West Indian Intellectuals in Britain

West Indian Intellectuals in Britain

West Indian Intellectuals in Britain

West Indian Intellectuals in Britain

Synopsis

The first comprehensive discussion of the major Caribbean thinkers who came to Britain. Written in an accessible, lively style, with a range of wonderful and distinguished authors. Key book for thinking about the future of multicultural Britain; study thus far has concentrated on Caribbean literature and how authors 'write back' to Britain - this book is the first to consider how they 'think back' to Britain. A book of the moment - nothing comparable on the Carribean influence on Britain.. Discusses the influence, amongst others, of C. L. R. James, Una Marson, George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Claude McKay and V. S. Naipaul.

Excerpt

There exists a moving photographic record of West Indian emigrants arriving in British cities in the 1950s, first by steamship and steam train, then later, by the end of the decade and into the 1960s, by plane. We still see, in our own times, these images of men and women who, for all their apprehensions, were stepping across the threshold into new lives, bringing with them a certain presence. These are images which evoke a sense of hardships in the past overcome and hardships just around the corner yet to confront. They give form to the dreams which had compelled a generation of migrants to pack up and cross the seas. And they capture too a sensibility founded on the conviction that these dreams were rightfully theirs: a dream, in other words, of colonials who believed that the privileges of empire were their due.

These photographic images, and those of the flickering, monochrome newsreels which accompany them, have now come to compose a social archive. They serve to fix the collective memory of the momentous transformation of postwar migration.

At the same time, however, their very familiarity works to conceal other angles of vision. We become so habituated to the logic of the camera-eye that we are led to forget that the vision we are bequeathed is uncompromisingly one-way. The images which fix this history as social memory are images of the West Indians. The camera is drawn to them. The moment they enter the field of vision, the focal point adjusted, they become fixed as something new: as immigrants. The camera, in other words, organises the collective vision not of the West Indians but of the native Britons. There are in the public domain no reverse-shots, in which – from gangplank or from railway station platform – we see, through the eyes of the emigrant, the huddles of journalists and onlookers, police and social workers, white faces all. Without this perspective it is difficult to grasp that white Britons – ordinary people, doing the shopping or waiting for the bus – were, whether conscious of it or not, part of this drama of . . .

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