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D.<Tab/>Making Reference To Theoretical Perspectives With Which You Are Familiar, Discuss The Construction Of Race And Ethnicity In Literary Texts Othello And My Beautiful Laundrette

2198 words - 9 pages

In the following essay I will discuss in regard to race and ethnicity, Othello by William Shakespeare, and My Beautiful Laundrette, by Hanif Kureishi. To put the texts into some form of context it is perhaps important to look at each of the author’s ethnicities. Shakespeare is a quintessential English white male, born in the Elizabethan period. In Othello he writes about a ‘lascivious moor’ (1.1.127) whose racial identity is left ambiguous (perhaps highlighting the lack of separate identity racial communities were given in that era). Hanif Kureishi on the other hand is the son of an English mother and Pakistani father. In My Beautiful Laundrette he focuses on Thatcherite Britain and investigates the ‘plural complex, and criss-crossed character of identities, including ‘black’ and ‘Asian’ identities, in the contemporary world’ (Hill: 212). My aim is to look in more depth at how the issues of race and ethnicity are portrayed in each text.Race and ethnicity are by no means the only issues in My Beautiful Laundrette. To analyse the screenplay effectively in regard to the question we need to look at the other key aspects of the play, for instance the effects that unemployment and deindustrialisation had on racist behaviour, and the relationships in the text, notably the homosexual relationship between Omar and Johnny. As Stuart hall remarks ‘the question of the black subject cannot be represented without reference to the dimensions of class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity’ (Hall, 1995: 226). In the initial scene there is a multi-racial grouping of Jamaicans, a Pakistani, and an Anglo-Indian woman who are removing a group of white squatters from a building. What is interesting in these opening moments is the social hierarchy apparent. The white squatters (Moose, Genghis, Johnny), living in Thatcherite Britain are homeless and without work as unemployment is rife, whilst Salim, Cherry and the unnamed Jamaicans are living the affluent counter-effects of Thatcherite ‘entrepreneurialism’ (Encarta, 2007). The effects of Thatcher’s Britain are also evident in Omar’s father’s living conditions. As an old but formerly educated man he is keen for Omar to get a good education remarking;Don’t get too involved with that crook. You’ve got to study. We are under siege by the white man. For us education is power (Kureishi: 18)The ‘crook’ he is referring to here is Nasser, Omar’s uncle, who has learnt how to ‘squeeze the tits out of the (English) system’ (Kureishi: 17). This differs from Omar’s father, or ‘Papa’ who, previously married to a white women who committed suicide, lives in a damp and dirty place which hasn’t been decorated for years’ (Kureishi: 11). It is evident throughout the screenplay that prosperity and poverty alike are not defined by notions of race and ethnicity. In fact Uncle Nasser’s ‘large detached...

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