The Gujaratis of Bolton: the leaders and the led

Hahlo, Kenneth Geoffrey (1993). The Gujaratis of Bolton: the leaders and the led. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is a study of local rather than national black politics. The participation of Gujaratis, who comprise the largest ethnic minority community in Bolton, in local politics is constrained by their loyalty to Gujarati identities and by racism within political parties.

The settlement patterns of Gujaratis in Bolton reflect in part the socio-economic constraints experienced by black immigrants in Britain generally, and in part their allegiance to faction, caste, sect and religious identities. On the basis of some of these social identities have developed organisations which respond to particular social, religious and political needs. These organisations provide the only opportunities for the development of black structures of support and leadership within this large community. Notions of racism are based upon a dialogue between white and Gujarati notions of what is common sense. These notions form the basis of Gujaratis' perceptions of social distances that separate them from others.

The core of support for leaders is based upon personal social networks. The social characteristics of these social networks influence the patterns of close friendships between Gujaratis and members of other communities in the town. These patterns show that Gujaratis exclude Gujaratis who belong to other Gujarati religious communities and members of other ethnic communities, black and white, from close friendships. Friendships with those perceived to be social distant are of lower intensity, thus excluding these people from sharing in a common body of Gujarati knowledge.

In the context of Bolton these Gujaratis find themselves unable to participate within the formal political hierarchy and decision making arenas. The local Community Relations Council offers Gujarati and other black leaders of organisations a forum within which they can meet with some of the locally and nationally elected political representatives. The debate centres on events, involving Gujarati and other participants, which allow leaders of Gujarati organisations and politicians and other members of the CRC to negotiate the power relations between black and white. However, the consequence is that the Gujaratis are still relegated to the periphery of formal political decision-making arenas.

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