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Identity, Belonging and Masculinity in “The Buddha of Suburbia” Thesis



The book Budha of Surbabia is a real life memoir of experiences that every human endures whenever they go to a new location and want to be expected by the aboriginal people of that particular society. The plot attests at how people undergo a sort of rite of passage in order to be accepted by society, the rite exemplifies itself as a formal admission to a certain way of life of a community in question.

Nonetheless, the contemporary society has by a very great scope changed due to civilization, globalization and its cause-effects and the implications of liberal democracies. Blending of cultures is one poignant and overly delicate topic in the British society, and has been met by a lot of skepticism and political criticism.1

The British premier Mr. David Cameron once reiterated the need for British to espouse a national identify to avert extremism. This cautious topic was directed at multiculturalism, the premier espoused the notion that different cultures to live separately as opposed to together. Multiculturalism had the impetus of having a society that bears people of different cultures, races creed and ultimately different background.

Hanif Kureishi depicts it as reflects the homogeneity of the “English skin’ through a post colonial perspective. It is furthermore about the ever-changing senses of class, cultural interruption making Karim a typical protagonist stressing how culture and particular race affect class Karim depict himself as a born and bred Englishman.2

Without a doubt, both the immigrants and the host society have their own frame of mind and personal convictions with respects to multicultural and initiation issues and for them to reinstate equality amid these two social factions, there have been many attempts of tracing, retaining and even replanting ones roots. It catches one’s attention that across all cultures, there seems to be an urge to closely guard what they define as their cultures and practices, at times going to great lengths to trace their roots of origin.

Albeit, it can be often annotated that Karim’s cognizance of the ‘Englishness’ can be termed as eccentric as critics such as Helberg have asseted of his infamous detachment about his ethnic upbringing.

Nevertheless it could be contended that whereas Karim distinguishes his Indian individuality as a personality advantage to be created at will, the author expresses that ethnicity is not just something which can be effortlessly discharged. Essentially, in this logic Kureishi divulges about his credence that every human being has a principal right to his/her own particular cultural background. This can be perceived as ignoring the fact that culture is actually social in nature.3

About Hanif Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi is a prominent filmmaker, novelist and writer born in 1954. Over time, he has been able to write on several topics including sexuality, immigration and racism among many others. Through these writings, Kureishi has been able to establish a good reputation as a famous British writer. This, probably, is the reason he was included amongst the top British Writers since 1994 by The Times and has won several awards in the process.

Remarkably, Kureishi’s writings started in the 1970’s with him being reputed as a pornographic writer for pseudonyms such as Karim and Antonia French. In 1985, he wrote the critically acclaimed My Beautiful Laundrette which centered on a gay Pakistani boy. My Beautiful Laundrette is reported to have won the Best Screenplay Award in New York as well as an Academy Award nomination for being the Best Screenplay.

It is soon after this, in 1990, that Kureishi was inspired to write The Buddha of Suburbia. The reception for this book was overwhelmingly positive as it ended up winning the Whitebread Award for being the best first novel. Also, the Buddha of Suburbia was made into a BBC television series.

It is worth noting that in spite of his success in the world of book-writing, play-writing and movie/film direction, his writings have faced a myriad of controversies from both the public and his family. For instance, Yasmin—Kureishi’s sister—is reported to have complained of Kureishi airing their family’s dirty linen in the public by making a couple of references to them in the Buddha of Suburbia.

In fact, in some aspects of the book, Kureishi is accused by the family of fabricating such as the bitterness of his father, the poor socio-economic status of his grandfather or even his mother’s job at a shoe factory. As a result of these allegedly fabricated stories, Yasmin wrote a letter to the Guardian Newspaper indicating that their father did not speak to Kureishi for close to a year while a good part of his family shunned him and treated his as an outcast.

Nonetheless, all these is in the past as Kureishi is currently a family man married with twin boys and a younger son as well as a famous pet parrot named Amis. With his good mastery of the English language, high level of creativity and love for controversial topics; much more can be expected from Hanif Kureishi in the future.

Arguments on the Themes

There is eventual an settlement that Smith and Kureishi’s works present debatable subjects both individually and collectively in relation to the differences in cultures or even to the lengths of sexuality and masculinity. At the same time, there exists a set of theories and arguments in relation to these subjects as presented through the available literature like Bhabha’s, The Other Question, Stereotype, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism and even in Halla’s Cultural Identity and Diaspora.

These debates, perhaps, assist us to accelerate discussion in post colonialism, more than any other period before, as a result of the awakening of the masses and the need to anchor oneself to a given background4. Investigating the presentations in these works, therefore, becomes important in trying to question why the spirit of belongingness and identity arises in human beings

The protagonist Karim has to deal with the way others perceives him in London which is apparently is not the conducive environment for perpetual change. The book exhibits incidents of culturally driven violence, even though frequently recounted amusingly from a remote tone, would ultimately appear to have faith in the inkling as opposed to any other character in the book.

Identity and Belonging

The assertion being driven at is, that man indeed can live his life in a world that is ethnicity free in that place referred to as no-man’s land, the characters deal with unpredictable gradations of ethnicity like it was particular kind of isolated problem, in a certain way the aspect contrasts to the social involvement and activism of other characters like Eva. The theme is further stressed in Karim’s failure to enlist in the anti-Nazi protest.

The author gives the impression that the fundamental themes are national nationalism and post-colonialism; underpinning the probable vulnerabilities of counterarguments to ethnic importance. Karim’s insolence is juxtaposed to the withdrawal of other protagonists to cultural reserves and the imaginary the republic of India’s espouses.

The liberal dissertation of a multiplicity of cultures is put under inquiry by critics of the book, albeit many contend that Eva’s efforts to surpass ethnic scrawniness via the integration of culture and social change. Racial discourses are highly represented in the book as a representation of social injustices and aspirations made towards nationalism; the characters are all influenced by the aspects of globalization and cultural influences.5

Many opponents have frequently asserted that the book’s plot does not exhibit any victims. Kureishi’s works depict issues like the utilization of travesty foiling it from being in any way what Sandhu discusses as “alternative literature.”

Kureishi every so often stresses the conventional feature of the experience of people in diaspora which in which Bhabha’s philosophy of hybridity ignores. Thus in this particular sense, Kureishi discards the idea of “suitable lies and joyful fictions” choosing the representation of fully comprehended humans, “warts and all” as another author aptly put it.67

Kureishi’s “numerous accounts of manifold voices demand bearing in mind the descriptions through viewpoints that as Dipesh Chakrabarty desires, go outside the restrictions of the nation and nationhood, that is to permit us to understand what is being supposed Kureishi’s work pre-supposes that no one point is preferred, and hitherto the numerous opinions are heard.8

He queries the edifices of the nation state and the limitations of culture and national exactitude he rejects a parochial broad based works which is he terms as no further than an act of public relations. Kureishi claims that “the world is now hybrid” and that what is required is inventive inscription that provides us with a sense of the changes and complications explicit within our civilization.9

Heritage and Legacy

In trying to create ground for belonging, Hanif uses the themes of heritage and legacy to try and connect the characters in the Buddha of Surbubia. Through various characters such as Eva, Hanif shows how people strive to overcome ethnic scrawniness through the integration of cultural heritage and social change. In other words, cultural heritage is used by Hanif as a means of creating ethnical identity and creating some form of legacy for the individuals.

Hall looks at this ideology from the perspective that one cannot quite definitely speak of identity or belonging, without acknowledging its other side. In this context the other side could be the urge to relate to a certain culture or community.10

The idea of curving out or retaining an identity seems to be dominantly influenced by the cultures within which this new identity is being formed. The knowledge of their background informs what they do at present and how they go on with their lives currently.

This can be demonstrated by integrating Hall’s argument or theory that there are primarily two types of identity where one is that which offers a sense of unity and commonality-what he calls identity as being, and another that presents an identification process, what he refers to as identity as becoming –which he looks at as a process of identification, which tends to reveal discontinuity in our identity formation.

These theories underline the one important aspect: that of wanting to belong or to be associated with a society that has a certain clearly defined way of doing particular things. In other words there is the sense of retreating to the background.

Masculinity and Sexuality

This discussion is significant and relevant to any debate on post colonial literature or any other form of media since it is after this period that most nations settled and looked back at the various formations of their human cluster. It is at this period still that there arose in depth interrogation into issues like sexuality.

The Buddha of Suburbia depicts this at some point where sexuality is looked at as purely natural in the sense that women and men are deemed to have distinct characteristics which remain for long unchanged and are to some extent unchangeable throughout history and irrespective of cultures. However, there is another point of view and argument on this topic which points to the artificiality of sexual and gender identities.11

At this point, there arises what is seen as ‘the constructed character of sexuality’ that is argued to have been tilted to negate the claim that sexuality has a natural and a distinctive shape and movement. In relation to this whole matter though there seems to be an underlying factor that holds the view that sexual and gender identities vary across cultures, there might be no harm intended when one tries to trace the root on any of these subjects.12

In trying to create or claim belonging to certain cultures, it will be found that the issue of masculinity pops its head and in this aspect is clearly captured in these two works as well as in the theories that look into the matters of human background or belonging.13

The Theories and their Relationship to the Subject

This book deliberates the depiction of the subordinate middle class represented by the protagonist Karim in modern literature and academic writing. Taking an instance of George Orwell’s works of the early twentieth century and Hanif Kureishi’s the Buddha of Suburbia, we realize and denote some informative standpoints on the British lower middle class; however Orwell’s books also divulge an obvious contempt for that particular subject matter.14

Similar derision is resounded in most of the academic inscription about the lower middle class British. Criticized for its unreceptive insolences by theorists such as Carl Marx who demonstrate the “diminutive men of the higher class as opposed to the proletariat, those of the lower class; this in addition poses complications for a modern-day cultural policymaking that is based entirely on the naivety of indiscretion and on the passion of nonconformity.

Slightly than represent an old-fashioned or obsolete class structure, on the other hand, the lower middle class might propose a vital key to the present-day connotation and meaning of class.

Hall looks at the integration of all these backgrounds and the search of identity and belonging to what he terms as ‘hybridinization’. His argument for this theory is that across a whole range of cultural forms, there exists a form of system where the dynamics that hold all these issues together is somehow able to associate important elements of the diversities from the master codes of the dominant culture and articulate them or disseminate them to bring about a certain meaning.15

This in essence may mean that these two diversified cultures although initially had significant connection might at the point where and when they mix, share some common identities and they may as well stop being looked at as individual entities. This kind of merging has seen the rise of concocted languages like the Jamaican English. This is a clear indication of this proposal as a way of looking into the relationship of some cultural practices in view of their background and their contribution to literature in post colonial times.

In conclusion, it suffices to say that peer pressure is frequently a real mover of an individual’s attitudes and behavior. This importance is greatly expressed in various dimensions by Kureishi no wander the book is monumental for our study.


Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

Hanif Kureishi., The Buddha of Suburbia, London: Faber & Faber Limited, 2009.

Nathanael O’Reilly, ‘’, Literary London, 2009. Web.

Peter Child, Post-Colonial Theory and English Literature, Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

Peter H, Mardsen, ‘Identity Alterity, Hybrididty (IDAH).’, Lit Ugal, 2009. Web.

Ruvani Ranasinha.,‘Racialized masculinities and postcolonial critique in contemporary British Asian male‐authored texts.’, Journal of Postcolonial, 45 no. 3 (2009): 297-307.

Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” in Mongia, Padmini (ed.) Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A reader, London: Arnold, 1996.


1 Stuart Hall., “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” in Mongia, Padmini (ed.) Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A reader. (London: Arnold, 1996).

2 Hanif, Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber & Faber Limited, 2009).

3 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber & Faber Limited, 2009).

4 Peter Child, Post-Colonial Theory and English Literature. (Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).

5 Nathanael O’Reilly, ‘Embracing Suburbia: Breaking Tradition and Accepting the Self in Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia.’, Literary London.

6 Peter, H, Mardsen, ‘Identity Alterity, Hybrididty (IDAH).’, Lit Ugal (2009).

7 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber & Faber Limited, (2009).

8 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber & Faber Limited, (2009).

9 Peter H, Mardsen, ‘Identity Alterity, Hybrididty (IDAH).’, Lit Ugal (2009).

10 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

11 Ruvani Ranasinha,‘Racialized masculinities and postcolonial critique in contemporary British Asian male‐authored texts.’, Journal of Postcolonial, 45/3 (2009), 297-307.

12 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

13 Ruvani Ranasinha, ‘Racialized masculinities and postcolonial critique in contemporary British Asian male‐authored texts.’, Journal of Postcolonial, 45/3 (2009), 297-307.

14 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber & Faber Limited, (2009).

15 Peter H, Mardsen, ‘Identity Alterity, Hybrididty (IDAH).’, Lit Ugal (2009).

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IvyPanda. "Identity, Belonging and Masculinity in "The Buddha of Suburbia”." January 22, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/identity-belonging-and-masculinity-in-the-buddha-of-suburbia-thesis/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Identity, Belonging and Masculinity in "The Buddha of Suburbia”." January 22, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/identity-belonging-and-masculinity-in-the-buddha-of-suburbia-thesis/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Identity, Belonging and Masculinity in "The Buddha of Suburbia”'. 22 January.

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