Making reference to theoretical perspectives with which you are familiar, discuss the construction of race and ethnicity in literary texts in Othello and My Beautiful Laundrette

Essay by robynniUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2009

download word file, 9 pages 4.7

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 son to 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...