. . . it is to works of art that has fallen the burden of wordlessly asserting what is barred to politics.
Theodor Adorno 1
This essay presents an initial, provisional attempt to outline some of the complex, contradictory currents in the cultural dynamics of ‘multi-racist Britain’ at their point of intersection with contemporary British performance practice. It tentatively seeks to engage with the specific temporalities and geographies that mark its subject out as ‘a little local difficulty’ - to resituate a favourite colonialist trope - without shying away from more ‘global’ issues. In particular, it is concerned to pursue the links connecting white racial fantasies and racist identities with psychoanalytic conceptions of subjectivity. Following the groundbreaking work of Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, the essay argues that the historical conjunction of colonial relations of power and psychoanalysis’s theorisation of unconscious desire invests the latter with particular importance in the analysis of the psychic and social identifications produced within this racialised ‘regime of representation’. 2 At the same time, it attempts to suggest that as these formations are historicised - or are in the process of being historicised - alternate frameworks for understanding and undertaking intersubjective relations are called for. By tracing the interplay of dominant, residual and emergent discursive currents in a precise historical event cum ‘moment’, the paper endeavours to sketch an image of this process in process. It is in this temporal territory that it seeks to situate the work of performance: as an economy in which fantasies circulate, histories exchange and ethics revaluate. Though the claims it makes and the tone it takes may be politically ‘risky’, the essay stems from a commitment to try to speak from within the belly of the beast, against disavowal, and through the logic of responsibility. It addresses itself primarily, therefore, to the place I’m compelled to acknowledge as ‘home’.