The celebration of “ethnicized” body in Britain
By Hassen ZRIBA
This article treats the issue of the importance of the “body” in sustaining ethnic identity in contemporary Britain. It is suggested that the celebration of the “body” by British ethnic minorities, namely by South Asian communities, has been a source of ethnic empowerment and a tool to preserve ethnic identity within a multicultural British society. Nevertheless, the “body” being a powerful element in ethnic identity management, does also hurt it through the mechanisms of stereotyping. Consequently, South Asian ethnic identity is caught into a trap of being into a time and change-resisting capsule. Such situation of continuous “body celebration” hurts rather than enriches ethnic identity. The Body-Identity becomes a subject matter of/for contemplation and celebration rather than a “real” and an everyday experience. Thus, the celebration of the Body-Identity turns out to be one effective strategy of containment. However, I suggest that such negative abuse of the “body” is not all the story. Cotemporary sociologists, cultural critics and race relations activists such Stuart Hall, Mary Douglas, and Erving Goffman argue that body celebrations can be also empowering. They can, they suggest, keep the celebrated identity intact by rendering it part and a parcel of popular culture. However, this communication argues that what is important is not the celebration of the body itself but rather for what reasons it is celebrated. I think that the celebration of Body-Identity in Britain is constructive if seen as a means to an end not an end in itself. The article attempts to study some celebrating rituals of ethnicized Body-Identity by South Asian communities in Britain. The major target is to show how the body celebration and representation can be at the same time a force of subjugation and empowerment.
With post-modernist theory’s emphasis on images, the body has become a major bearer of symbolic...