Minorités postcoloniales anglophones et francophones
MINORITÉS POSTCOLONIALES ANGLOPHONES ET FRANCOPHONES
Études culturelles comparées
Collection dirigée par / Book Series Directed by Hafid Gafaïti
Les mouvements migratoires dans le monde ont donné naissance à des diasporas et des cultures immigrées qui simultanément transforment les sociétés et les immigrés et contribuent à la formation d'identités et de cultures globales ou transnationales. Le but de cette collection est d'explorer les processus à partir desquels ces phénomènes ont donné naissance à des cultures nationales et transnationales ainsi que d'analyser les modalités selon lesquelles les diasporas contribuent à la production de nouvelJes identités et discours qui défient les modes de pensée traditionnels sur l'identité, la nation, l'histoire, la littérature, l'art et la culture dans le contexte postcolonial. Elle vise à contribuer aux débats sur ces phénomènes, leurs problématiques et discours à partir d'une perspective interdisciplinaire et plurilingue au-delà des cloisonnements idéologiques, politiques ou théoriques. Elle a également pour but de renforcer les liens entre la théorie critique et les études culturelles. Finalement, son objectif est de développer les relations entre les études francophones, anglophones et comparées dans un cadre transnational. Cette collection tente de multiplier les échanges entre les universitaires et étudiants francophones, anglophones et autres et de transcender les barrières culturelles et linguistiques qui caractérisent encore nombre de publications.
Migratory movements in the world have led to the formation of diasporas and immigrant cultures that transform both societies and immigrants themselves, while contributing to global or transnational identities and cultures. The aim of this book series is to explore the processes by which these phenomena led to the constitution of national and transnational cultures. In addition, it studies how diasporas contribute to the construction of new identities and discourses that challenge traditional ways of thinking about identity, nation, history, literature, art and culture in the postcolonial context. It aims to contribute to the discussion of these issues from an interdisciplinary and multilingual perspective beyond ideological, political and theoretical exclusions. Its objective is to reinforce the links between critical theory and cultural studies and to develop the relations between Francophone and comparative studies in a transnational framework. This book series attempts, on the one hand, to enhance the communication and to strengthen the relations between Francophone, Anglophone and other scholars and students and, on the other hand, to transcend the cultural and linguistic barriers that still characterize many publications.
Sous la direction de / Edited by
Alec G. Hargreaves
MINORITÉS POSTCOLONIALES ANGLOPHONES ET FRANCOPHONES
Études culturelles comparées
L'Harmattan 5-7, rue de J'École-Polytechnique 75005 Paris FRANCE
L'Harmattan Hongrie Hargita u. 3 1026 Budapest HONGRIE
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<9L'Harmattan,2004 ISBN: 2-7475-6039-2 EAN : 9782747560399
Pour Gill Hargreaves
Introduction Alec G. Hargreaves Florida State University
Les minorités postcoloniales anglophones et francophones ont jusqu'à présent été conçues et étudiées comme des acteurs culturels distincts sinon étrangers les uns aux autres. Ce cloisonnement a été le fait non seulement des différences de langue mais aussi de la diversité des modèles théoriques dominants parmi, d'une part, les chercheurs du monde anglophone et, d'autre part, leurs homologues d'expression française. Alors que les premiers soulignaient le rapport de forces inégal entre ex-colonisateurs et ex-colonisés et la nécessité de rectifier celui-ci, les derniers mettaient plutôt en avant les liens de parenté et les divergences culturelles de populations disparates partageant la même langue. Les deux types de phénomènes, tant politiques que culturels, sont pourtant présents chez l'ensemble des minorités postcoloniales, qu'elles soient d'expression anglaise ou française. Le présent ouvrage a pour objectif d'explorer les relations entre écrivains, musiciens, cinéastes et autres artistes issus des migrations postcoloniales dans ces deux espaces linguistiques qui ont beaucoup plus en commun que l'on a tendance à croire. Ces liens de parenté sont de divers types. Relevons tout d'abord le contexte urbain dans lequel la production culturelle des minorités postcoloniales se construit. Les grandes villes européennes et américaines exercent une très forte attraction sur les migrants originaires du Tiers-Monde, mais elles ne tiennent pas toujours leurs promesses, d'où les tensions relevées dans les écrits analysés par Patrice Proulx et Susan Ireland (chapitres 2 et 3) comme dans les productions musicales étudiées par Joan Gross et David McMurray (chapitre 5). Et comme l'attestent les textes étudiés par Abigail Descombes (chapitre 4), les tensions inhérentes à ce milieu urbain touchent non seulement les migrants mais aussi les nouvelles générations nées de parents immigrés dans les grandes villes des anciennes métropoles coloniales. Comme le souligne Shailja Sharma (chapitre I), les « inner cities» du monde anglophone trouvent leurs équivalents dans les 9
« banlieues» françaises. Il s'agit dans les deux cas de quartiers défavorisés stigmatisés par la population majoritaire. Cette stigmatisation prolonge, à bien des égards, le regard dominateur de l'ancien colonisateur dont les systèmes de pensée racistes sont loin d'avoir disparu avec la chute des empires coloniaux. Si les EtatsUnis n'ont jamais possédé un empire colonial visiblement semblable à ceux de la France et de la Grande-Bretagne, ce payscontinent a néanmoins été profondément marqué par des systèmes d'esclavage et de ségrégation dont le caractère raciste a été aussi flagrant que celui du projet colonial. On ne s'étonnera donc pas des ressemblances étroites relevées par Mark McKinney (chapitre 10) entre les bandes dessinées réalisées aux Etats-Unis par des Africains-Américains et celles de dessinateurs issus de l'immigration africaine en France. Et comme le démontrent Joan Gross and David McMurray (chapitre 5), pour les ressortissants de certains territoires, notamment le Puerto Rico, la migration récente vers les Etats-Unis se fait sur un fond de colonisation qui ressemble à de nombreux égards au contexte historique de la migration entre le Maghreb et la France. Les liens entre les écrivains et artistes issus des migrations postcoloniales des mondes anglophone et francophone ne se réduisent pourtant pas à de simples points de ressemblance. Par le fait d'influences et d'emprunts, il existe aussi une relation dynamique et non seulement analogique entre ces deux espaces. Ces emprunts vont surtout des Etats-Unis vers les pays d'expression française. Très souvent, les Africains-Américains sont vus par leurs homologues francophones comme des modèles à suivre. C'est le cas, par exemple, des cinéastes africains-américains qui ont influencé le cinéma dit de banlieue en France (voir l'analyse d'Anne Crémieux, chapitre 8) et bien entendu des rappeurs américains qui ont inspiré l'essor du hip hop en France (voir à ce sujet les chapitres 5 et 6). Plus rarement, l'influence d'artistes d'expression française pénètre dans le monde anglophone. La collaboration entre Hanif Kureishi et Patrice Chéreau, analysée par Dominic Thomas (chapitre 9), constitue une véritable synergie et non un simple transfert à sens unique de l'un de ces espaces vers l'autre. Cette collaboration entre un écrivain minoritaire anglophone et un réalisateur issu de la population majoritaire en France démontre aussi que les artistes minoritaires ne sont nullement condamnés à 10
rester cantonnés dans un champ purement bi-culturel tiraillé entre l'ancien colonisateur et l'ancien colonisé. Ceci ressort également des recherches effectuées par Christiane Schlote (chapitre 7) sur la musique banghra en Angleterre et le raï en France. L'hybridité qui marque ces deux formes musicales dépasse très largement l'axe bipolaire anglo-pakistanais ou franco-algérien pour s'insérer dans un processus de mondialisation beaucoup plus vaste. Il ne faudrait certes pas confondre mondialisation et homogénéisation. On retrouve clairement dans les phénomènes culturels étudiés dans cet ouvrage des formes d'inégalité et des luttes politiques et culturelles qui ont leurs racines dans le système colonial. On y retrouve également des particularismes qui reflètent le legs historique de chacun des espaces impliqués dans le processus de la mondialisation. C'est ainsi que le rôle joué par l'islam chez les minorités postcoloniales en Europe n'a guère d'équivalent chez les minorités africaines-américaines et hispaniques aux Etats-Unis. Alors que l'islam est un élément majeur du patrimoine culturel véhiculé par les Maghrébins de France et les Pakistanais de Grande-Bretagne, des mouvements comme la 'Nation of Islam' ne touchent qu'une petite fraction d'Africains-Américains et ils n'ont pratiquement aucune résonance parmi les Hispaniques du continent nord-américain. Depuis le Il septembre 2001, l'importance réelle et l'influence potentielle de l'islam sur des mouvements culturels et politiques transnationaux sont souvent relevées. Si les recherches de Gross et McMurray, comme celles de Cannon et Saeed, démontrent qu'il ne faudrait pas exagérer l'influence de l'islam dans la production culturelle des nouvelles générations issues des migrations postcoloniales, elles témoignent en même temps de variations réelles dans les repères culturels de différents groupes ethniques au-delà des simples différences de langue. Prises dans leur ensemble, les études recueillies ici démontrent que loin d'être épuisé, le foisonnement interculturel provoqué par la colonisation et ses conséquences se renouvelle constamment dans le contexte plus large de la mondialisation.
1. Urbanism and Citizenship in the Work of Azouz Begag and Hanif Kureishi Shailj a Sharma DePaul University, Chicago
The expressive culture of immigrants and their children in Europe has, in its reception and analysis, most often been associated with a multiplicity of belonging: "travelling cultures" (Clifford 1991), "bi-culturalism" (Mehrez 1993), "transnationalism" (Basch, Glick-Schiller et al. 1994) and expressive of a "crise d'identité" (Malewska-Peyre 1983). However, analysis of the literature, film and music produced by members of immigrant communities has generally restricted itself to within the nation-state. Thus it is easy to find analyses of immigration and immigrant culture in Britain, in France and in Germany, but not many studies that look at the phenomenon transnationally or in a comparative context. One feature that postwar immigration shares across the national borders of Western Europe is its settlement in urban areas. Immigrants settle overwhelmingly in bidonvilles, ZUPs, HLMs and cités in France, inner cities and decrepit housing estates in Britain. There is a logic to this, of course. Factory jobs were overwhelmingly to be found in industrial middle England and around Paris, Lyon and Marseilles in France. When jobs began to dry up, first as a result of the oil crisis and then as economic retrenchment made many of the jobs available to immigrant workers obsolete, these urban centers with overwhelmingly high numbers of immigrant families began to be perceived as a "problem." This analysis continues into the present as in the case of the 2001 riots in Northern England, where even the most liberal analysis focused on the condition of the "innercities" and the alienation they engender. Cities and the discrete pockets which house immigrant communities - whether inner cities, so-called suburbs or banlieues, satellite towns, neighborhoods on the wrong side of the river - all become ways of stating the obvious: that immigrant and minority communities a1l across Europe bear the double brunt of inadequate development 15
resources and blame. The location may change but the issue is still the same: spatially and discursively, Europe's urban centers have marginalized and isolated its minorities. In this essay I want to use the analytical language of urbanism and its social relations to look at the work of two authors whose work has focused on immigrant communities and their changing status: Azouz Begag in France and Hanif Kureishi in Britain. Two reasons explain this focus. First, it provides an important and common perspective from which to start speaking about immigration and minorities as a European phenomenon and to formulate analyses accordingly. Second, while urban decay and crime have been familiar sticks used nationally and municipally to beat the anti-immigrant drum for many decades, the landscape of the city has also been a staple and even an actor in the work of Begag and Kureishi. That most of their work arises out of the tumultuous eighties in Europe makes such an analysis necessary, because it was then that the center-right coalition in both Britain and France formulated its agenda in nationalistic and antiimmigrant forms, but implemented it in local ones, specifically in areas with high numbers of immigrant residents. Therefore, it seems proper to look at issues of urban social relations and planning and speculate on how center-periphery relations in urban space play out analogically with other metaphors of centerperiphery, such as racial and class-based ones. My paper ultimately argues that authors like Kureishi and Begag use their work transformatively, subverting and re-inscribing stratified and hierarchical city-spaces into hybrid and open ones. If one of the central problematics of a city space for immigrants and their children is one of access, then their work questions and seeks to define the conditions under which access can be made possible, leading to full citizenship, not a marginalized, stigmatized, otherness. David Harvey defines the rise of urbanism as that moment in capitalist history when reciprocity between city and surrounding country gives way to redistribution, which results in social stratification and differential access to the means of production (Harvey 1973: 239). When this happens in the industrial era, the socially designated surplus of the economy becomes geographically centered, benefiting one set of classes or inhabitants at the expense of the rest. In social terms, according to Harvey, 16
urbanism can be defined as a set of social relationships which reflect hierarchical economic relations, resulting in what he calls a "rank society" (Harvey 1973: 304). The social expression of such economic "rank" can take the form of ideological and political issues, specifically of racial or ethnic discrimination (Harvey 1973: 279). This disproportionate distribution of economic and social capital also structures in fundamental ways our individual perceptions of space. Harvey defines this individual social space in two important ways: it is relational, contained in relationships between objects, (Harvey 1973: 13) and is symbolic "of existing social order, symbolic of our aspirations, our needs and our fears" (Harvey 1973: 31). Harvey's definition of urbanism speaks most directly to a reading of texts by writers of immigrant origin as expressive of relational and symbolic spaces and space relations. One could even make the claim that these texts form a body of work that is constituted by the very urbanism whose inequalities it questions. "Beur" literature, tram the beginning, was overwhelmingly based in urban and suburban ghettoes. Authors from Mehdi Charef to Nacer Kettane and Begag have made the daily deprivations and inequalities of those spaces not just the background but the very stuff of their writing. And yet, their protagonists' narratives have been about overcoming and moving out of these marginalized spaces, literally and imaginatively, in order to resituate themselves within the larger culture, a culture their writing makes more inclusive. In doing so, their protagonists question and redefine what it means to be a citizen-subject, and not just a subject of the nation-state. Azouz Begag is known to most readers as the author of Le Gone du Chaâba, published in 1986. However in 1984, his thesis in Transport Economics was published by the Presses Universitaire de Lyon. Titled L'Immigré et sa ville, it was a study of how urban planning, particularly public and private transportation, affected and shaped perceptions of mobility and territory. (It was also prefaced by an excerpt tram what was to become his novel, Le Gone du Chaâba, in the incident where Bouzid gets lost on the metro, because he can't read the destinations on the trains). In a series of interviews with residents of Vaulx-en-Velin in Lyon, Begag lays out the nuanced and multiple ways in which the first generation of immigrants from North Africa feel disenfranchised 17
from the physicallandscape beyond their immediate neighborhood. Their unemployment plus a lack of literacy needed to negotiate public transportation, their fear at having to negotiate unfamiliar areas without adequate command of French all make them shun the world outside, retreating instead to the comfort of the familiar, the myth that they would eventually return "home" from France. This leads, cumulatively, to a lack of engagement with French culture, which in turn, sees them as marginalized. Begag sums up his research by pointing out how his project has moved from one about transport to one which has to grapple with the psychology of being an immigrant in a "hostile environment" (Begag 1984: 173). In this move, from a carefully defined "discipline" to an inquiry that has no visible limit, Begag posits the ways in which individual habit, fear or safety, is tied up with the grand abstractions of economics, urban planning and ultimately, its inequality. The "social invisibility" that marks the first generation of immigrants, is both voluntary and involuntary, and is perpetuated by their economic marginalization: as unskiIIed workers, as the unemployed, as those, even within what he calls the "degraded" space of Vaulx-en-Velin, they are at the bottom of the social hierarchy of the dispossessed. However, Begag's work is never deterministic, either economicaUy or culturally. If the first generation immigrants of his thesis are invisible, then the problem faced by Azouz, Begag's fictional protagonist in Le Gone du Chaâba, is that of an undesired visibility. His family's attempts to keep him immured, linguistically and culturally, in the chaâba (shantytown), drag him down. Even as the novel charts the multiple ways in which people in the chaâba reconstitute loose familial units away from their homes in Algeria, Azouz sits in the front row in his class as close as he can get to the teacher and declares: "S'il dit que nous sommes tous des descendants des Gaulois, c'est qu'il a raison, et tant pis si chez moi nous n'avons pas les mêmes moustaches" (Begag 1986: 62). By the novel's end, Azouz has lost faith in the dream of embourgeoisement that housing and changes in housing represent and the last word is left to Bouzid, who repeats his dream of escape, "Bi titre, j'va bartir l'anni brouchaine, bi titre li mois brouchain" (Begag 1986: 240). In France, the issue of housing discrimination was central to the political mobilization of immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s. The SONACOTRA affair in 1975 was sparked by rent increases in 18
workers' housing blocks in the suburbs of Paris relating especially to properties run by the Société Nationale de Construction de Logement pour les Travailleurs, or SONACOTRA, which had been set up in 1956. A series of rent strikes there became the hub of contestatory political and cultural activities to mobilize immigrant workers around issues that were at the heart of their existence in France. Post-1981, when an old 1939 law prohibiting political associations by foreigners was repealed under Mitterrand, associations to redress such grievances proliferated. Other methods, such as squatting, were also employed to seek rightful redress. However, the problem of decrepit and inconveniently located housing, inadequate public transport, peremptory and sometimes illegal evictions, still remains. Mitterrand's "seuil de tolerance" speech gave a further fillip to these efforts and was used as a pretext to prevent large concentrations of immigrants living in anyone area. Many right-wing and Communist politicians were involved in incidents of collusion with housing authorities, where housing remained unoccupied while immigrant families remained without housing because the "balance" between communities had to be maintained. Lloyd and Waters list examples of such incidents and more violent occurrences in Montfermeil, Gennevilliers-Port in north Paris, Vaulx-en-Velin (Lyon) and Goutte d'Or in Paris. In Begag's fiction, and in the writing by other writers like Charef, while crowded city housing provides security and a sense of community to immigrant families in France, making it easier for them to organize themselves, it also provides easy victims for packs of skinheads, for police attacks and false "pick-ups", all under the guise of law and order. It also leads to ghettoisation, reinforcing media-fed popular conceptions of "bad neighborhoods," crime and drug dealing, and the label of being "unsafe." These are also the areas neglected in terms of upkeep and cleaning by city services. Francois Maspero, urban geographer and sociologist, in his book, Roissy Express, charts the racism inherent in the conjuncture of bad urban planning, transport services and architecture. In La Courneuve, outside of Paris, he visits a "planned" estate called Les 4000. His account of the planning follows.
It is one of the most grandiose results of the Delouvrier Plan. The year was 1960. 'Delouvrier', said De Gaulle, 'these inhuman suburbs 19
are making the Paris area a shambles - sort them out.' ...Delouvrier and his chums sorted out the Paris area. And then later, twenty years later, with Mitterand as president, they realized that the Plan wasn 't working, that it was unbearable, and it was decided to sort the place out again. As the new urban planners had finally realized that everything stemmed from a lack of humanism, they looked for a human dimension. And as there was a risk of social discontent boiling over, they decided to dynamite the biggest 'wall' in Cité de 4000 Sud. It was one of the presidents first big initiatives...On the site today there remains a vaguely grassy area and a melancholy little tree planted by the youngsters who lived there: they say that this little tree and this big empty space are all the roots they have left. Because those youngsters are still there - living in other 'walls' which get the sun now. Well, they're not all there, of course. Some of them had to go. The authorities took the opportunity to 'ventilate' the immigrants. As they said, they're humanizing the place.
(Maspero 1994: ] 56-7)
Maspero's critique is borne out by figures collected by urban geographers and analysts. While they cannot make an effective breakdown by nationality because French nationality is also held by people of North African descent, thee do make a point that the "spatial dispersal policy" in place since the 1980s in the Ile-deParis region, has disproportionately targeted Maghrebi families. It is, they say,
a process in which, with a number of legal instruments, the socially weak are gradually pushed to the neighboring departements Although the policy does not have a specifically ethnic effect, in practice especially South Mediterraneans turn out to be hit by this measure: "this exclusion of the interests of certain groups is therefore subtle: the perceived North African district of Goutte d'Or is targeted for renewal but not the Chinatown areas of the Arts-et-Métiers quarter or elsewhere" (White 1995: 6). In other words problematical cases are literally deported...this continues the tradition of Baron de Haussmann who started it almost ISO years ago.
(Musterd, Ostendorf and Breebaart 1998: 158)
This is also what happens to Bouzid at the end of Le Gone du Chaâba, when the landlord gives him an ultimatum to move, all because he wants to rent out the place at a higher price. He is given an offer, an offer he literally can't refuse. The displacement of families, of children and their schooling, the interrupted life of the mother, are nothing to the landlord, who knowing he has won, in the end, cannot resist reminding Bouzid that he is an outsider. 20
"Alors, quand c'est que vous repartez dans votre pays?" (Begag 1986:240) For people who stay on, or are allowed to, housing estates, along with schools, form the first experiences with racism among young schoolchildren. Accounts of these neighborhoods and their contradictory natures (encompassing both nurturing communities and hostile environments) form an important part of "Beur" fiction, in Begag's fiction and in the case of Mehdi Charef as well, whose first novel, Tea in the Harem of Archimedes, unfolds entirely in one such cité. In general, "Beurs" have had an ambivalent relationship to their banlieues, recognizing them as places by which they are marked as "blacks, beurs, jeunes banlieusards, " but also places that offer a sense of community. Samia Mehrez, in her article on Beur fiction, provides a good analysis of the double bind that the character in Begag's Le Gone du Chaâba finds himself when he scores high grades in school. "As Azouz continues to refine his efforts to assert himself within the dominant culture, he is read by his community as a sell-out. Azouz's attempts to prove that Arabs have brains, too, is interpreted as treachery, and finally he finds himself denied his Arab identity which, till the end, and despite his success, he refuses to relinquish" (Mehrez 1993: 41). It is important to recognize that the critique of urbanism that Maspero and Harvey sketch out is not entirely negative. In the work of Begag, the chaâba (bidonville) and the HLM, like the flats overlooking the railway lines in Kureishi' s work, are all also the spaces of identity formation, an identity that is contestatory, demanding, the voice of "la génération de la parole." When Maspero talks about the isolated suburbs just a few miles away from the city, they are criss-crossed by highways that allow no transverse access or conversation, let alone community, there are no parks or leisure centers, no real markets. But what they do have is histories of their own, and each place he travels to: Aulany, Rose des vents, Sevran, Petite Couronne, all are discrete, turned in on themselves, with no connections to anywhere else. Paradoxically, this increases the formation of local sub-cultures. "The problem with the estates, says Akim, is that they don't let go of you easily: they're shut in on themselves, they offer a territory, a form of security" (Maspero 1994: 172). Some of the first agit-prop style theatre groups in the banlieues arose in order to address and express this sense of identity. Their names, la Troupe de théâtre de 21
la ZUP de Valence, la Troupe de théâtre de l' etang de beUITe,Ibn Khaldoun at Belleville, Weekend à Nanterre and Star du Bled at Lyon, exhibit a playfulness, but also a determination to spell out where they come from. Similarly in Begag's Béni ou le Paradis privé, the young Béni invents different nationalities for himself, as a way to get admission into the nightclub Paradis, but fails. At the end, he is thrown back on a fierce sense of his own identity. At the moment of rejection, of being marked out as the foreigner, he finds an instant rapport with his father and his generation: "Mon cœur saigne de honte. J'ai peur qu'il me frappe. Tout d'un coup je deviens peureux de la vie comme mon père. Je serre les poings mais il n'y a aucune force dedans. C'est tout flasque. Le gros videur a posé ses deux pattes de brute sur mes épaules et il a commencé à me pousser comme un arbre" (Begag 1989: 171). ln both his early novels, Begag confronts head on the demand that the second generation insert itself seamlessly into French society, that it become French and renounce all claims to any other loyalty, and exposes both the limits of the demand and the endeavor itself. And in both cases, his protagonists arrive at a more nuanced understanding of citizenship, as something that demands a degree of assimilation, but also as a concept that needs active redefinition, therefore demanding an active praxis of citizenship. It is remarkable that Begag keeps coming back to the form of the Bildungsroman, a nineteenth century, predominantly German form used to chart the development of properly bourgeois subjects. These bourgeois subjects are also idealized citizens of the capitalist world. However, the combination of the autobiographical Bildungsroman with repeatedly inconclusive endings in his work exhibits something more than the formation of the citizen-subject. It stresses instead a concern with the process of citizenship, precisely because it is the process which is contradictory, full of struggle, and performs a pedagogic function. Begag's work shows a consistent preoccupation with pedagogy, or instruction through narrative, as shown by his numerous books for children. Some of his later novels, such as Les Chiens aussi, whose genre draws heavily on that of the parable, another pedagogic model, also show that his work is both polemical and political. A comparison with the work of Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears in Britain 22
underlines how these elements aptly serve the dual purpose of critique and chronicle. In Britain, unlike France, immigrants were not condemned to living in isolation outside the city but within it. However, the innercity was the most run-down, ill-equipped and ill-kept part of the urban landscape at a time when the phenomenon of "white flight" had not yet been reversed. Prior to 1965, there was no legal prohibition against the color bar in Britain, so most immigrants from South Asia and the Caribbean found they had to get whatever private housing they could find. This was often in the inner-city. Writers like Sam Selvon and Farrukh Dhondy have chronicled the ways in which immigrants coped, and profited from this state of affairs. However, it was only in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher's "England - love it or leave it" administration began plans to renovate the city and at the same time blame immigrants for the conditions in the inner-cities, that literature and film began to answer back. Thatcher's aim was to subject real estate in the city to free market deregulation, thereby creating what David Harvey. caUs "unproductive economic activity," i.e. financial speculation, and with it, the level of "social stratification and differential access to the means of production." According to a survey by the Amsterdam Study Center for the Metropolitan Environment, the results of the new Housing Acts that were passed in the eighties were that "the owner-occupier sector was stimulated and increased at the expense of the social (council) housing sector. There were hardly any investments in the social housing stock any longer and a large share of the local authority housing was sold off. As a result the rents of the remaining, reduced numbers of social rented dwellings, increased. Consequently, it became very difficult for low income households to find affordable housing" (Musterd, Ostendorf and Breebaart 1998: 103). According to the same study, the boroughs in London with the highest unemployment, over 18%, were in the East End while those with the lowest were in the affluent areas of Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea. About 20% of Greater London's inhabitants identified themselves as non-white in the 1991 census, which included Afro-Caribbeans, South Asians and Chinese, and these were disproportionately concentrated in areas where housing was decreasing. Slum landlords and people with capital, whether white or non-white, profited greatly from this shortage. 23
The first film production of Hanif Kureishi's screenplay, My Beautiful Launderette, makes this Thatcherite entrepreneurial vision an important part of its story. Directed by Stephen Frears, and set in London's East End, the film can't make up its mind whether to admire the profit-making zeal of its Pakistani and Pakistani-British characters or laugh at them. The protagonist, Omar, is given an aging laundromat to run by his uncle, whose son Salim also runs several slum flats and a drug smuggling operation on the side. With the help of his old friend Johnny, who is both a skinhead and gay, he makes a success of it and soon is dreaming of a whole chain of laundromats. His father, an alcoholic exCommunist, and Johnny, played by Daniel Day Lewis, are the only ones in the film with a few scruples and class loyalties. Frear's camera captures very well, the grey, dispirited and unchanging nature of Britain's urban character, which entrepreneurs like Zafar and Salim are trying to change. "You have to squeeze the tits of the system," says the uncle, but Kureishi refuses to say whether this is a good or a bad thing. The uncle ends up a broken man, bereft of girlfriend and daughter, while the ending of Johnny and Omar is left more unclear. The film also marks an important moment in British television history since it was made for Channel 4, an independent channel which used film as part of the renascence of a section of arts and humanities resistant to Thatcherism. In a way, this polarization might not have taken place had not Mrs. Thatcher leaned so heavily on cutting funds to theatres, universities and other sites of cultural production, proclaiming they were all subject to the law of the market. In her first term, she cut funding to universities and eliminated three thousand university jobs, demanding that universities should "serve the national economy more effectively." Mrs. Thatcher's ruthless cost-benefit analysis went on to tax the movie industry by making it independent of government subsidies, by abolishing tax breaks for the National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC), and by passing the Films Bill in 1984-5. Channel 4, with its emphasis on including programming which was more urban and ethnically diverse, profited from this and put British filmmaking back on the map. While Kureishi has since remade himself as the spokesman for a hip, upwardly mobile Britain, representing its multicultural face at international festivals, I want to focus on his early work for two reasons. First, because it covers a period of transition in Britain: a 24
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