Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Salaam, Whitechapel Market

August 28, 2010 · 11 Comments

Whitechapel Market was in some ways exactly what we expected: predominantly Muslim and Hindu. There were Halal butchers, veils, saris and curry vendors on every corner.  Most shoppers had tan complexions and wore Islamic or Hindu clothing; however, there were also white, black, and East-Asian shoppers. There were some ways in which Salaam, Brick Lane and our other readings about immigration to the East End didn’t prepare us, though: we saw a handful of authentic-looking English pubs when we expecting corner-to-corner curry joints; when we had anticipated a rowdy, bustling circus, the market seemed so empty that at first we weren’t sure we were in the right place. We walked up and down Whitechapel Road looking for a more likely candidate, resembling the market of Hall’s Chalky and Mr. Ali. We eventually realized we were in the right place, but since this is the holy month of Ramadan, the market is a little more subdued than usual. We also noticed the stall-keepers were almost entirely male, and that many of the mannequins had pale skin and light hair. Among our favorite experiences: meeting a lifelong Londoner on a park bench and learning about the “decline” of the East End; being continually surprised by the various cultural characteristics and quirks of the East End population; and arguing about headscarves and religious tradition on a Bethnal Green picnic table. Hope you enjoy our pictures of the Whitechapel Market and the surrounding area – we really enjoyed our experience there, and we can’t wait to go back and see it after Ramadan.

Here are some links we thought you might like to check out:

This one claims to be the definitive website on Ronnie and Reggie Kray. You may remember these two gangsters from Salaam, and sure enough, when we asked our elderly informant about what he considers to be the “real” East End, the Krays were the first thing he mentioned. If you’re looking for a better idea of what the East End used to be like (and what some residents wish the East End still was like), take a look here.

See an informational website regarding Ramadan here.

The Royal London Hospital is located on the other side of Whitechapel road. There is a link here for more information about the hospital.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/JMvSb8bVRQQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
The video on YouTube

Categories: 2010 Amy · 2010 ChristopherB · 2010 MaryKate · Markets · Pubs · readings

11 responses so far ↓

  •   mattg // Aug 28th 2010 at 16:39

    For a culture that seems so proud of their heritage why do you think their mannequins are ethnically white looking? Perhaps those are the only ones available?

  •   osterhoj // Aug 28th 2010 at 16:47

    Speaking to the first point on your video (as well as what Hall mentioned in his book), I find it so interesting that the man you spoke to said that immigrants were “not Londoners.” I find this fascinating, since many people, including many English persons- including himself- are not “from” London. It seems that some feel that, no matter how long immigrants have been in the UK, they cannot truly be English. I wonder why this is. Perhaps pride for one’s nation?

  •   battilaj // Aug 28th 2010 at 16:48

    It sounds more like an internalized racism thing to me. I feel like a white a beauty standard would definitely develope in a former empire nation.

  •   battilaj // Aug 28th 2010 at 16:50

    The white mannequins*

  •   hollymb // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:09

    We were in what seemed to be a predominately ethnic neighborhood, as well, but I was also struck by the traditional British pubs that appeared on the street corners. I guess that it really speaks to the change that London neighborhoods have undergone as far as immigrant populations, when something associated so strongly with “Britishness” is among shops catering to such an international population.

  •   Matthew Michrina // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:15

    As I recall, Fox said in Watching the English that almost every culture uses alcohol as a social tool, though the English typically rely on it more in social situations than other cultures. Also, immigrants to London are famous for assimilating in many ways. Therefore, it may be possible that the English pubs have sprouted up in these seemingly strange places simply because immigrants like to drink alcohol, and think the best way to do this is to emulate the “native” English.

  •   kaitlin // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:31

    It’s so cool that you got to visit a place we have read so much about, and that you got to meet someone with so much information that was willing to talk to you. It seems like a great opportunity. It seems that some of what you observed was consistent with our readings and some of it was not. It will be interesting to compare and contrast after Ramadan.

  •   Karl // Aug 29th 2010 at 02:12

    You clearly sparked some discussion, which is a key goal for the blogs. It won’t be the last time we talk about race, racism, immigration, and the East End. I cleaned up some stray code and placed a link under the embedded media because the embed can freeze, especially when we have limited connections.

  •   emilym // Aug 29th 2010 at 19:05

    I’m surprised that you met someone within only a few hours who so exactly confirmed what Salaam, Brick Lane told us about the opinions of certain residents of the East End. It sounds like you got to do some of the same detective work that Tarquin Hall did.

  •   groverd // Aug 30th 2010 at 19:09

    I wonder what the next wave of immigrants to move to the East End might be. Amazing that the character of a place is so determined by the somewhat transient community that settles there (ie the East End was once a very Jewish area and has changed almost entirely). It will be interesting to see whether the area becomes completely gentrified or if it remains a low-income area in the next 20-30 years. There’s so much that goes into how and why a place evolves in particular directions and ways. It’s also really neat that we can track the progress of its evolution through our readings and even better, through talking with residents who have witnessed periods of rapid transformation.

  •   Mary Kate // Aug 31st 2010 at 16:36

    Dan, I’m wondering the same thing! Hall talks a lot about how the East End is becoming sort of a hipster location over the past few years – I even saw a girl today at the British Museum with an “I <3 Brick Lane" shirt over studded spandex pants. You guys may not agree with me when we see it tomorrow, but I thought Whitechapel was beautiful – definitely not what I think of when I think of a ghetto or a slum. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see it becoming totally gentrified within a few decades – I just hope that the current residents have somewhere as nice or nicer to call home once that occurs. It would be a shame to see the community get separated and scattered across London.

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