Talking Like a (Foreign) Man: Diaspora Teenage Languages Shaping Urban Spaces in Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani


This paper aims to investigate the role of language for the British Indian diasporic community teenagers of London, for whom the research of an identity also includes the definition of belonging within a postcolonial frame. Teenage is a moment of passage, symbolizing the passage into the 21st century, which requires a re-definition of all conventions and beliefs. The issue will be tackled by reading Gautam Malkani’s debut novel, Londonstani (2006). The amazing ability of Malkani is to find a new way to narrate postcolonial stories and identities, disclosing how the issue of identity is played into language – it is used to establish or break bonds of belonging, to disobey institutions and to adapt to the rules of a subgroup. Language is a means that becomes the message, thanks to its multiple code-mixing that contains each “minimal self” of the speakers’ identities: British English becomes one with Punjabi and African American English. The latter is adopted in the form of a stereotype shaped by the media, with the result of losing its diasporic heritage and becoming a form of media colonization that aims to assimilate all the non-white identities – thus generating a spiral of in-authenticity. Being Londonstani is an existential condition, it means being a new kind of Londoners, which better represents the transcultural, unstable and trans-ethnic identity of the postcolonial London. Such a message of re-appropriation and commonality is but a small part of a global process of re-writing that involves renegotiating identity, belonging and borders.

Author Information
Dora Renna, University of Verona, Italy

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2016
Stream: Language. Literature and Linguistics

This paper is part of the CITY2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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