Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism
For Stuart Hall, popular culture (and under this I would include popular literature) functions as a ‘theater [sic] of popular desires, a theater of popular fantasies’ in which ‘we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented, not only to the audiences out there who do not get the message, but to ourselves for the first time.’ 1 Following Hall’s assertion, this chapter engages with British multicultural fiction that is concerned with negotiating identity and belonging first and foremost within a community of insiders, with scant concern for a mainstream audience. This chapter examines Karline Smith’s Moss Side Massive (1994) and Full Crew (2002), Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal’s Tourism (2006) as examples of fiction that engages with British multiculturalism through a prioritisation of subcultural affiliation over minority identity in a way that distinguishes them from their more externally engaged counterparts. As such, I will be arguing that these popular multicultural novels construct an alternative implied audience. In bringing these texts together, I synthesise discussions of the popular, subcultural and mainstream in ways that demand explanation. What follows is a short critical introduction to the field of study before I move on to an analysis of the novels, which suggests that they are worthy of critical study by virtue of the alternative commentary on British multiculturalism offered. Engaged with legacies of Britain’s status as a former colonial power, these texts foreground division and alienation over assimilation or integration and centralise material relations based on economic transactions.