Re-imagining Identity: Revisiting Hanif Kureishi´s ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’

  • Abstract:

    Hanif Kureishi’s work focuses on the shifting and polyvalent manifestations of desire and sexuality within the social and cultural realms in Britain, opening up spaces in the cultural landscape to include –intentionally– the marginalised and politically disenfranchised, while interrogating at the same time hegemonic discourses pertaining to the formation of identities. Such an approach gestures towards a re-evaluation of desire which, in turn, can lead us to re-think identity as a constantly evolving, uncategorised and therefore politically powerful apparatus. After the publication of his memoir, My Ear at His Heart (2004) in which the reader is given insights as to how and why characters in the author’s work were created, it seems that affective terms such as desire and sexuality can indeed be used to re-imagine the ways in which identity is experienced. Such an approach alludes to the complex constitutions of identity/ies apropos aesthetic or political concerns, and to how they can engage in a difficult and complex, yet fruitful relationship, avoiding what can be considered by the mainstream as “socio-political abnormalities”. In that, I put forward that a retrospective re-examination of Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) is imperative, as it can help us understand how an evolutionary model of writing nods towards a sense of identity whose articulation has become distinctly polycultural, even post-racial. Such a re-visiting of known texts can offer new insights on debates about identity and nation that transcend solipsistic and exclusivist diasporic matters about ‘myself’ as they gesture towards the aesthetic. Indeed, my article invites the reader to conceive contemporary identity in affective terms and consequently as a space that surpasses the solipsism of cultural diversity, racial difference or narrow national exclusivity, which invites us to experience identity as a cultural instigator carrying socio-political possibilities.