Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis

By John McLeod | Go to book overview

Introduction

Locating postcolonial London

One afternoon, in May 1955, the anthropologist Sheila Patterson took a journey to Brixton in South London. Turning down a side-road away from the main shopping street, she was 'overcome with a sense of strangeness, almost of shock'. In the familiar environment of a South London street, she was surprised to find that 'almost everybody in sight had a coloured skin':

waiting near the employment exchange were about two dozen black men, most in the flimsy suits of exaggerated cut that, as I was later to learn, denoted their recent arrival. At least half of the exuberant infants playing outside the pre-fab day nursery were café noir or café au lait in colouring. And there were coloured men and women wherever I looked, shopping, strolling, or gossiping on the sunny street-corners with an animation that most Londoners lost long ago.

(1965:13)

Patterson's shock at the London she sees emerging just off the main shopping thoroughfare, down an innocuous side-street, bears witness to a new London community in its interstices and hitherto neglected locations. Its transformative potential is adumbrated by the uses the newcomers make of urban space, liming Brixton's streets and turning the street-corners into sociable sites of community and communication that perhaps recall similar locations in Kingston, Bridgetown or Port of Spain. There is another London being created here, one which admits the times and places of overseas to the supposedly humdrum heart of the aged British Empire, creating a novel environment which also epitomizes the perpetually changing milieu of city living.

Yet some of the difficulties faced by these latest Londoners are suggested by the queue which has formed outside the employment exchange, and the fact that this neighbourhood seems enclosed by an imaginary border which

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Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Making a Song and Dance 24
  • 2 - London, England 59
  • 3 - Living Room 93
  • 4 - Babylon's Burning 126
  • 5 - Millennial Currents 158
  • Coda 189
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 205
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