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Exploring the concept of ‘home’ and ‘homeland’

'Going Away' and 'Coming Home': Exploring the concept of 'home' and 'homeland' in the writings of South Asian Writers of Britain.

According to Yasmin Hussain in her book Writing Diaspora: South Asian Women, Culture and Ethnicity (2005) the notion of South Asian identity promotes a unity and solidarity among the South Asian diaspora. People from the South Asian cultures have often been treated as one "monolithic people" by the West. In Britain, all South Asians were defined as 'Indian' prior to 1947 (Hussain 2). Subsequently they were re-defined as Pakistani and Indian. Hussain observes that Bangladeshis were only categorised as such from the 1970s when West and East Pakistan were divided and Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation.

The authors discussed in my paper share some link with the subcontinent through their parentage. Hussain observes that 'South Asian' is an "umbrella term" (2). Yet, ethnically, culturally, and religiously there are differences within the term South Asian. Hussain further observes that the majority of Britain's current South Asian population can be placed within four broad categories, Gujaratis and Punjabis from India, and Punjabis from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Those who are from Gujarat the populations are drawn from the coastal districts in Saurashtra and the Gulf of Cambay, with eighty percent being Hindu and the rest Muslim. The Punjabis from Pakistan are from areas such as Mirpur, Jhelum, Rawalpindi as well as Faisalabad and Lahore. The majority of Bangladeshis are from the district of Sylhet.

According to the studies conducted by Avtar Brah and Judith Brown, a large number of migrants from the South Asia were those recruited to rebuild the economy of post - war Britain. Dividing her study into three phases Brah observes that there was a severe labour shortage after the post-World War II period. She examines the flow of migrants from the South Asia beginning from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The history of colonialism and imperialism played an important role in the migration process of 1950s. As Brah examines: "If once the colonies had been a source of cheap raw materials, now they became a source of cheap labour" (21).  The South Asians who came to Britain in the 1950s were part of this broader movement of migration in Europe. The jobs that were available to them were those left by the white labour population. These unskilled jobs involved unsociable working hours, poor housing conditions and low wages. As a result, Asian labours came to occupy the lowest rungs of British employment hierarchy. Brah observes that as "ex-colonial subjects" the migrants inevitably came to occupy a "group whose country was once ruled by Britain". Thus, the "encounter between the Asians and British was circumscribed by colonial precedents" (21).   

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