A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain by Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

By Nasreen Ali, Virinder S Kalra et al

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The correlation between class and educational inequality was not fully established in their minds. Their disquiet was centred primarily on issues such as the strongly Christian ethos of school assemblies. Some parents were disconcerted by the requirements of the compulsory school uniform which stipulated that girls must wear skirts. Such parents were likely to regard the wearing of skirts as not in keeping with the norms of ‘modesty’, but, as yet, they rarely translated this discontent into public protest.

Unsurprisingly then the ‘immigrant’ imaginary articulates the arrival of ethnically marked ex-colonial people as another instance of the postnational minority thesis, hence postcolonial people become available if not ready to be domesticated and assimilated into the national fold by using the same techniques and practices that made nation-states out of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, economic groupings. The problem of course is that such a thesis cannot identify or countenance immigrants and their descendants as belonging to ethnic minority formations that are decidedly postcolonial, since the thesis cannot concede the idea that ex-colonial immigrant formations are not signifiers of the incomplete process of nation-building but are rather signifiers of the incomplete social, political and racial developments surrounding decolonisation.

In a frequently quoted speech delivered in 1966 Roy Jenkins, the then Home Secretary, argued against the notion of ‘assimilation’ but in favour of ‘integration’. indb 39 15/12/2005 08:39:16 40 Avtar Brah process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual trust’ (Jenkins, 1966: 4). On the face of it this statement seems reasonable and fair, but its underlying assumptions warrant examination. First, this view of integration seems to imply that equality of opportunity for the different segments of British society was already in existence at the time when the migrants first began to arrive, and hence the difficulties facing the newcomers could be overcome quite straightforwardly by the introduction of a social policy that would place the migrant on the same footing as the native.

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