Sunday, August 9, 2009

Balti Britain: A Provocative Journey through Asian Britain by Ziauddin Sardar

The balti was invented in Birmingham by Pakistani and Kashmiri restaurateurs to appeal to the tastebuds of their white customers, but it is now an authentic dish in its own right. So too, argues Ziauddin Sardar in this thoughtful study, British Asians have had their distinct identities formed in Britain. Unpacking the "British Asian experience" is a mind-boggling business, and Sardar does justice to its complexities, albeit with a post-7/7, British Muslim emphasis. Asia is a vast continent ("The generic Asian exists only in the mind of Anglo-Saxon folk," observes one wry academic), so the term "British Asian" only serves to obscure multiple ethnicities. The quest at the heart of this book is to find identity within difference. While some on the right call for forced integration, Sardar more elegantly slips into the role of disciple at the feet of Lord Bhikhu Parekh, whose redefinition of multiculturalism makes one wish everyone possessed his calm logicality. In sum, there is no static, fixed Britain, but a dynamic, never-ending process of becoming-Britain.

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