kind of fantasy, as they are based on memory and nostalgia. What Roshni does, is to go beyond the imagined community and into a completely fantasised and illusionary community by seeing his "culture" and his background as the one represented in the fantasies of Indian cinema. He is, although ironic about his appearance and his fascination of Indian films. He calls people who go to see these films "wanna-be's" and says it is "a living, dying fantasy". His irony substantiates my theory about him being an example of a practitioner in an ironic post-modern age where wear-able and disposable identities make you a whatever-you-wanna-be. He has never been to either Pakistan or India. Alternatively he has created this dreamlike and glamorous image of his "culture" as it is represented in the Indian films, "full of colour and music".
The fascination Roshni has for Indian film can be seen as a way of escaping into what he believes is his "culture", his background. Following Dickey's line of thoughts, Roshni's use of Indian film is not an irrational escapism, but a solution that works for him on a personal level. As he has no "real" experienced idea of what India is, he substitutes it with the life represented on screen and by so is provided with a picture he can relate to as his cultural background.
The indulgence in a glamorous film-India can also be interpreted as a useful strategy for Roshni, being a second generation South Asian. Rather than risking being ignored or categorised as a stereotyped foreigner (as Millat is in Zadie Smith's book White Teeth, which I gave as an example in the introduction) he takes on the glamorous solution and chooses to be the intentionally exotic Indian.
In this sense India becomes whatever you want it to be as long as it works for you. For Roshni India is glamorous, for Tobias it is magical and for Rati and Dwijanani it is spiritual.
Although a quite different genre from the musical Indian films, life, as acted out on British silver screens has also fuelled imaginations of the British Raj and more contemporary multicultural Britain.
Looking at the changes, through time, in the way the relationship between Britain and its former colony India has been represented on film is a fruitful way of reading the changing attitudes to the East in society. Through examples of British produced films from three different eras, the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, I will show that there is a parallel line between the way of perceiving India and the post-colonial relationship between Britain and India in contemporary society during the last 30 years, and the way India has been portrayed on film. I will in the following section look at how romantic Merchant-Ivory productions such as Heat and Dust and Jewel in the Crown from the early 1980's, Hanif Kureishi's sexually and racially provoking My Beautiful Launderette and Buddha of Surburbia from a Thatcherite Britain, up to contemporary ironic/comic films such as Damien O'Donnell's East is East and Jane Campion's Holy Smoke reflect the way the post-colonial relationship is viewed in society.
The main development in these films is that Indians (with the exception of Holy Smoke) have become more and more visible. From being background noise the British actors and story could act around, they are actually the main protagonists in the later films. The role of Asians in British film are no longer passive extras but the centre around of which the stories revolve. Also the location has moved from films being set in a far away India (with fictitious names) to portraying India in Britain.
In both of the productions Heat and Dust (1982) and The Jewel in the Crown (Granada TV 1984) the story takes place during the British Raj and portrays the lives of British people living in India during colonialism. They are both costume dramas, almost epic in their way of portraying a grand era in British history (the history that took place overseas as Rushdie has commented on). However, although they both elaborately portray British imperialism and the grandness of Britain, they also have an underlying theme of questioning the purpose of the British presence and show the frustration of the people situated in this far away place.
In Heat and Dust a young woman - played by Julie Christie - travels to India in the 1970's to unravel the story of her aunt who, during colonialism, was sent out to India to join her sergeant husband. Bored by the bourgeoisie and restrain of the expatriate English community and mystified and drawn to the exotic India, she commences on an unsuitable affair with a maharaja, becomes pregnant and moves to the Himalayas, alone and outcaste by both her English community and the maharaja. The film shows the double story of the young woman in the 70's - who also has an affair with an Indian and becomes pregnant - and the story of the aunt in the 1920's
In The Jewel in the Crown, the story also revolves around an unsuitable affair between an English girl and an Indian man. The young woman is raped and her Indian friend is accused although he is innocent. Through the rest of the 14 episodes the mystery of the rape becomes a metaphor for the colonial rape of India and the final proof of the Indian man's innocence appears with the independence in 1948.
In both films the presence of India is merely there to help tell the story of the lives of the English. India is only there because Britain was there. And when India or Indians do enter the story, it is as a threatening, erotic and exotic danger. As soon as the white women can't resist the mysteries of the erotic East, something goes wrong. The opposite - white men and Indian women - does not occur in the films - that wouldn't be a danger, but only a normality following the orientalist idea of the West as masculine and the East as feminine. It is when this idea is transgressed it becomes dangerous (and from the film producers' point of view also cinematically exciting) in the most basic Mary Douglaseques sense (Douglas, 1966).
Although both films are critical of the British' presence in India, showing the frustration and decadence of colonial communities, neither of them try to show the situation from an Indian perspective. India is portrayed as weak, mysterious and incomprehensible. And as a mere background for the "real" story, India is not really a part of the story apart from providing the exotic and erotic spice to tell the story.
With Hanif Kureishi's screenplays in the 1980's of the films Sammy and Rosie get Laid, The Buddha of Surburbia and My Beautiful Launderette the tone changes completely. These films take place in contemporary 1980's London in contrast to the Merchant-Ivory production that took place in a distant time and place. They portray a 1980's, Thatcherite social realism, not much fantasy or romance there. The most salient difference is that these films are shown from an Asian's point of view and centres around the tense relationship between Britain and India/Pakistan. As a provocative gesture towards conservative Thatcherism, Kureishi tends to focus on sexual freedom, homosexuality, inter-racial relationships and racist tensions in his books and screenplays. All of the three films mentioned above are examples of a British social realism style. They are violent, sexually explicit and provocative.
An on-going theme Kureishi emphasises - himself a London born Pakistani - is the search for identification for Asians in a society that marginalises them. In The Buddha of Surburbia, the main character is Karim, a South-Londoner born of an English mother and Indian father. The book/film centres around Karim's coming of age as a young actor and simultaneously portrays his family's clashes between Indian tradition and the endless possibilities of alternative lifestyles and sexual freedom in the 80's London. For example Karim's uncle who goes on hungerstrike until his emancipated lesbian daughter agrees to the arranged marriage with a man twice her age. Karim's father, Haroon - the buddha of Surburbia - becomes the object of attention for exotica-hungry bored middle-aged South Londoners when he drops his day-time accountancy identity for a more exotic Indian one and starts a meditation group. And further on leaves his confused wife for the sari-dressed, patchouli-scented queen of suburban boredom, Eva. Eva loves him because he is exotic, although until then Haroon has been as square and English as was expected of him since he arrived in Britain.
Through most of his work Kureishi illustrates how identities, ethnic or sexual, are fashioned rather than merely expressed, through the interaction with the surrounding society. Minorities are encouraged to perform their ethnic or sexual identities in order to keep up with stereotypical perceptions of an exotic other (Huggan, 2001:95). This is especially obvious in The Buddha of Surburbia where Haroon survives his midlife crisis by becoming an object of exoticism, or when Karim gets his first part in a play; it turns out to be Kipling's Jungle Book, where Karim plays Mowgli dressed up in loincloth and brown facepaint and is told to speak with an Indian accent. When questioning this humiliation the director of the play tells him "Karim, you've been cast for authenticity and not for experience".
Contrary to the romantic Merchant-Ivory dramas where India serves almost as merely an exotic stage requisite for the "real" story to act around, Kureishi's films are provocative angry comments on the injustices and prejudices of a very present India in Britain.
At the same time as Kureishi's film were made, Britain experienced an increased level of anti-racist riots from Asian militant groups. More than ever before the Asian communities within Britain started talking back and established themselves in political groups. The tone of society was reflected in the production of the films, turning to a social realism style, and making it very politically incorrect to produce films that romanticised colonialism, as did Jewel in the Crown and Heat and Dust.
The most current box-office hit films portraying the relationship between India and the West are Damian O'Donnells East is East (1999) and Jane Campion's Holy Smoke (1999).
East is East is a comedy about a family (Pakistani father, English mother and 5 children) and the impossibilities of obeying a strict traditional Pakistani father at the same time as teenage hormones steer towards sex, drugs and rock music in seventies Britain. The film plays on stereotypes about arranged marriages, strict traditional parents (to a degree that doesn't do the father any justice) and easy English girls. It no doubt has its moments and the fact that it is a semi-biographical account about growing up as a hybrid Brit does the film a favour in a very white-dominated film-industry. However, with its stereotyping and easy slapstick tricks it does no more than prove the essentialised point we already know; that Asians are funny creatures with silly accents only too easy to laugh at.
Holy Smoke also makes use of humour and irony, although the target in this film are Westerners (in this case stereotyped Australian rednecks) and their fear of the magical mystery and sensuality of the East. It is about a young girl Ruth - played by Kate Winslet - who travels to India, and tired of thee sunset-viewing, pot-smoking backpacker agenda, falls for a spiritual cult-leader and joins some un-named cult. The rest of the film centres around the all-time Mr Fix-it - Harvey Keitel's (PJ Harry) - attempt at saving her from the wicked guru of the East and the growing emotional relationship between the two.
The film portrays an orientalist dichotomy that can be seen in all the films I have mentioned (perhaps to a lesser extent East is East) between the East/spirituality/sensuality/feminity and the West/rationality/masculinity. Ruth comes across as a Goddess of love with an abundance of (threatening) female sensuality against PJ's emotionally bluntness. The interesting plot of the story is how the roles are turned around, so instead of Ruth coming to her (Western) senses (she eventually returns to India), PJ is the one who changes and discovers a more spiritual and emotionally sound side of himself.
India is not really present in the film, it functions as an idea of the other, and in-comprehensible mystical other that threatens normality. However, where India comes in most conspicuous is in the kitschy cartoon like special effects, reminiscent of Hindu posters or Bollywood films, of which the director Jane Campion makes use. Hopefully the intention was an innovative way of describing Ruth's fascination with a colourful and vibrant East more than using them as exotic fill-ins trading on the contemporary fashion for the East in the West.
Both of these films are typically late 1990's and completely different from the 80's social realism in their post-modern ironic style. Humour and kitsch are used deliberately as a tool for telling the story. The lightness and the use of humour and irony in these two films can be viewed in various ways. Either it can be seen as an expression of a lighter look on the reality of India as a part of Britain (having East is East in mind), a positive line of thought saying that's the way life is, let's have fun and make the most of it (contrary to Kureishi's highly politicised films). However, it can also be seen as an example of post-modern irony, refusing to take anything serious and choosing the easy way out; instead of dealing with any real problems of post-colonialism, film-producers go along the "Asian Kool" wave and go for a safe easy selling concept of light and fashionably exotic entertainment. The premieres of Holy Smoke and East is East did arrive in the middle of the height of bindi fashion, bhangra clubbing and Madonna's Ray of Light album.
This is not to imply that humour cannot indeed be a very useful tool to get ideas across or that important things cannot be said with irony and humour. The problem is when - as I find is the case in these two films - the lightness and the style of the film takes over and obscures a sense of the underlying problems that the films do to some extent touch upon. East is East is an example of a film that seems to want to tell a story of real problematic issues of culture clashes and generation gaps, but ends up showing essentialism and all-too-easy stereotypes. The shame about East is East is that it was aimed at a mainstream audience (and not just the South Asian communities) and was one of the most popular British films in 1999, so ideally it would have been more fruitful if the film had gone beyond portraying the obvious stereotypes. With humour it does reach a broader audience than Kureishi's films (somewhere in between would be worth aiming for) and it is refreshing to see a mainstream film that portrays an immigrant family. In many ways East is East is a product of the multicultural reality in Britain, that different ethnicities and cultures are highly visible, but it seems as if nothing is dealt with underneath the glossy surface of multiculturalism. Which leads me on to the next big question; is this visibility enough? And is it the right kind of visibility, nurturing the stereotypes about funny accents and uncompromising parents, or portraying the East as mysterious and the opposite of the West as Holy Smoke does?
The increased visibility of everything exotic or Asian appears most often through the culture industry as a range of highly marketable commodity forms. This visibility should not be dismissed as harmless entertainment with no effective consequences for the attitudes towards "the other" in society, because in the era of late-capitalism, consumption has become an increasingly decisive factor in the way we live and make our choices. To an extent, we become what we spend our money on. The clothes we wear, the books we read, the travels we go on etc. are all factors that contribute to self identification. And buying into a fantasy of the East by engaging in the commodification of exotica is another way of participating in a post-modern identification process. However, as I have pointed out before, there are underlying problems connected to treating the exotic as a commodity and a fantasy which are linked to Said's critique of 19th century orientalism. My argument is that the orientalist politics of difference between East and West during the colonial period Said describes, is very similar to that taking place today in post-colonial late capitalist society. Difference in itself is not the problem, it is when large parts of the world have (capital) hegemonic power to maintain an illusion of the 'East' as mystical, exotic and static that it becomes hierarchical and problematic.
Critical writers such as Graham Huggan (The Post-Colonial Exotic, 2001) and John Hutnyk (Critique of Exotica, 2000 and Travel Worlds 1999) have both questioned the role of the commodification of exotica and seek to uncover the under lying problems this mystically fascinating phenomenon seems to disguise.
Huggan's project in his book The Post-Colonial Exotic (2001).is to critique the way exoticism and post-colonialism has become an industry, and his focus is especially on how academia and literature have cashed in on the current fascination with the exotic
Exoticism is in Huggan's definition a highly value laden word because its effect is to create otherness. Exoticism is never an inherent quality to be found in people or places, but an aesthetic perception that effectively manifests mystery, strangeness and otherness. In The Post-Colonial Exotic it is understood as a dialectical symbolic system of strangeness and familiarity in which the strange and culturally different is domesticated so that it becomes comprehensible. However the "exotic" is always kept at arms length, it is never completely integrated in the familiar because that would "neutralise its capacity to create surprises". The way Karma Kabs creates a universe of a make-believe India or how Roshni never gets closer to his version of India than the silver screen, or how the film Holy Smoke uses India as a quirky background for telling the love story, are all examples of how the exotic is kept at arms length, on a superficial level and never completely involved. The same can be said about the fashioning of the East; as fashion accessory Tibetan prayer beads, Hindu bindis and wedding henna paint are worn as fashion statements completely disconnected from their original meanings. The exotic is a system that "functions along predictable lines but with unpredictable content; and its political dimensions are similarly unstable, for the ideology it implies always stops short of an exhaustive interpretation" (Huggan, 2001:14).
Huggan's main point of critique is that cultural difference is being globally commodified (Huggan, 2000:vii). This commodification of cultural difference is not only a product of the increased amount of mass-produced exotic products floating around the world-market, but is also played out in the way post-colonialism and exoticism have become hot stuff within academia and literature.
"Staged marginality" is a term Huggan uses to describe the way marginalised individuals are indirectly encouraged to dramatise their minority status for the benefit of a mainstream audience (Huggan, 2001:87). He is particularly scrutinising the literary work of authors like Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things, 1997) in which, Huggan argues, they play on readers expectations and describe an "imagined India which capitalise on the illicit adventures and extravagant clichés of exotic romance" (Huggan, 2001:80). Both Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Roy's The God of Small Things are written in a lavishly magical realism style, where fantasy and thick juicy descriptions are contributing to recycled clichés of orientalist representation. On his quest for tracing capitalist consumption, these are the composites, Huggan identifies as what makes new Indian writing so fashionable in the West; the staged "exotic" writing has become a metonym for India itself as an "object of conspicuous consumption" (Huggan, 2001:81).
The main motive in The Post-Colonial Exotic is, that India has become more available for consumption than ever before (Huggan, 2001:82). And Huggan's project is to show how this commodified India is produced from both Western and Eastern sides. The term "indo-chic" (the fashioning of India) in which Arundhati Roy so timely fit, is not to be understood as naive Western construct. As his examples of Rushdie and Roy show, the commodification and the delectable packaging of India is a product of global interests in which staged marginalities play along and perform the part. Post-colonial exoticism is therefore not directly seen as a product of exploitative appropriation, but a global surrendering to consumerism. Huggan argues that this fashioning of India - "indo-chic" - is not a naive Western construction. It is a product of "the globalisation of Western-capitalist consumer culture, in which 'India' functions not just as a polyvalent cultural sign but as a highly mobile capital good" (Huggan, 2001:67). However, the underlying point in Huggan's argument about exoticism and the commodification of India is that it is a highly effective instrument of imperial power. In the late-twentieth century exoticism shifted from a privileged mode of perception (which is what Said describes in his accounts of 19th century art and literature) to an increasingly global mode of mass-consumption (Huggan, 2001:15). Had Said written Orientalism now, he could have included the components of the imperial gaze as Huggan sees them as; "the "exotic" merchandise of tribal /ethnic cultures; the ubiquitous producers spawned by a globalised consumer culture; the manufactured scenarios of a Western tourist industry bent on selling the latest version of the cultural other to consumers - while stock last" (Huggan, 2001:240). When authors like Rushdie and Roy are "cashing in on the durable exchange-value of a deliberately exoticised Orient" (Huggan, 2001:93), they are doing so because of the economic agenda that transforms ethnicity and cultural difference - be it staged or not - into sell-able commodities.
The exotic seems to be both highly sell-able and very entertaining. The allure of the mystical East has proven beneficial for many an artist - not just the material girl - in a time that feeds on forever shifting fashionable trends of which the East is just one flavour of the month. The exotification of the East and imperial power is closely intertwined (Huggan, 2001, Hutnyk, 1999, 2000, Trinh, 1989, Bhabha, 1994 et al.). The results of treating the exotic East as a source of exploitable public entertainment (Trinh, 1989) is that the politics behind such forms are concealed under its layers of mystification. The spectacle of exoticism, the fantasised image of the East, excludes the underlying politics of power-relations, discrimination and subjugation as well as it functions as an efficient tool for the creation of difference and other-ness; "The wonder beheld in exotic peoples...may precede their violent subjugation; the exotic splendour of newly colonised lands may disguise the brutal circumstances of their gain... The exoticist rhetoric of fetishised otherness and sympathetic identification masks the inequality of the power relations without which the discourse could not function" (Huggan, 2001:14).
There are obviously conflicting interests in the exotification of the other. The other side of cashing in on what is the flavour of the month, and the commodification of mysterious fantasies of India, mass-produced exotic products, or post-colonial best-sellers is what could be read as a genuine interest in the East. However, what most critical, post-orientalist writers argue, is that even presumably genuine interests carries with it orientalist residues that contribute to the creation of un-equal differences and stereotypes. Within anthropology, one of the biggest challenges is still to avoid its initial fallacy of the discipline being a spectacle of describing and explaining exotic freaks.
In a more radical tone than Huggan's, John Hutnyk (1999, 2000) also critiques the fascination for the East in the West but focuses mainly on the increased visibility of Asia within the culture industry and particularly in music. His target point is the way the appropriation of Asian sounds in popular music is benefiting multi-national corporations like Sony and not doing much for the Asian communities in the West (Hutnyk, 1999). The white retro-hippie band Kula-Shaker, Madonna with bindi and the broadly defined concept of "world music" are examples that Hutnyk criticises for cashing in on exoticism. The appropriation is, by Hutnyk seen as a late-capitalist continuation of the imperial plundering of the East; "of course this souveniring of sound and culture is only possible on the basis of a long history of colonial power and theft (and nostalgia for that idealized exotic India - one that is other and which was resilient despite, or even because of, the British visitors) (Hutnyk, 1999:95).
In a thorough scrutinisation of the saffron-colour dressed, anachronistic flower child, Crispin Mills, lead singer of Kula Shaker, travelling through India for an MTV programme, Hutnyk picks up on Crispin's "fundamentally dangerous" (Hutnyk, 1999:98) pronouncements on India, such as "India is the Ibiza of concepts" or when seeing some local musicians "This is the tribal stuff, everyone has a good heart and they put it into their music....they are just happy....them living their culture just seems completely natural" (Crispin Mills quoted in Hutnyk, 1999:94). Poor Crispin Mills, probably just interested in playing some tunes and tasting the bhang-lassis, he would be quite ignorant of his part in imperialism and wanting to rule the world (Hutnyk, 1999:110). Hutnyk's seemingly paranoid and cruel sarcasm is well argued though; the danger in Crispin's comments is firstly that they express prejudicial patronising and orientalism (enthusiasm is not sufficient) and secondly that he is (was) a rockstar (and they curiously enough do have a tradition for being heard) and his comments are being broadcast to a broad, often impressionable audience on MTV. There is a good chance that most people wouldn't hang on to Crispin's words, the problem is that MTV shows like Kula Shaker in India are the ones that do get broadcast, do have a large audience and do dominate the scene of Asian visibility, rather than more balanced and critical documentary programmes.
One of Hutnyk's main concerns is that any critical discourse about hybridity and diaspora is overshadowed by exotica and otherness as marketable categories. Following Theodor Adorno's theories of the relations between mass culture and capitalist profit, the mass productions of the culture industry are no longer also commodities, they are commodities through and through. Novelty and difference is an illusion and a commodity fetish (Adorno, 1991:87). Difference has become the stimulus of the market and the re-packaging and re-inscription of difference comes with an illusion of equality. One of the things forgotten is that it is often embourgeoised groups that can avail themselves even of the space to articulate a demand to go to market (Hutnyk, 2000:33).
The celebration of difference, which I previously characterised (in chapter 2) as one of the traits of multiculturalism, is by Hutnyk also identified as a privilege for the ones who can afford to dine out on multiculturalism. The ones who benefit from the consumerism of difference are most often multinational companies like Sony music. It is the few high-flying 'global soul' cosmopolitans rather than the many 'grounded' cosmopolitans who until now have benefited from the increased commodified interest in the exotic and the other.
It is easy to criticise Huggan and Hutnyk for being too pessimistic and for antagonising any form of exotification of the other. Their work is quite uncompromising and does not permit the possibility of some people having quite innocent interests in the East, disconnected from a larger global capitalist agenda. However, their work is a welcome critique of the mechanisms within multicultural society and especially within the culture industry, that reproduce hierarchical colonial differences in the world and which, to a large degree, maintain the hierarchical dichotomy between "the West" and "the East". As part of the orientalist discourse both writers cast new light on Said's Orientalism by pointing out that orientalism is still thriving in today's multicultural societies.
The increased visibility of everything Asian, especially in the culture industry, such as films, literature and music, can in many ways be seen as a beneficial development towards a society of "actually existing cosmopolitans" that embraces and acknowledges the presence of people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. That's the good news.
However, there are two different sides to celebrating difference. The problem with the examples I have given in this thesis; the four case studies and the examples of films, is that the visible East that is being presented is a continuation of the same orientalism, which Said so critically wrote about. Celebrating the East for its magical, mysterious sensuality, eating spicy Indian food or embracing a fashion of saris and bindis are undoubtedly preferred to hostile attitudes or even complete ignorance, but unfortunately these options do not exclude each other. Britain is, according to The European Councils' Report from June 2000, one of the most racist countries in Europe, with institutional racism being the biggest concern. In this moment of writing, the North of England is experiencing violent riots between the BNP (British National Party) and Asian communities. These are just some of the factors that are being vigorously ignored in the fantasies of the East presented through popular culture. They don't really sell exotic products, records and films that well.
The world as it looks like for actually existing cosmopolitans where multiculturalism is a factor of everyday life - and for most people not just an exotic Saturday night out - it is crucial to acknowledge and live with cultural difference, but at the same time leave the notion of cultural difference value-free as much as is humanly possible. It is important to emphasise again that an actually existing cosmopolitanism does not entail an ignorance of cultural difference like Kant's utopian cosmopolitanism suggests, but that the seemingly naive fantasies of the East exemplified in the current visibility of Asia in London express orientalist hierarchical difference between a West represented as rational and modern and an East represented as magical, mystical and timeless. The solution to the unequal relation between the East and the West is not to ignore cultural difference but to be critically aware of the way this difference is being represented.
Wearing bindis, dancing at techno tabla clubs in Brick Lane, dining out on Vindaloo curry or worshipping gurus in North London are not bad in themselves. It's a structural thing. A structure that maintains a hierarchical notion of difference between East and West and which allows an economically stronger Western world to appropriate the East in pursuit of own profit interests. This cannot be dismissed as a thing of the colonial past because it is still very much present in post-colonial multicultural societies. The idea of a vibrant multiculturalism that celebrates difference is unfortunately still much more a rhetoric than a revolution bringing a harmonious and democratic way of living together. The danger of multiculturalism is that it creates an illusion of equality where the other is visible and is given a voice, but this visibility is built on orientalist stereotypes where the other's role easily becomes performing exotic spectacles. As discussed in the first chapter, 'other' artists gets tagged as 'black artists', rather than 'modernist artists' or 'avant-garde artists'. In this sense, multiculturalism is very much about maintaining a fixed set of categories by which to fit groups of people into what is expected of them.
Although the culture industry and the market forces that globally trades in exotica are not the sole re-inventors of orientalism, their hegemonic power of creating an illusion of the East is considerable. And people buy into that illusion because it is so much more seductive than reality and it comes in such delicious packaging. What is most important is to recognise that the rhetoric of multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and 'global soul' good news does not mean that everything is okay. Celebrations of visibility and difference do not mean inequality, conflict and racism are over. To mistake the rhetoric of cosmopolitanism for reality is a well-intentioned fantasy just as illusionary as the imaginary India of Roshni and Rati. While such fantasies may enable some to live in reassurance and comfortable distraction, it is the very real distraction effect of this culture industry that precludes a critical assessment of culture and difference. The necessities of a critical politics of difference is signalled in the actually existing inequalities and conflicts that can only be seen if the fantasy is also recognised for what it is - illusion, not truth. This does not mean a critical politics of difference will lead to a non-illusory, not fantastic world - but a different approach is necessary if the fantastic is not to remain an excuse and a disguise.
Of course people do make their own choices and the culture industry or global market forces should not be seen as omnipotent evil, grasping claws into unknowing souls. As I have shown in chapter 2 the "general condition of homelessness" (Said, 1979:7) and the situation of "multiple attachment" and "attachment at a distance" (Robbins, 1998:3) in multicultural cities carry along rich possibilities for fantasies and imaginations of other places, simulacra and parodic inventions which should not be accused for more than they are; for example reassurance, symbolic anchors and a ground on which identification can unfold. However, as I have shown with the four case studies, the way people choose to live and the way they identify themselves are often determined - or rather fuelled - by a fantasy that to a high degree is produced via the culture industry, i.e. film and literature and in consumerism, in these cases consumption of exotica.
So even though, on a global scale, it is only a small group of people who buy into the illusions of the East to the degree that the four case studies do, there is still a need to show concern for the influence of the culture industry. I have shown this to be so because it is a sphere where, in the pursuit of sell-able goods, orientalism is still prevalent in a persistence on difference and in maintening stereotypes of exotic others. With the global availability of film, media, music these orientalist residues seem to be ever more widely transmitted. It appears that the hierarchical notions of difference Said describes in Orientalism have not changed as much as could be wished for, only the context has changed and the media through which they are spoken.
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 From Friedrich Nietzsche (1954) On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense in The Portable Nietzsche, quoted in Edward Said Orientalism (1978:203)
 The painted or stick-on dot Indian women wear on their forehead after they are married.
 The Tikka Masala Burger and the Rogan Josh variety were flavours of the month in London April 2001
 In fact anthropologists could be accused for being amongst those most guilty in keeping up an idea of the exotic other.
 The Council of Europe's second report on racism on the United Kingdom (2000) drawn up by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), have particularly stressed concerns about the increased number of racist incidents recorded by the police, racial prejudice within the police (1000 people have died in police custody since 1969, a disproportionately high percentage has been black victims) and the "negative climate concerning asylum seekers and refugees in the United Kingdom".
 From the ECRI report and the documentary film Injustice, (dir. Ken Fero and Tariq Mehmood), released 2001 and its following press releases (The Guardian, 1st April 2000)
 Pico Iyer in his celebratory mode: "It's (the world) forming into tribes based on Web sites, communities of interest, affiliations described in non-traditional ways. The beauty of the present is that we can find ourselves in the company of the cultures that we never expected to encounter otherwise" (Iyer, 2000, p. 170).
 Robbins (1998:3)
 In David Harvey (2000:529)
 Martha Nussbaum in David Harvey (2000:530)
 According to Harvey, The European Union is built on Kantian ideas (2000).
 Said (1979:7)
 Talk at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 16th July 2000
 Jean Baudrillard (1983)
 Koolhaas seem to overlook the Arabic neighbourhoods in Paris. However, contrary to London, "ethnic" neighbourhoods in Paris are usually placed outside of the city in suburbia, the banlieus.
 The case-studies are from interviews I conducted in the summer 2000 as part of the research for a documentary film called "Illusions of an other place."
 These are all direct quotations from all four interviews.
 His own choice of word
 Both are Indian filmstars. Amitabh Bachchan used to be one of the greatest heroes in Indian film history where "Sholay" (1974) is probably his biggest claim to fame. But that may change now as he is now hosting the Indian version of "Who wants to be a millionaire."
 It's interesting how he blatantly sees himself as a "wanna-be".
 See for example Friedman, J. (1994)
 Prashad writes from America, but the processes are easily translatable to London.
 The problem with the British is that they hardly know their history as most of it took place overseas (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
 She literally appears in one scene as an Indian goddess with eight arms and divine light behind her, looking like a religious Hindu poster (that are now sold in tourist spots in India and on markets in London as kitsch art).
 Intoxicating herbal drink.
 From The Culture Industry, 1991