Balti Britain: A Provocative Journey Through Asian Britain, By Ziauddin Sardar

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The Independent Culture

As Ziauddin Sardar shows in this fascinating study, there is no such thing as "Asian" anything. Who are the Asians who have taken up residence in Leicester, Glasgow, Birmingham? They are Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Punjabi (and that's not to mention the different cultures from China, Malaysia, Japan and so on).

Just as Britons name their favourite dish "curry" (a name that doesn't really mean anything, Sardar says), there is an eagerness, too, to issue easy-to-identify labels that dilute or deny difference. The Punjabi link with the British Army, for instance, means a far deeper "entanglement" with Britain than we might think, and our colonial past has far more consequences than we admit.

Sardar also questions the "British" part of "British-Asian", asking whether it means the same to be Scots-Asian as it does English-Asian, to show how different cities' experiences of immigration affect how people come to view themselves. It is an intelligent and absorbing cultural history.