Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Identity and Immigration

September 7, 2009 · 4 Comments

     Over my one-pound-fifty take-out lunch that I brought back to the garden, Megan and I discussed last week’s blog topic: identity and immigration. “I just have no idea where I’m going to take this,” I said. “We’ve done so much reading about this already, I just feel like I have nothing new to say.” Megan agreed, saying that she felt as though she had done all the research, knew all the background information, and was just struggling to “find a conclusion.” I think we both really had valid points here.

     It is impossible to form any sort of thesis about identity and immigration in London because of the essence of London. It is, according to one of our Guardian readings on race, “a city with immigrants” rather than “a city of immigrants,” like New York. London is definied by its ever-shifting immigrant populations. If one were to establish some sort of grasp on what immigration means to London today, and what London means to immigrants today, it would shift within a matter of years and become obsolete. Immigration is part of what makes London London, and therefore, there is nothing new to say about it because it has always been this way, and will continue to be.

     Perhaps this blog is too short, perhaps some of you will think it was ill-structured, poorly thought-out or had no new ideas to introduce to the reader. Well, you may be right. However, over-analyzing immigrant populations – identifying where the Afro-Caribbean communites or the Polish communities or the Jewish, Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani communities are located – only serves to further isolate these populations from one another and from the rest of British culture. We’ve discussed the topic to death. What we need to do now is look at the issue from a new vantage point, or even better, from no vantage point at all. If we accept immigrants as Londoners, and cease to discuss these populations as separate entities, then the possibility of a new London would be possible.

Categories: Anya
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4 responses so far ↓

  •   russella // Sep 7th 2009 at 10:07

    I see your point, we have been attacking this topic from every possible angle, to the point of ridiculousness. However, many of these communities have little intention of intergration or becoming “Londoners.” The cultural heritage of a population is something that even the older groups have a difficult time intergrating. While it is true that anyone who lives in London, is technically a Londoner, I imagine many people will say Polish(insert other nationality too)-Londoner before simply Londoner. London will most likely always be sectionalistic in nature, if only because of the way it is physically set up and the ingrained class structure of English culture.

  •   anyasettle // Sep 7th 2009 at 13:08

    But why does one have to integrate, assimilate, etc. in order to be considered a “real” Londoner? Isn’t that a little ethnocentric? Is the idea of sharing space and co-existing really so repulsive that we must label someone a “Polish-Londoner” or “West Indian Londoner” (etc.) in order to differentiate ourselves from the ‘minority’ culture that may not even be a minority at all, anymore? If one lives in London, he/she is a Londoner. London, as we know, means so many different things. We cannot possibly say that “this is essentially London” or “that is essentially London.” It is these cultural differences and shades of grey that define the city, not the black-and-white divisions. I suppose that is the real point I’m trying to get at, here: the fact that we use labels at all will only ever serve to perpetuate the problems and racial tensions that we experience here (just think of our trip to the East Street Market!)

  •   russella // Sep 7th 2009 at 14:47

    I agree completely that if you pay your taxes in London, you’re a Londoner. I would definitely agree with you that labels are destructive to the overall harmony and also that race is nothing but a social construct; however, I had meant to convey an idea of self-labeling. Much of the time, people do not want to become part of a singularly title culture for fear of becoming enveloped (I am not saying this is correct at all). Names are a powerful tool to retain one’s culture despite actual ties to that culture. I would say that while titles such as Polish-Londoners or African-Londoners, would in some ways seperate groups of people, they are also a matter of pride and cultural continuation/ heritage.

  •   Steve // Sep 16th 2009 at 18:22

    Not at all unlike the US…..”African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans,” and so forth. When did this become primary to “Americans,” placing MORE emphasis on our respective national origins?

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