Wednesday, February 22, 2006

As English as daffodils or chicken tikka masala!

In a recent article on the "Uses and Abuses of Multiculturalism," Amartya Sen recounts a description of "unquestionable Englishness of an Englishwoman in a London paper: She is as English as daffodils or chicken tikka masala." After this and many other delightful anecdotes, Sen writes:

Yet the weight of British public opinion has been moving, at least until recently, quite strongly in the direction of tolerating--and even celebrating--cultural diversity. All this, and the inclusionary role of voting rights and non-discriminatory public services, have contributed to an interracial calm of a kind that France in particular has not enjoyed recently. Still, it leaves some of the central issues of multiculturalism entirely unresolved, and I want to take them up now.

One of the issues that he takes up speaks to the recent cartoon controversy. Sen writes:

while religion or ethnicity may be an important identity for people (especially if they have the freedom to choose between celebrating or rejecting inherited or attributed traditions), there are other affiliations and associations that people also have reason to value.

At the cost of sounding a tad frivolous, I would suggest that fan communities that cohere around popular culture artifacts that circulate globally (think anime, Bollywood) are one such space where affiliations and stakes criss-cross regional, linguistic, national, and religious boundaries. Article is in The New Republic (free registration).

(via 3Quarks Daily)


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