Language and Identity of the British Indian Teenage Diaspora: Gautam Malkani's Londostani, a Case Study

Dora Renna


The work aims to shed some light on the role of language during a crucial step of life when it comes to identity, that is to say youth – the age of uncertainty par excellence, in which every convention, every belief is put into question and re-elaborated. Moreover, the analysis will focus on the teenagers of the British Indian diasporic community, for whom the research of an identity also includes the definition of belonging. In this reconnaissance phase, the issue will be tackled by reading Gautam Malkani’s debut novel, Londonstani  (2006). The amazing ability of Malkani is to disclose how the issue of identity is played into language – each attempt to find a definition, to establish or break bonds of belonging, to disobey institutions and to adapt to the rules of a subgroup. Language becomes more than just a tool to communicate: the means becomes the message, transcending its content. The most striking aspect of the language of the Londonstani teens is that they do not speak “pure” English nor Punjabi, but a language made of encounters, clashes, and hybridization. Malkani catapults the reader into a completely unknown linguistic and cultural reality, not making any effort to make the reader feel “comfortable.” Words and sentences from different languages and traditions, references coming from Indian and African American culture are constant and rarely explained. Malkani is there to overturn expectations and to show how many languages become one in a land, in a city (London) that is the symbol of diaspora, a great third space of negotiation and fragmentation, where identities are lost to be found again – new, multifaceted, unstable.

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