Who Do We Think We Are?: Imagining the New Britain

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9780140255980: Who Do We Think We Are?: Imagining the New Britain

This work concentrates on British Blacks and Asians who have a shared history both as children of the ex-empire and as participants in the post-war re-building of Britain. Part of the purpose of this work is to reveal hidden lives to the rest of society. It also weaves the views of non-white Britons into the major debates of our time and challenges assumptions that are made about lifestyles and practices of minority groups. It looks at progress, modernity and tradition. Key themes to be explored through a female perspective include family, religion, politics, culture, sexuality, race and gender and economic status. The aim is to reflect and analyze the changes and the enduring values within the communities and to describe their reactions to the political, social and economic landscape of Britain.

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Review:

Regular columnist for the Independent, Yasmin Alibai-Brown's Who Do We Think We Are: Imagining the New Britain is a collection of overlapping essays covering a wide range of topics from the history of race-relations, immigration policy, education, liberal politics and feminism. Her guiding focus threads the concept of citizenship with the creation of an historically aware sense of national identity to which we can all ideally subscribe.

The real strength of the book can be found in the details-- not just the Historical detail concerning immigration, demographics, and social policy which is the backbone of the book--but the concrete present-day concerns of the individuals Brown interviews. Brown's spiritual home is the political left, so expect a swipe at the exclusionary tactics of the white male establishment and calls for the reform of British institutions. However, the analysis is sometimes hamstrung by the racial and ethnic categorisations she works with which are not always helpful for thinking through political questions of justice and citizenship.

What's unusual and important about this book is that Brown has the refreshing habit of dropping in unpalatable home truths about certain factions of the political left. "Feminists" Brown tells us, "need to stop regarding theirs as the only valid issue in the world". Of anti-racist initiatives we hear that "far too many inept and furious people got into racism awareness and anti-racist training ... and did more damage than if they had left the issue untouched" Who Do We Think We Are? a well written, astute, and provocative book. It is guaranteed to earn Brown some new friends and perhaps a few new enemies too. --Larry Brown

About the Author:

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes a weekly column in The Independent as well as writing for The Guardian, Observer and New Statesman. She broadcasts regularly on Radio 4 and The World Service.

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