The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain

The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain

The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain

The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain

Excerpt

There are many reasons why issues raised by the study of 'races' and racisms should be central to the concerns of cultural studies. Yet racist ideologies and racial conflicts have been ignored, both in historical writing and in accounts of the present. If nothing else, this book should be taken as a signal that this marginalization cannot continue. It has also been conceived as a corrective to the narrowness of the English left whose version of the 'national-popular' continues to deny the role of blacks and black struggles in the making and the remaking of the working class.

This book is the overdue result of three years' collective work. It contains few definitive statements. We hope it will be read as a contribution to political and intellectual debates over the problems it indicates. We started work in the autumn of 1978 as a new subgroup at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. After a year spent surveying the field of 'race relations' we were appalled by the myopia and parochialism which characterize this 'discipline'. Our own investigations took us through the major sociological problematics, the work of non-European radicals, and the often Eurocentric 'Marxist' debates on late capitalism and migrant labour. It was the frustrating search for an interdisciplinary, historical approach which was geared to the contemporary struggle against racism which forced us to turn our own hands to analysis. If at times what we have written seems too firmly in a critical mode, we feel this is a small price to pay while the predicament of the black communities is professionally obscured by those who make a living on the back of black sufferings. We have tried to address the principal areas of concern to the communities whose struggles we aim to service. A chronicle of our omissions is pointless here, but two points must be raised to avoid misunderstanding. We have not dealt satisfactorily with the struggles of black women, and have struck an inadequate balance between the two black communities. We opted to remain within the bounds of our own historical resources rather than make pronouncements on things that were unfamiliar. Only one of us has roots in the Indian subcontinent whereas four are of Afro-Caribbean origin. This accounts for the unevenness of our text. We would have liked to include material on black, waged workers and their relation to the political institutions of the white working class. We had also intended to produce chapters on housing and health care; all these disappeared under the burden of the tasks we had set ourselves. Our book is therefore incomplete, but it

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