Posts Tagged ‘Paul Gilroy’

Sunday Review: There ain’t no black in the Union Jack, by Paul Gilroy

28/08/2011, 12:00:45 PM

by Anthony Painter

If the riots hadn’t spread beyond Tottenham, there is little doubt that we would now be having a far more heated discussion about “race” and British urban culture, rather than a generalised moral moan. The book that many would turn to would be Paul Gilroy’s 1987 classic: “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack”. In it, Gilroy outlines “race” as an agent of historical change alongside “class” or “gender” (note the inverted commas). And after riots in the early and mid-1980s that were more political in their nature than those we have just seen – in the sense that there was a deliberate political point being made – Gilroy’s theory of “race” as historical agent of mobilisation was forceful. But then things went a different way.

What marks out the latest edition of the book, is its introduction. Gilroy has substantially revised his approach. In fact, he declares that race is now “ordinary”. It has blended with poverty, material deprivation and inequality as a complex interplay of power, injustice and exclusion. Like other motivating social forces such as class, race has been shattered.

The “rise of identity politics, corporate multi-culture, and an imploded, narcissistic obsession with the minutiae of ethnicity” have fragmented “political blackness”. Bonds of solidarity have weakened. Rather than huddling together, the oppressed and excluded are wandering alone, facing the cold and the rain without protection. Where “blackness” was a motivating political force a quarter of a century ago, it no longer fulfils that role. (more…)

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