Negotiation of a hybrid identity. When the only solution is to create your own identity.



In Hanif Kureishis, The Buddha of Suburbia, the main character Karim, experiences what it means to be a man in a world where he is unsure of his true identity. Growing up in South London, Karim was an English boy of Indian decent. Karim’s mother was British and his father was born in India. From the moment of his birth, Karim begins to struggle with his identity because he is the product of the blend of two very different cultures. According to McLeod, “performance [is] the means by which new, hybrid identities are negotiated” (McLeod 218). The novel demonstrates this by giving the reader a look into the personal life of an adolescent who doesn’t belong to either culture. Through the pressures of society to become a “man”, he is forced to discover himself through performance both through his acting career and his experiences in reality. Karim grows up trying to assimilate into one or the other culture, but he realizes that he is just going to have to create his own identity. He does this by moving to the United States where he can become his own person and start over because no one knows him and he can essentially be anybody if he so chose. Karim explores life both mentally and physically. He even experiments sexually. By performing various roles in life, he is able to establish a new identity for himself that is all his own.  He has the opportunity to start new and become anybody he wanted to be. For a person of mixed heritage, it is important to form a blend of the two that is unique to each person. This is especially true in America, which is known for being the “melting pot” of the world. For hundreds of years, people from different backgrounds have been immigrating to America, and these people combine their cultures resulting in thousands of mixed hybrid identities. By performing their various culture roles, they are also able to establish their own identities.  In the novel, Karim becomes a relatively successful actor and beings to identify more with the western culture. By assimilating more into the ways of Americans, Karim begins to slowly lose his Indian identity. However, he cannot ever fully escape from this identity, because it is in his blood and his heritage will always be apparent in his life. In conclusion, Karim is a special character. He is an indecisive male who is searching for his true identity by blending the two cultures that are in his blood. By performing the various roles of each of these cultures, and blending them with the ones he has established for himself in America, he is able to create an identity that he can be satisfied with at least for the time being.


Thanxx to Lea Ann Butcher