Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Innovation & engagement
  3. Impact
  4. The early South Asian contribution to British society

The early South Asian contribution to British society

Open University research has changed perceptions of how South Asians have contributed to Britain's cultural, intellectual and political life over more than one hundred years.

Key aspects of this research

  • Challenges the perception that multicultural Britain is a post-Second World War phenomenon 
  • Demonstrates the contemporary relevance of the early histories of South Asians in Britain 
  • Helped re-frame perceptions in the UK and in India of South Asian contributions to British life

Asians in Britain

Open University (OU) research led by Professor Susheila Nasta in the OU’s Faculty of Arts challenges the dominant perception that multicultural Britain is a post-Second World War phenomenon and demonstrates that the early histories of South Asians in Britain are relevant to contemporary issues of British Asian and global citizenship.

This research derives from two research projects; the initial one, Making Britain investigated how South Asians shaped Britain from 1870-1950 and led to further funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council for Beyond the Frame: Indian-British Connections, a public engagement project.

Led by Professor Nasta, these projects focused on the literary, cultural and political contributions made by South Asians to Britain. A pioneering scholar of the South Asian diaspora in Britain, Professor Nasta played a key role in pulling key collaborators together, namely the University of Oxford, University of London, the British Library, the British Council and the National Archives of India.

Links and tensions

"Our early findings uncovered several Asian-British networks which allowed us to begin changing perceptions of how early South Asians contributed to Britain’s cultural, intellectual and political life,” said Professor Nasta.

These touring exhibitions have helped to re-frame public and political perception, in the UK and in India, of South Asian contributions to British life

The project’s research led to two touring exhibitions South Asians Making Britain and Beyond the Frame: India in Britain between 2010 and 2012.

Profiling visual and archival sources in international collections, Beyond the Frame highlighted the numerous ways in which South Asians positioned themselves within British society and culture and explored the significance of their impact on British life.

Showcasing key historical links and cultural exchanges that took place between India and Britain, it also uncovered the tensions that arose from such encounters.

Outreach and online learning

Accompanied by outreach activities and online learning resources, these touring exhibitions have helped to re-frame public and political perception, in the UK and in India, of South Asian contributions to British life and culture before the Second World War.

Both were built on successful collaborations with major organisations - the British Library, the British Council (India), the British Museum, the National Archives of India (NAI), the South Bank Centre (London), and the Victoria and Albert Museum - and attracted large audiences, as well as extensive interest from media and policy-makers.

Publications

Related links

People

News & articles

Mark Brandon

The polar oceans and global climate

As The Open University celebrates its 50th anniversary, Mark Brandon, Professor in Polar Oceanography, delivered his inaugural lecture on the polar oceans and global climate and looked ahead to what could happen during the next 50 years.

15th July 2019
See all

Upcoming Events

Sep 10

Cause-related marketing

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 15:00 to 16:00

Berrill Lecture Theatre, Walton Hall, Open University, MK6 7AA

See All