Popular Postcolonialisms: Discourses of Empire and Popular Culture 9781138125056, 9781315647777

Drawing together the insights of postcolonial scholarship and cultural studies, Popular Postcolonialisms questions the p

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Popular Postcolonialisms: Discourses of Empire and Popular Culture
 9781138125056, 9781315647777

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of Figures
PART I: The Radical Popular
1 ‘Welcome to the University of Brixton’: BBC Radio and the West Indian Everyday
2 FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving
3 Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production: Comics Collectives in Israel and South Africa
PART II: The Middlebrow
4 Murder in Mesopotamia: Agatha Christie’s Life and Work in the Middle East
5 ‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’: Colin MacInnes’s Critical Adventures in Post-War Multiracial Britain
6 Tarzan the Ape Man: Screening ‘The Subordination of Women, Nature and Colonies’ in the 1930s
PART III: Commodification
7 Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism
8 Everything Must Go: Popularity and the Postcolonial Novel
9 Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit: Visuality and the Popular in Post-Millennial India
PART IV: Technology
10 Monster Mines and Pipelines: Frankenstein Figures of Tar Sands Technology in Canadian Popular Culture
11 African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry: The Spoken Word Platform Word N Sound Series
12 The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era

Citation preview

Popular Postcolonialisms

Drawing together the insights of postcolonial scholarship and cultural studies, Popular Postcolonialisms questions the place of ‘the popular’ in the postcolonial paradigm. Multidisciplinary in focus, this collection ­explores the extent to which popular forms are infused with colonial ­logics and whether they can be employed by those advocating for change. It considers a range of fiction, film and non-hegemonic cultural forms, engaging with topics such as environmental change, language activism and cultural imperialism, alongside analysis of figures like Tarzan and Frankenstein. Building on the work of cultural theorists, it asks whether the popular is actually where elite conceptions of the world may best be challenged. It also addresses middlebrow cultural production, which has tended to be seen as antithetical to radical traditions, asking whether this might, in fact, form an unlikely realm from which to question, critique or challenge colonial tropes. Examining the ways in which the imprint of colonial history is in evidence (interrogated, mythologized or sublimated) within popular cultural production, this book raises a series of speculative questions exploring the interrelation of the popular and the postcolonial. Nadia Atia is Senior Lecturer in World Literature in the Department of English at Queen Mary University of London, UK. Kate Houlden is Senior Lecturer in World Literature in the Department of English, Film and Media at Anglia Ruskin University, UK.

Routledge Research in Postcolonial Literatures

Edited in collaboration with the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, University of Kent at Canterbury, this series presents a wide range of research into postcolonial literatures by specialists in the field. Volumes will concentrate on writers and writing originating in previously (or presently) colonized areas, and will include material from non-anglophone as well as anglophone colonies and literatures. Series editors: Donna Landry and Caroline Rooney 58 Olive Schreiner and African Modernism Allegory, Empire and Postcolonial Writing Jade Munslow Ong 59 Narrating Postcolonial Arab Nations Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine Lindsey Moore 60 Critical Branding Postcolonial Studies and the Market Caroline Koegler 61 Anglo-American Imperialism and the Pacific Discourses of Encounter Edited by Michelle Keown, Andrew Taylor and Mandy Treagus 62 Popular Postcolonialisms Discourses of Empire and Popular Culture Edited by Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden

For a full list of titles published in the series, please visit www.­routledge.com

Popular Postcolonialisms Discourses of Empire and Popular Culture

Edited by Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden

First published 2019 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Taylor & Francis The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data CIP data has been applied for. ISBN: 978-1-138-12505-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-64777-7 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by codeMantra

For kindred spirits in thanks for conversations yet to be had


List of Figures Acknowledgements Introduction

ix xi 1


Part I

The Radical Popular


1 ‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’: BBC Radio and the West Indian Everyday



2 FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving



3 Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production: Comics Collectives in Israel and South Africa



Part II

The Middlebrow


4 Murder in Mesopotamia: Agatha Christie’s Life and Work in the Middle East



5 ‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’: Colin MacInnes’s Critical Adventures in Post-War Multiracial Britain A LICE FER R EBE


viii Contents 6 Tarzan the Ape Man: Screening ‘The Subordination of Women, Nature and Colonies’ in the 1930s



Part III



7 Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism



8 Everything Must Go: Popularity and the Postcolonial Novel



9 Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit: Visuality and the Popular in Post-Millennial India



Part IV



10 Monster Mines and Pipelines: Frankenstein Figures of Tar Sands Technology in Canadian Popular Culture



11 African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry: The Spoken Word Platform Word N Sound Series



12 The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era W E N DY K N E P P E R


List of Figures

9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 10.1 10.2 10.3 11.1 11.2 12.1 12.2

The Zoya Factor, HarperCollins India (2008a) 196 The Zoya Factor, HarperCollins India (2008b) 197 Battle for Bittora, HarperCollins India (2010) 197 Those Pricey Thakur Girls, HarperCollins India (2013) 198 The House That BJ Built, Westland Books Ltd (2015) 198 Edward Burtynsky, Alberta Oil Sands #6. Photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto 222 ‘The Mine is in Sight.’ Author’s artistic rendering of scene at runtime 00:03:59 from Avatar (2009) 227 Bucketwheel excavator. Author’s artistic rendering of scene at runtime 00:04:07 from Avatar (2009) 228 Word N Sound Live Literature Co. Homepage, September 2016. Permission courtesy of Thabiso Steven Mohare and Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu CEOs 239 Word N Sound Live Literature Co. Permission courtesy of Thabiso Steven Mohare and Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu CEOs 241 Postcolonial DH. NO. 10 by kind permission of Adeline Koh 269 Postcolonial DH. NO. 2 by kind permission of Adeline Koh 269


This collection, like so many academic projects, started with a chat in a pub. Thanks must go to our good friend and colleague Chris Campbell, with whom we joked about the absence of popular culture in postcolonial discourse over a pint in Mile End and first started thinking seriously about the ideas that have since become this collection. That discussion turned into a symposium organised by the three of us, generously hosted and funded by Queen Mary University of London in April 2012, with the support of a Postcolonial Studies Symposium Organisation Fund grant. We are grateful to all those who came to that event, including everyone who helped with the organisation of the day and contributed to our thinking about the project. In the years since, we have benefitted enormously from the help and support of our colleagues at (variously and respectively) Anglia Ruskin University, Liverpool John Moores University, Queen Mary University of London and the University of Surrey. The gestation period of a collection as diverse as this is necessarily long, and we appreciate the patience, hard work and kindness of each of our contributors as well as the many colleagues who anonymously reviewed work and gave such helpful feedback. The essays collected here are a result of months, sometimes years, of dialogue and forbearance. Our approach to the interaction between discourses of popular culture and the postcolonial domain has been shaped by the canon of scholarship in literary and, of course, cultural studies. Michèle Barrett’s generous advice aided us greatly in shaping our ideas for the introduction. We are also grateful to Sorcha Gunne, who read early drafts this.

Introduction Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden

Popular cultural forms have long been controversial and contradictory.1 The popular is both what is chosen, enjoyed and consumed by a majority of people, and – at the same time – its very popularity condemns it to be dismissed as inauthentic, uninteresting or even dangerously corrosive. Its mass consumption, large sales figures and easy accessibility (be it commercial or semantic) is both what marks ‘the popular’ as successful and what damns it as fatuous. Despite later challenges and critiques, ­Matthew Arnold’s influential understanding of culture as ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world,’ with its implied hierarchical, class, gendered and race-bound investment in an educated elite protecting the established and worthy canon against the potential contagion of popular forms, arguably continues to shape our understanding and ­reception of culture today.2 Popular cultural products remain contentious: defended, rehabilitated, dismissed or maligned but never without debate. Defining ‘the popular’ is no easy task. As Holt N. Parker suggests, ‘scholars of popular culture and cultural studies have taken a certain, perhaps perverse, pride in not defining their subject.’3 Popular Postcolonialisms takes a broad view of what the popular might mean, reflecting Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson’s ‘inclusive claim that popular culture refers to the beliefs and practices, and the objects through which they are organized, that are widely shared among a population.’4 Our approach to understanding and engaging with the popular also follows Stuart Hall’s emphasis that, although inseparable from dominant interests, popular culture can ‘make a difference and can shift the dispositions of power.’5 Despite ranging broadly in their concerns, the chapters that follow question where the parameters of popular culture lie in a cultural moment when ‘popularity’ appears ever more pervasive and more fleeting: a tweet can go ‘viral’ in a matter of minutes, but its lifespan and impact are difficult to judge or predict. Popular forms are ever changing, their reception and place in the cultural order constantly in flux.6 With the provisional nature of concepts and consequences of popularity in mind, we hope that this interdisciplinary collection – ­primarily Anglophone and partly literary in emphasis – contributes a

2  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden new dimension to the ongoing conversation about the role of the popular in the postcolonial. In the present moment, postcolonial studies is undergoing a crisis in the status and direction of the discipline, which is reflected in the proliferation of labels such as ‘global fiction’ and ‘world literature.’ These trends reflect the exigencies (and fashions) of pedagogical, institutional and administrative priorities, although, as Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice remind us, the field has been ‘dogged by problems of definition, method, and object, and by questions of representation’ since its inception.7 More fundamentally, the charge levelled by Benita Parry and the Warwick School, amongst others, that the post-structuralist turn in postcolonial scholarship has caused the discipline to lose sight of the ‘actually existing political, economic, and cultural conditions’ determining individual lives worldwide has done much to energise discussion.8 Neil Lazarus, for example, suggests that postcolonial studies suffers from a ‘category error’ in failing to pay sufficient ‘attention to the fact that colonialism is part and parcel of a larger, enfolding historical dynamic, which is that of capitalism in its global trajectory.’9 As Lazarus views it, a ‘reconstruction’ of the discipline’s origins needs to occur alongside a move towards ‘world-literature’ (understood as being literature of the world-system).10 Such ideas have much to recommend them. However, many university departments barely have one established staff member with postcolonial expertise or more than a single taught module; the institutionalisation of postcolonial studies is perhaps not so deeply rooted as it might sometimes appear. Countless scholars also continue to find value in the term, being more concerned with addressing gaps in the field as currently constituted. Anna Bernard, Ziad Elmarsafy and Stuart Murray, for example, assert that ‘while the battles of the 1990s (and beyond) as to the proper nature of postcolonial studies raged on, a whole range of other topics, events, locations, methods and worldviews went ignored.’11 In the spirit of this claim, we contend that there is still work to be done in addressing the occlusions and negations of the postcolonial, not least in relation to the field’s approach to popular culture. Nevertheless, we: [U]se the post-colonial as if the concept is under erasure. We don’t know exactly what it means. It doesn’t mean what it obviously means. It’s often situated in certain paradigms of thought, none of which [we] want to take up exactly in the way that it’s traditionally used. [We] need to question it, to turn it around, to acknowledge where its weaknesses are, its gaps and aporias.12 We have been struck by the way that postcolonial studies, with its roots and politics in the radical challenge to colonial and neocolonial power, has tended to overlook popular forms, often defined as low or middlebrow and commonly viewed as antithetical to resistance. While certain

Introduction  3 critical voices, such as that of Stuart Hall, continue to shape our understanding of the relationship between race, class, colonialism and the popular, postcolonial scholarship has not, in general, engaged adequately with popular cultural practices.13 Writing in the ­Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies (2013), for example, ­Graham ­Huggan reflects that ‘the study of popular culture’ has ‘arguably been neglected.’14 In the same ­collection, Simon Featherstone draws our attention to ­Edward Said’s comment that ‘[p]opular culture means absolutely nothing to me except as it surrounds me’ as illustration of this neglect.15 On reflection, we might see this as a distinct dimension of one particular c­ ritique of the field: its over-reliance on the perspective of a cosmopolitan, academic minority and the focus on a cadre of writers that Femi Osofisan, thinking particularly about African authors, has called ‘disillusioned fugitives’ because of their exiled, dislocated relationship with their countries of origin in the global south.16 In contrast, this collection argues that if what Arif Dirlik calls ‘intellectuals of Third World origin  […] [and] pacesetters in cultural criticism’ neglect to take account of the popular realm, then the full extent of the colonial legacy is left both unacknowledged and unexcavated.17 Whether it be dancehall, skin-­ lightening advertisements, Tarzan or Disney, the cultural codes instilled to shore up colonial rule can still be traced, in both contested and acquiescent ways, through to the present day. It is for this reason that the collection asks, what is the place of ‘the popular’ in the postcolonial paradigm?

Origins of the ‘Popular’ Matthew Arnold’s distinction between culture (synonymous with worthy, significant artistic forms) and anarchy frames popular culture as that which is discarded once the terrain of high culture has been set out, a model this collection rejects. It also offers one of the clearest indications of the kind of threat that Arnold, and the Leavisite tradition that continued to be invested in his ideas and to reinterpret them for a twentieth-century British context, understood to be posed by popular forms: their very popularity risks upturning the established order, devaluing that which is most valuable in intellectual life. Arnold’s remarks, and his attendant commitment to a discerning minority able to appreciate and defend what Leavis would later call ‘the finer living of an age, the sense that this is worth more than that,’ was characterised by a conception of culture as under assault by the pernicious, yet pervasive, tastes of the majority.18 It was also founded on a Eurocentric claim to worldliness that, in Arnold’s case, extended only as far as Germany and Greece. While many cultural critics have since sought to challenge this elitist conception of culture – most often from a position that defended

4  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden ­working-class and subcultural heritages – their critique necessarily reframed the forms of culture that might be considered of value but did not always do away with the idea that the vast majority of culture consumed en masse was, at best, to be dismissed as vacuous. There is some utility, for example, to be found in Richard Hoggart’s defence of specific popular forms, which, despite being tinged with nostalgia, corresponds to the democratic notion of ‘popular’ as meaning ‘the people.’ Nevertheless, Hoggart’s scathing dismissal of American-influenced mass culture  – which he described as ‘peculiarly thin and pallid […] a sort of spiritual dry-rot’– paints the wider, popular domain as a dangerous threat to the valuable in working-class lives.19 While his important reclamation of certain working-class cultures reversed the Arnoldian/Leavisite hierarchy, challenging its disregard of such production, a combative and ­value-based binary continued to characterise Hoggart’s critique. It is this dichotomous division of cultural modes that Popular Postcolonialisms seeks to challenge throughout; our contributors are less interested in ascribing value to one or another cultural form and, instead, are more concerned with dissecting the workings of the popular terrain in light of the postcolonial.

The Radical Popular The sense that popular culture is central to the exercise of power is fundamental to a Gramscian understanding of ideology. Culture, framed through the lens of ideology, as a mode of production controlled and operating in subtle but important ways to maintain the hegemony of the ruling class, was the foundation of much of the critique of mass or popular culture in the early twentieth century. These hegemonic structures exist to oppress and control but are most successful when at their least offensive or noticeable to the very people they are designed to control. In this model, popular culture – lightweight, throwaway, insignificant in so many of its manifestations – is, therefore, always at the same time a key front in the battle between classes. This vision of popular culture, and especially its most commodified forms, what Adorno and Horkheimer called the ‘culture industry’ – ­insidious, soporific, serving to depoliticise and denude the masses of any resistance or aspiration, ‘rendering them eternal consumers […] the culture industry’s object’ – was, for the Frankfurt School, to be contrasted with ‘authentic culture,’ an energising, utopian space untainted by the commodification of a capitalist model of cultural production. 20 For example, Adorno’s now infamous critique of popular music as merely engendering a ‘frame of mind […] simultaneously one of distraction and inattention’ conceptualises production from within the ‘culture industry’ as passive, standardised and inane at best. 21 Such a claim moves us away from a binary grounded in aesthetics and towards the politicisation of

Introduction  5 cultural production; a very different set of concerns to an Arnoldian or Leavisite approach. Nevertheless, both sets of thinkers share a suspicion, or a downright denigration in the case of these examples, of the damage that popular forms are believed capable of wreaking. They run the risk, as Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome assert, of neglecting ‘the ways in which popular arts’ participate in ‘knowledge production about people’s everyday worlds.’22 The ‘authentic culture’ championed by the Frankfurt School serves only to rework Hoggart’s nostalgia into future-oriented projection. In contrast, we are interested in what might be revealed, enabled or negotiated via an engagement with the popular realm, despite (or perhaps because of) its obvious imbrication within capitalist power structures. In contrast to Leavis’s hierarchal definition of culture – and ­Hoggart’s implicit reinterpretation of it – Raymond Williams argues that ‘you cannot be satisfied with the older formula: enlightened minority, degraded mass.’23 Instead, he offers a far more useful model grounded in lived experience, which recognises the ‘structure of feeling’ in a specific, located moment, the ‘actual living sense, the deep community’ felt as a ‘result of all the elements in the general organization.’ 24 He also stresses the interplay between dominant, residual and emergent cultures at different points in time, making it clear that ‘there is always a social basis for elements of the cultural process that are alternative or oppositional to the dominant elements.’25 As a consequence, ‘there can be no simple contrast between “high culture” (universal) and “popular culture” (local)’ because ‘every available version of high culture is always […] local and selective’ at the same time as it ‘includes (whether these are noticed or not) elements of the popular culture.’ 26 Finally, Williams’s assertion that ‘respect for “high culture” in its purest and most abstract sense must find a critical rather than a justifying form of expression and action’ is reminiscent of Lazarus’s recent rehabilitation of aspects of Adorno’s thinking. 27 While acknowledging the clear ‘elitism and Eurocentrism’ of many of Adorno’s proclamations, Lazarus nevertheless heralds the potential of his call to ‘hate tradition properly,’ claiming that this provides a ‘uniquely illuminating and enabling rubric under which to think in a politically engaged fashion about intellectual and cultural practice’ globally. 28 It is through popular forms, we contend, that we might find further scope for precisely this kind of critical, reflective and, oftentimes, playful puncturing of global intellectual trends. Frederic Jameson provides one further point of departure in our understanding of the popular. Building on the work of the Frankfurt School – and particularly what he describes as their emphasis on the ‘introduction of commodity structure into the very form and content of the work of art itself’– Jameson dismisses any distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture as redundant in the context of late twentieth-century

6  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden capitalism in his essay ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.’29 ­I nstead, he stresses that: [A]ll contemporary works of art – whether those of high culture and modernism or of mass culture and commercial culture – have as their underlying impulse – albeit in what is often distorted and repressed, unconscious form – our deepest fantasies about the nature of social life, both as we live it now, and as we feel in our bones it ought rather to be lived. 30 Accordingly, it is the job of a Marxist cultural commentator to ‘reawaken’ such utopian urges and to situate any given work against its historical conditions of production. 31 This interest in the ‘anxiety and hope’ inherent to all cultural artefacts proves most pertinent to the chapters included here, while Jameson’s emphasis on the insidious nature of commodification is also threaded throughout a number of them. 32 Since its inception, cultural studies has also included a rich seam of work engaged with questions of race and the colonial legacy. Running from C.L.R. James through to Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, Kobena Mercer and contemporary scholarship on rap, dancehall or ‘vernacular intellectualism,’ a number of scholar-activists have long considered the potential of popular practices in challenging or subverting discourses of empire.33 Foremost amongst such figures is Stuart Hall, whose later work, in particular, is a seminal influence on this collection. His claim in the essay ‘What is this “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ that ‘the struggle over cultural hegemony […] is these days waged as much in popular culture as anywhere else’ provides a strong rationale for the project.34 Moreover, as Hall writes in ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ ‘much of the most immediate forms of popular recreation, for example, are saturated by popular imperialism.’35 Nevertheless, in line with Williams, Hall describes popular culture as a ‘constant battlefield’ in which ‘the complex lines of resistance and acceptance, refusal and capitulation’ may be redrawn.36 Akin to Jameson, Hall also recognises that, ‘[i]f the forms of provided popular culture are not purely manipulative,’ then ‘it is because, alongside the false appeals, the foreshortenings, the trivialization and the short circuits, there are also elements of recognition and identification, something approaching a recreation of recognisable experiences and attitudes, to which people are responding.’37 Influenced by such claims, the collection begins with a section on ‘The Radical Popular,’ considering the extent to which popular forms can be employed by those advocating for change. The ways in which community is constituted and expressed is at the centre of Rachael Gilmour’s analysis in Chapter One of ‘The University of Brixton,’ a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio programme ‘set in Brixton’s West Indian community […] aimed at teaching immigrants from the Caribbean to speak “Standard English.”’38 Gilmour’s

Introduction  7 chapter explores how the programme brought the fissures of 1970s ­British society to the fore, illustrating how the United Kingdom was struggling to redefine itself in these years. She argues that: The programme emerges out of, and itself dramatises, a complex negotiation between the BBC’s normative protocols and burgeoning notions of West Indian cultural distinctiveness; while its self-­ conscious agenda of integration operates, as we shall see, both in recognition and in denial of the incendiary racial politics, and black struggle, which characterised the period. 39 Gilmour’s chapter raises questions as to the extent to which individuals in marginalised communities might actively – and knowingly – ­navigate commercial demands in order to frame themselves as being ‘of the ­people’ in order to bring ‘folk culture’ to the marketplace. In Chapter Two, Alda Terraciano offers a self-reflexive analysis of the work of FUTURE HISTORIES, which was formed to preserve, and make more readily accessible to the public, the archives of black and Asian theatre, and performance art in Britain. Terraciano writes that the organisation worked: [T]o bring [Black and Asian artists] into the heritage arena, and use the valence of the ‘popular realm’ to open up definitions of nationalism and national heritage. By pioneering a new practice which favoured the role of the artist and community members in the planning and delivery of heritage projects FUTURE HISTORIES aimed to counteract the risk of objectifying history, privileging a dialogic, process-based approach which had the potential of opening up debates about race, class and postcolonial critique to new audiences.40 For FUTURE HISTORIES, it was precisely in the popular realm that a narrative of British culture, which excluded Britain’s imperial past and its multicultural present, could be combatted. Finally, it is our contention that the commercial need not ‘hopelessly’ mirror the status quo in search of ever-greater sales. Or, put another way, the commercially popular need not be synonymous with the passively conformist. As Charlotta Salmi describes in Chapter Three when writing about the resistant power of comics collectives in South Africa and Israel, these often extremely commodified postcolonial outputs can also be a site for experimentation, contestation and resistance. Salmi asserts that: Commercial art can […] work as much for, as against, political radicalism. This is doubly so within comics production, which blurs the boundaries between “pure” or “commercial” art, tending towards both the avant-garde and the didactic in the same popular form.41

8  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden

The Middlebrow Conspicuously absent from cultural studies debates is any discussion – even acknowledgement – of the middlebrow. Offering an alternative perspective on the popular postcolonial, the collection’s second section therefore turns its attention to middlebrow cultural production. Middlebrow forms have tended to be seen as antithetical to radical traditions, popular in the sense of mass appeal and postcolonial only in their propagation of colonial stereotypes. Although Hall later distanced himself from an early reliance on an oppositional framework between high and low cultures, such divisions prove difficult to escape, as evidenced by his definition of popular culture as being the ‘everyday practices and the everyday experiences of ordinary folks’ which have ‘always been counterposed to elite or high culture, and […] thus a site of alternative traditions.’42 Our second section explores what comes between these two modes, asking whether the same dialectical tensions that Hall observes elsewhere also play out in this middlebrow domain. If popular forms are infused with imperial ideologies, then this is even more likely to be the case with middlebrow material, with its greater ‘proximity’ to elite culture. Does this mean that middlebrow literature merely offers a dead end of self-evident prejudice? Or at the very least, might it provide an opportunity to examine what Cora Kaplan calls the ‘insistent connection between fantasy […] and the related forms of degraded and excluded subjectivity’ frequently visible in such ‘popular narrative’?43 Crucial to these discussions is a recognition of the gendered nature of the ‘battle of the brows’ itself. As Lana Rakow and others have pointed out, the ‘popular culture debates’ are ‘troubling from a feminist perspective’ because ‘the canon of debaters contains no women.’44 More importantly, perhaps, Rakow writes that the key debates in cultural studies upon which our understanding of these terms continues to rest: [D]o not include patriarchal society, excluding a feminist analysis of popular culture at the level of theory rather than artefact. By assuming that a stratified society can sufficiently be described in terms of relations between elite and mass, ruling class and working class, dominant culture and subcultures, they obscure other social categories, such as that of men and women.45 In light of these observations, it is perhaps no coincidence that the middlebrow, so often the preserve of female cultural production, does not feature in discussions within cultural theory about the relative value of popular forms. As Morag Shiach puts it, ‘the intersection of “feminism” and “popular culture” has never been anything other than troubled.’46 Subsequently, feminist scholars have done a great deal to re-evaluate the importance of the middlebrow. Nicola Humble’s important study

Introduction  9 The Feminine Middlebrow Novel asserts that the middlebrow ‘has always been a dirty word. Since its coinage in the late 1920s, it has been applied disparagingly to the sort of cultural products thought to be too easy, too insular, too smug.’47 Humble argues that ‘[w]hile the lowbrow has undergone a process of critical reclamation in recent ­decades, with the development of popular culture studies as a legitimate area of academic interest, the middlebrow has remained firmly out in the cold.’48 Despite the fact that middlebrow texts dominated the market in the early twentieth century, Humble argues that these were roundly ignored by critics, not least because ‘the major part of the fiction published in Britain in these years is that it was largely written and consumed by women.’49 This observation that the lowbrow, though perhaps more denigrated, has in many ways fared better points us to the ways in which the battles between high and low culture have continued to be fought. In contrast, middlebrow texts, protected by neither camp, have been neglected as a site of contestation or even as an important location of cultural production. Building on Humble’s work, recent critics have pointed to the middlebrow’s latent (or even manifest) subversive potential. Melissa Schaub draws our attention to the feminist discourses to be found in ­middlebrow detective fiction (2013); Lise Jaillant emphasises its role in fi ­ ghting censorship in North America (2014); Beth Driscoll emphasises its ongoing significance in the contemporary moment (2014); and Phyllis Lassner (2009) has highlighted the ways in which the middlebrow offers both a fertile site for the proliferation of predictable colonial discourses and, simultaneously, an unlikely realm from which to question, critique or challenge such tropes.50 This second section therefore examines the ­intersection between postcolonial studies and middlebrow cultural forms in an effort to show (rep.) where the two intersect and where they deviate. It highlights the middlebrow in the postcolonial and the postcolonial in the middlebrow. In her analysis of Agatha Christie’s novels in Chapter Four, Nadia Atia explores how middlebrow novelists can find ways to resist without risking the popularity of their work. She argues that Christie’s writing, so often dismissed as easy middlebrow fare, offers a subtle critique of the discourses of race and empire with which it seems so complicit: Mindful of the commercial and popular nature of her work, ever aware of her audience and its expectations, Christie embedded her critique – like a secondary mystery woven into the fabric of her ­stories – into the very structure of the stories themselves. 51 Next, Alice Ferrebe reconsiders the work of ‘inside-outsider,’ ‘“English” London-born, Australian-reared Scot,’ Colin MacInnes in Chapter Five.52 Known for both his fiction and his writings on popular culture,

10  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden MacInnes has been critiqued for his exoticisation of London’s post-war Caribbean communities, their men in particular. However, Ferrebe makes the case that MacInnes’s mobilisation of popular anthropology serves not as an overt attempt to ‘speak for’ but, rather, as evidence of the ‘conflict of liberal white British attitudes to race at the collapse of Empire.’53 As such, it might properly be termed both (compromisingly) popular and postcolonial. Finally, Chris Campbell reflects on Weissmuller and O’Sullivan’s now infamous Tarzan films (1932–1942), particularly their ‘egregious ­portrayal of race’ but also their far less analysed but equally troubling representations of gender. 54 Analysing Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). Campbell locates the popular figure of Tarzan historically as well as within a legacy of rewriting by Caribbean authors. He argues that the films ‘stag[e] the processes of colonial violence inherent in the subordination of women, nature and colonies within the s­ tory-world of the African “jungle” in the film itself’ but also, equally, as ‘an enactment of the process of epistemological violence that works to create racial, gendered and ecological orders under patriarchal capitalist imperialism.’55

Commodification Although we would not limit understanding of the popular realm to the world of numbers and profit, the ways in which popular forms are intertwined with commercial imperatives are self-evident. As the Warwick Research Collective asserts, ‘the encroaching capitalisation of cultural production – that is to say, the commodification of culture, as p ­ roduct’ is ‘especially intensive in the latter half of the twentieth century.’56 Popularity, then, often corresponds with potential profitability in the cultural marketplace. In the chapters that follow, we explore the nature and impact of this saleability. Whether in bestselling crime novels, Indian Chick Lit or Booker Prize-winning writing, the collection addresses the ways in which popular and profitable forms are not only shaped by market demands but themselves reflect or subvert the dominant capitalist modes of the societies in which they circulate so widely. We are particularly concerned with how the postcolonial works as commodity: what Graham Huggan describes as the ‘postcolonial exotic’ or what Sarah Brouillette frames as ‘the marketability of postcolonial self-consciousness.’57 Hall has long highlighted ‘postmodernism’s deep and ambivalent fascination with difference […] there’s nothing that global postmodernism loves better than a certain kind of difference: a touch of ethnicity, a taste of the exotic.’58 This ‘culture-making in the hands of the few,’ as he puts it, is unpacked by Brouillette in her discussion of the postcolonial literary marketplace. 59 She argues that ‘branding a post-­ colonial niche could be seen as one of the ways that an Anglo-­A merican publishing industry facilitated the motivation and capture of new

Introduction  11 readerships’ and that ‘this work was energized by the commercial pressures publishers faced after their incorporation into transnational media corporations.’60 Making clear the extent to which books function as commodities, Brouillette – like Jameson before her – argues that this reification substantially affects the process of writing, including authors’ own ‘troubled attempts at deliberate self-construction.’61 A more positive assessment is made by Huggan, who suggests that ‘postcoloniality’ (rather than the postcolonial) can establish resistance in the face of market demands. For him, the ‘postcolonial exotic’ is the use by those in peripheral and semi-peripheral zones of precisely those market forces which seek out the other in order to subvert the expectations of that very market. Huggan describes this as ‘the means by which postcolonial writers/thinkers, working from within exoticist codes of representation, either manage to subvert those codes [...] or succeed in redeploying them for the purposes of uncovering differential relations of power.’62 Whilst agreeing with Huggan’s emphasis on this ‘complicated process of indulging, resisting and critiquing,’ Brouillette nevertheless cautions that ‘a cannily self-critical cultural field is not necessarily one with a progressive politics,’ a sentiment with which we agree.63 Accordingly, this collection asks to what extent the ‘popular’ is merely a veil for the continuing dominance of narrowly defined hegemonic cultures powered by a global marketplace. Is it possible for postcolonial politics to be asserted successfully within commodified, popular forms? These discussions echo Bourdieu’s theorisation of cultural capital and the ‘field of cultural production.’64 Cultural capital, as he sees it, is formed amidst uneven, hierarchical social structures and as a result of the complex interplay between producers and consumers. The ‘habitus’ of each consumer – their class conditioning and environment – is fundamental to their accretion of cultural power. Instead of merely dismissing or denigrating the popular, he points to the choice offered to consumers within the system: in theory, this could be liberating, yet in practice, cultural selection is always already constrained by the ‘habitus’ in which consumers – and producers – are constituted. Accordingly, value is conferred on certain individuals or outputs within a particular ‘field,’ leading to some cultural producers becoming ‘dominators’ and others becoming ‘dominated,’ a process that usually works to maintain normalised aesthetic conventions.65 Cultural fields therefore demonstrate ‘the monopoly of the power to consecrate.’66 As Bourdieu notes, the ascription of cultural value is an inherently biased process, a sentiment explored by Pascale Casanova in global literary terms in The World Republic of Letters (2004). She situates texts within ‘world literary space,’ a ‘literary universe relatively independent of the everyday world’ whose ‘boundaries and operational laws are not reducible to those of ordinary political space.’ 67 Within such territory, ‘a literary domination is enacted,’ one that is reliant on specific ‘relations

12  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden of force and violence’ that shape fictional and linguistic practices.68 It is precisely these relations that our contributors are committed to disentangling as they draw out the contested ways in which cultural prestige is both sought and problematised. As Casanova asserts: [T]o speak of the centre’s literary forms and genres simply as a colonial inheritance imposed on writers within subordinated regions is to overlook the fact that literature itself, as a common value of the entire space, is also an instrument which, if re-appropriated, can enable writers – and especially those with the fewest resources – to attain a type of freedom, recognition and existence within it.69 Yet she also cautions that ‘the effects of consecration by the central authorities can be so powerful as to give certain writers from the margins’ the ‘illusion that the structure of domination has simply disappeared; seeing themselves as living proof of the establishment of a new “world literary order.”’70 Similarly, we reject the notion that access to the ‘literary field’ or ‘world literary space’ is, in itself, evidence of colonial paradigms being challenged. Rather, we are attuned to the ways in which postcolonial cultural production is already working harder for inclusion in a system designed to exclude. Nevertheless, as the chapters of this section attest, the dominance of hegemonic cultures continues to be challenged. Each of the chapters in this section blur the lines between the brows, challenging the assumptions made about their defining characteristics and exploring the ways in which this makes space for resistance in myriad forms. In Chapter Seven, Sarah Illot notes, with regard to British Asian subcultural fiction, that it is possible to ‘challenge and subvert models of the popular that are premised solely on marketability in a given political climate by refusing to interpellate [for] a mainstream readership.’71 Drawing on Hall’s assertion that ‘popular culture’ is in a relationship of ‘continuing tension (relationship, influence and antagonism) to the dominant culture,’ Illot’s chosen texts are, as she puts it, defined as ‘popular’ by dint of their oppositional ‘relation to a dominant culture […] which also arises from a power imbalance, and in a dialectic relationship with a putative mainstream.’72 Sam Goodman, in Chapter Eight, analyses Booker Prize-winning novels that might be considered elite in their appeal to a so-called highbrow, educated audience. Such works can equally be viewed as ‘popular,’ however, due to the vastly increased sales that prize-winning novels often go on to enjoy; any straightforward separation of what is ‘highbrow’ and what is not is problematised. Arguing that the prize-winning novels he examines ‘were representative of a more general turn towards fictions of Empire and after,’ Goodman places his chosen texts alongside ‘a range of post-imperial and postcolonial novelists of the 1970s [that] employed

Introduction  13 and revisited various popular literary forms in order to critically engage with the legacy, history and culture of the British Empire.’ 73 Finally, in Chapter Nine, E. Dawson Varughese discusses the ways in which the often-dismissed genre of Chick Lit is both shaped by, and challenges, the demands of the international marketplace. Focussing on the novels of Ajuna Chauhan – popular by dint of sales figures as well as genre – Varughese argues that the publication, and marketing, of these very Indian novels by an international publishing house shapes the ways that their cover art is designed and the potential audience at which they might be aimed. She writes that ‘although the novels are very much anchored in contemporary India, its cultures and the urban experience of the young Indian female,’ they also belong firmly ‘to the transnational genre of Chick Lit.’74 Eschewing cultural codes that would be readable only to a domestic audience – such as ‘darśan and drishti, ideas of seeing or gazing at the heart of Hindu modes of visuality’– Varughese shows how ‘HarperCollins India has facilitated any potential future dissemination more widely by avoiding a reliance on any culturally specific mode of visuality.’75

Technology In ‘Notes on Deconstructing the Popular,’ Hall asserts that the post-war period saw not only ‘a change in cultural relations between the classes’ but also a ‘changed relationship between the people and the concentration and expansion of new cultural apparatuses.’ 76 For Hall, this created a ‘very severe fracture – a deep rupture – especially in popular culture in the postwar period,’ rendering it impossible to consider ­modern-day popular culture without ‘taking into account the monopolisation of the cultural industries, on the back of a profound technological revolution.’77 Following Hall, we ask if new technologies have merely expanded the potential reach of such cultural apparatus? Whether ‘the use of powerful new media’ will only, as Raymond Williams phrased it presciently in 1974, ‘enable a few to speak to and apparently for the many.’78 Or whether these technologies provide new opportunities for radical popular protest and/or formal innovation. After all, writing in 1964, before the dramatic proliferation of internet and mobile phone technology worldwide, Hall and Whannell claimed – thinking particularly about the translation of folk art into modern forms such as the cinema – that ‘it is in the new media especially, which are more widely available to audiences than the traditional forms, that we should expect to find popular culture today.’ 79 The final section assesses the continued relevance of these insights within the diverse realms that the digital media revolution of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have opened up and in light of their altered challenges.

14  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden Particularly in the last two decades, we have seen the very real ways that new technologies, operating within the popular realm, continue to function in both insidious and radically empowering ways, especially when read through a postcolonial lens. During, and in the years immediately following the so-called Arab Spring, it became commonplace to cite the emancipatory effects of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, vlogs and others) in enabling civic resistance in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and beyond. While the scope and power of such platforms in the revolutions is now a matter of some debate – with some commentators arguing that only very small proportions of these populations actually had access to the World Wide Web at the time – there is no denying that new technologies were important features of the Arab Spring, even if only to document, connect and broadcast these iconic events.80 As Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain explain, ‘many journalists have focused on the visible technological tactics […] rather than looking at the root causes of social discontent. But this does not mean that information technologies should be excluded from the causal conditions of social discontent.’81 They conclude that ‘the internet has provided a means and a medium for political resistance across countries.’82 In their introduction to Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa (2013), Walid el Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman note that the problematic association of ‘the modern’ with ‘the West’ can, outside of Europe and the United States, reduce the cultural capital of popular forms and technologies, rendering any popular art form which is perceived to draw on Western influences (such as hip-hop culture) or those popularised by internet-based media as inauthentic or even as an example of the neocolonial dilution of authentic Middle Eastern culture proper. 83 As a result, they suggest that the definition of high and low culture in the region is often mapped along a resistance to the perceived threat posed by imported, Western cultural products, which are seen as insidious neocolonial intrusions into regional cultural life: In its use of new media and technologies, popular culture is thus most readily associated with Western cultures. It becomes suspect in the eyes of many as an ‘alien’ form of cultural production that does not suit Middle Eastern and North African tastes, values, or ‘traditions.’84 In this sense, Hamamsy and Soliman point to the way in which a localised understanding of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture eschews anything tainted by perceived Western neocolonial power, including, or perhaps especially, that spread by what they term ‘new media and technologies’ – in other words the very media so often associated with the Arab Spring.

Introduction  15 On the other hand, in the same collection, Randa Aboubakr charts the central role played by these media – she cites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in particular, but there are others – in enabling the nascent growth of resistance to authoritarian regimes in the region and their key role in the Arab Spring. She describes how, despite sustained state control of traditional print and broadcast media, ‘a young generation of Internet “wizards” had been hatching since the introduction of Internet technology in Arab countries in the mid-1990s, while aging authoritarian regimes were not evolving adequate media strategies to curb a techno-savvy population.’85 As Aboubakr outlines in detail, once the Egyptian revolution was under way, it was through such media and associated technologies that people charted the progress of the resistance, knew where to gather for demonstrations and other acts of resistance, and – importantly – revealed to a domestic and international community the state’s tactics in attempting to quash the revolution, shedding light on oppression usually hidden from public view by fear or lack of media interest. In other words, it was precisely those cultural products most often resented as diluting, or infecting, ‘pure’ forms of Middle Eastern culture – what Leavis, in a British context, called ‘the subtlest and most perishable parts of tradition’– that were at the heart of some of the defining moments of contemporary Middle Eastern life.86 Whether one considers these technologies a democratising tool or as insidious, neocolonial and elitist, it is clear that their operation is central to any understanding of the ways in which the postcolonial, embedded within, and emanating from, organic movements of resistance, continues to be relevant today. A good example of the oftentimes contradictory ways in which discourses about technology and modernity manifest is Mark M ­ cCutcheon’s discussion in Chapter Ten of the Frankenstein myth in relation to the Canadian Tar Sands industry. In order to analyse representations of popular Canadian culture, McCutcheon first negotiates the complex mix of colonial and neocolonial power in operation in Canadian society. ‘[I]n advocating for a postcolonial perspective on popular culture in Canada,’ McCutcheon writes: [I]t is crucially important not to misrecognise or misrepresent Canadian colonialism, by positing its white settler majority as a ‘victim’ of cultural imperialism – that is, as the colonised. This majority actually constitutes the coloniser, in the political economy of Canada as an immigration-based resource extraction colony, established through the systemic segregation and dispossession of Canada’s First Nations.87 McCutcheon weighs this settler colonialism against the neocolonialism that afflicts Canadian popular culture, which, he writes, is suffused with

16  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden ‘US-imported cultural productions and technologies.’88 In tandem, both demonstrate a vexed engagement across a range of cultural forms with notions of globalised technology. In her chapter on the South African poetry collective, Word N Sound (now known as Word N Sound Live Literature Company), Ricarda de Haas considers the ways in which new technologies, and especially social media such as Twitter, work to extend the performative space and audience of performance poetry. She argues that in ‘providing such a “forum for artists,” the poets of Word N Sound performatively create and re-create one of those “few and grossly underfunded” spaces that Stuart Hall had in mind when musing on those “cultural strategies” that “can make a difference and can shift the dispositions of power.”’89 For de Haas, social media, YouTube and digital technologies more broadly work to give voice to under-represented artistic communities and to reach out to equally under-resourced and under-represented audiences across South Africa and beyond. Finally, Wendy Knepper’s chapter analyses the role of the postcolonial geek in global culture, reading the geek as ‘scribe – a coder/decoder – for technology’s role in world history.’90 In Knepper’s analysis, these most unlikely of champions have emerged in recent decades as commercially successful, enormously popular and – simultaneously – deeply subversive figures. Heroes that straddle many a contradictory realm, they are able, from various positions of liminality, to uncover ‘hidden histories of technology, [shed] light on the inequalities that have shaped knowledge production, [and give] voice to silenced or repressed postcolonial technocultures.’91

Popular Postcolonialisms Stuart Hall ends his crucial essay ‘What is this “Black” in Black ­Popular Culture?’ with the assertion that, far from reflecting ‘the truth of our experience,’ popular culture ‘is an arena that is profoundly mythic. It is a theatre of popular desires, a theatre of popular fantasies.’92 For Hall, this idea of the popular realm as imagined, fantastical space is key because it sheds light on the fictionality of the divide between what ­Stallybrass and White, whom Hall quotes at some length to end his essay, call the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom.’ Instead, they insist that ‘the top ­includes that low symbolically, as a primary eroticized constituent of its own fantasy life ­[authors’ emphasis].’93 The lowbrow, the popular, the ‘bottom’ is embedded within the highbrow in this analysis. The resistance towards that which is defined as ‘low’ therefore highlights a symbiotic relationship obscured by the artificial hierarchies drawn around culture. ­Stallybrass and White argue that the conflict itself reveals ‘a psychological dependence upon precisely those others which are being rigorously opposed and excluded at the social level.’94 In other words, the relationship

Introduction  17 between the high, low or middlebrow points us towards yet another example of one group defining itself against its others, a familiar concept indeed in the postcolonial canon. The antagonistic nature of the ‘battle of the brows,’ the binary or oppositional nature of the debates surrounding popular forms and the vehemence with which each camp is defended all indicate the tenuous and artificial nature of these divisions. As Hall’s analysis demonstrates so clearly, the postcolonial theoretical lens allows us to explore these fissures – what he calls ‘thinking at or beyond the limit’ – with a keen awareness that the more strenuous the insistence that one category is inherently superior to another, the clearer the indication that, in reality, what we define ourselves against is closer to our position than is comfortable.95

Notes 1 Morag Shiach traces ideas of ‘the popular’ to the sixteenth century but writes that ‘from the late eighteenth century, we find “popular” applied to cultural texts: to music, the press, art, science and fiction [which] […] reproduce notions of “the popular” as that which is excluded from institutions of legitimation.’ Morag Shiach, Discourse on Popular Culture: Class, Gender and History in Cultural Analysis, 1730 to the Present (London: Polity, 1989), 33. 2 Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism (London: Smith and Elder, 1869), npag. www.gutenberg.org/ cache/epub/4212/pg4212.html [accessed 2nd July, 2016]. 3 Holt N. Parker, ‘Toward a Definition of Popular Culture,’ History and Theory 50 (2011): 147. 4 Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson, ‘Introduction: Rethinking Popular Culture,’ in Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1991), 3. 5 Stuart Hall, ‘What is This “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ in Black Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent (Seattle: Bay Press, 1992), 24. 6 Writing in relation to popular fiction, David Glover and Scott McCracken make clear that its definition has ‘changed over time and varies according to its cultural and geographical situation,’ words applicable to many of the cultural formations referenced here. See: David Glover and Scott McCracken, The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction, third printing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 1. 7 Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, ‘Postcolonial Popular Cultures,’ Continuum 25.5 (2011), 689. 8 Benita Parry, ‘The Institutionalisation of Postcolonial Studies,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies, ed. Neil Lazarus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 80. 9 Neil Lazarus, ‘What Postcolonial Theory Doesn’t Say,’ Race and Class 53.1 (2011), 3, 7. 10 Neil Lazarus, ‘What Postcolonial Theory Doesn’t Say,’ 4. 11 Anna Bernard, Ziad Elmarsafy and Stuart Murray eds., What Postcolonial Theory Does Say (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), 5. 12 Anon. ‘A Conversation with Stuart Hall’ originally published in The Journal of the International Institute 7 (1999), npag. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/ spo.4750978.0007.107 [accessed 2nd August, 2016].

18  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden 13 Chris Bongie’s claim that ‘cultural studies, with its concerted focus on the popular and the “ways of life” that give meaning to this popularity,’ offers an example of what ‘postcolonial studies needs more effectively to incorporate into its repertoire’ echoes this idea. See: Chris Bongie, Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post-colonial Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), 312. 14 Graham Huggan, The Oxford Book of Postcolonial Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 304. 15 Simon Featherstone, ‘Postcolonialism and Popular Cultures,’ in The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies, ed. Graham Huggan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 380. Elsewhere, Featherstone also signals the ‘relative inattention to popular culture’ characteristic of postcolonial studies. See Simon Featherstone, Postcolonial Cultures (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), 8. 16 Femi Osofisan, ‘Warriors of a Failed Utopia?’ originally published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 61 (1996), 11–36, http://lucas.leeds.ac.uk/ article/warriors-of-a-failed-utopia-femi-osofisan/ [accessed 2nd August, 2016]. 17 Arif Dirlik, ‘The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism,’ Critical Inquiry 20.2 (Winter 1994), 329. 18 F.R. Leavis, Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture (Cambridge: The Folcroft Press, 1930), 5. 19 Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (London: Transaction, 2006 [1957]), 190. 20 Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund ­Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 113. 21 Theodor Adorno, ‘On Popular Music,’ in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. Second Edition, ed. John Storey (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 205. 22 Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome, ‘Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday,’ in Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday, ed. Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome (New York, NY and London: Routledge, 2014), 2. 23 Raymond Williams, ‘Book Review: Fiction and the Writing Public’ Essays in Criticism VII. 4 (1957), 425. 24 Raymond Williams, ‘The Analysis of Culture’ in Cultural Theory and ­Popular Culture: A Reader, 53. 25 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, 124. 26 Raymond Williams, ‘On High and Popular Culture,’ New Republic 22nd November, 1974, npag. https://newrepublic.com/article/79269/ high-and-popularculture [accessed 14th June, 2016]. 27 Raymond Williams, ‘On High and Popular Culture,’ npag. 28 Neil Lazarus, Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Postcolonial World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1–2. 29 Frederic Jameson, ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture’ Social Text 1 (Winter 1979), 132. 30 Frederic Jameson, ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,’ 147. 31 Frederic Jameson, ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,’ 147. 32 Frederic Jameson, ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,’ 148. 33 See: C.L.R. James, Beyond A Boundary (London: Stanley Paul, 1963); Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic (London: Verso, 1993); Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (Abingdon:

Introduction  19

34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 4 4

45 46 47 48 49 50

51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59

Routledge, 2010); and Grant Farred, What’s my Name?: Black Vernacular Intellectuals (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2003). Stuart Hall ‘What is this “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ in Black Popular Culture, eds. Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992), 24. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 444. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 447. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 447–8. Page 27 of this collection. Pages 27–28. Pages 53–54. Page 72. Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black,”’ 25. Cora Kaplan, ‘The Thorn Birds: Fiction, Fantasy, Femininity,’ in Formations of Fantasy, ed. Victor Burgin, James Donald and Cora Kaplan (London and New York: NY: Methuen, 1986), 154. Lana F. Rakow, ‘Feminist Approaches to Popular Culture: Giving Patriarchy its Due,’ Communication 9 (1986), 21. Rakow concedes Q.D. Leavis and Hannah Arendt but rightly reminds us that they are overshadowed by the vast male corpus of male authors who espoused similar positions, in Leavis’s case especially by her husband, F.R. Leavis. Such women also did not significantly dissent from the views put forward by their male counterparts. Lana F. Rakow, ‘Feminist Approaches,’ 21. Morag Shiach, ‘Feminism and Popular Culture,’ Critical Quarterly 2 (1991), 37. Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s: Class Domesticity, and Bohemianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1. Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow, 1. Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow, 2. Melissa Schaub, Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction: The Female Gentleman (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013); Lise Jaillant, Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon (Pickering and Chatto, 2014); Beth Driscoll, The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Reading in the Twenty-First Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014); Phyllis Lassner, ‘The Mysterious New Empire: Agatha Christie’s Colonial Murders,’ in At Home and Abroad in the Empire: British Women write the 1930s, eds. Robin Hackett, Freda Hauser and Gay Wachman (Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2009), 31–50. Page 100. Page 115. Page 124. Page 140. Page 134. Warwick Research Collective (WReC), Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 9. Graham Huggan, The Post-colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London: Routledge, 2001); Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers in the Global Marketplace (Palgrave, [2007] 2011), 7. Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black,”’ 23. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 447.

20  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

81 82 83 84 85

86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95

Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers, vii. Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers, 1. Graham Huggan, The Post-colonial Exotic, 32. Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers, viii. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), 29. Pierre Bourdieu, In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 140. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, 42. Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trans. M. B. DeBevoise (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2004), xii. Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, xii. Pascale Casanova, ‘Literature as a World’ New Left Review 31 (2005), 90. Pascale Casanova, ‘Literature as a World,’ 87. Page 165. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 514; Page 151. Pages 170 and 171. Page 205. Pages 195 and 205. Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 446. Ibid. Raymond Williams, ‘On High and Popular Culture,’ npag. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannell, The Popular Arts (London: Hutchinson Educational, 1964), 67. See, for example, Ramesh Srinivasan, ‘Taking Power through Technology in the Arab Spring,’ al-jazeerah, 26th October, 2012. http://www.aljazeera. com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/2012919115344299848.html. [accessed 2nd August, 2016]. Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain, Democracy’s Fourth Wave?: Digital Media and the Arab Spring (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 25. Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M Hussain, Democracy’s Fourth Wave?, 25. Walid el Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman eds. Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook (London: Routledge, 2013), 1. Walid Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman, Popular Culture in the Middle East, 1–2. Randa Aboubakr ‘The Role of New Media in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011’ in Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook, eds. Walid el Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman (London: Routledge, 2013), 231. Leavis, Mass Civilisation, 5. Page 218. Page 218. Pages 247–8. Page 253. Page 253. Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black,”’ 32. Cited in Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black,”’ 33. Cited in Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black,”’ 33. Stuart Hall, ‘When was “The Post-Colonial”? Thinking at the Limit,’ in The Post-Colonial Question, eds. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti (London and New York, NY: Routledge), 242–60.

Introduction  21

Bibliography Aboubakr, Randa. ‘The Role of New Media in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.’ In Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook, edited by Walid el Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman, 231–45. London: Routledge, 2013. Adorno, Theodor. ‘On Popular Music.’ In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. Second Edition, edited by John Storey, 197–209. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. Anon. ‘A Conversation with Stuart Hall.’ Originally published in The Journal of the International Institute 7 (1999). Accessed 2nd August, 2016. http://hdl. handle.net/2027/spo.4750978.0007.107. Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism, 1822–1888. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1869. Accessed 10th ­August, 2016. www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4212/pg4212.html. Bernard, Anna, Ziad Elmarsafy and Stuart Murray, eds. What Postcolonial Theory Does Say. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015. Bongie, Chris. Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post-colonial ­Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Bourdieu, Pierre. In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology. ­Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990. ———. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature. ­Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993. Brouillette, Sarah. Postcolonial Writers in the Global Marketplace. London: Palgrave, 2011. Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters, translated by M. B. ­DeBevoise. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2004. ———. ‘Literature as a World.’ New Left Review 31(2005): 71–90. Devadas, Vijay and Chris Prentice. ‘Postcolonial Popular Cultures.’ Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 25.5 (2011): 687–93. Dirlik, Arif. ‘The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism.’ Critical Inquiry 20.2 (1994): 328–56. Driscoll, Beth. The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Reading in the Twenty-First Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. El Hamamsy, Walid and Mounira Soliman, eds. Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook. London: Routledge, 2013. Emig, Rainer and Oliver Lindner, eds. Commodifying (Post)Colonialism: Othering, Reification, Commodification and the New Literatures and Cultures in English, ASNEL Papers 16. Amsterdam and New York, NY: Rodopi, 2010. Farredd, Grant. What’s my Name?: Black Vernacular Intellectuals. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Featherstone, Simon. Postcolonial Cultures. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. ———. ‘Postcolonialism and Popular Cultures.’ In The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies, edited by Graham Huggan, 380–95. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic. London: Verso, 1993. ———. After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2004.

22  Nadia Atia and Kate Houlden Glover, David and Scott McCracken. The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction, third printing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Hall, Stuart and Paddy Whannell. The Popular Arts. London: Hutchinson Educational, 1964. ———. ‘What is This “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ In Black Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent, 21–33. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992. ———. ‘When was “The Post-Colonial”? Thinking at the Limit.’ In The Post-Colonial Question, edited by Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti, 242–60. London and New York, NY: Routledge, 1996. ———. ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular.”‘ In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 442–53. New York, NY: Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 1998. Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy. London: Transaction 2006 [1957]. Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987. Howard Philip N. and Muzammil M. Hussain. Democracy’s Fourth Wave?: Digital Media and the Arab Spring. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Huggan, Graham. The Post-colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. ———. The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Humble, Nicola. The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s: Class Domesticity, and Bohemianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Jaillant, Lise. Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon. London: ­Pickering and Chatto, 2014. James, Cyril Lionel Robert. Beyond A Boundary. London: Stanley Paul, 1963. Jameson, Frederic. ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.’ Social Text 1 (Winter 1979): 130–48. Kaplan, Cora. ‘The Thorn Birds: Fiction, Fantasy, Femininity.’ In Formations of Fantasy, edited by Victor Burgin, James Donald and Cora Kaplan, 142–65. London and New York, NY: Methuen, 1986. Lassner, Phyllis. ‘The Mysterious New Empire: Agatha Christie’s Colonial Murders.’ In At Home and Abroad in the Empire: British Women write the 1930s, edited by Robin Hackett, Freda Hauser and Gay Wachman, 31–50. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2009. Lazarus, Neil. Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Postcolonial World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ———. ‘What Postcolonial Theory Doesn’t Say.’ Race and Class 53.1 (2011): 3–27. Leavis, F.R. Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture. Cambridge: The Folcroft Press, 1930. Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. Abingdon: Routledge, 2010. Mukerji, Chandra and Michael Schudson. ‘Introduction: Rethinking Popular Culture.’ In Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies, edited by Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson, 1–61. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1991.

Introduction  23 Newell, Stephanie and Onookome Okome, ‘Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday.’ In Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday, edited by Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome, 1–26. New York, NY and London: Routledge, 2014. Osofisan, Femi. ‘Warriors of a Failed Utopia?’ originally published in Leeds ­African Studies Bulletin 61 (1996): 11–36. Accessed 2nd August, 2016. http:// lucas.leeds.ac.uk/article/warriors-of-a-failed-utopia-femi-osofisan/. Parker, Holt. N. ‘Toward a Definition of Popular Culture,’ History and Theory 50(2011): 147–70. Parry, Benita. Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique. London: Routledge, 2004. ———. ‘The Institutionalisation of Postcolonial Studies.’ In The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies, edited by Neil Lazarus, 66–80. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pearce, Lynne, Corinne Fowler and Robert Crawshaw, eds. Postcolonial Manchester: Diaspora Space and the Devolution of Literary Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013. Ponzanesi, Sandra. The Postcolonial Cultural Industry: Icons, Markets, ­Mythologies. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Rakow, Lana. F. ‘Feminist Approaches to Popular Culture: Giving Patriarchy its Due,’ Communication 9 (1986): 19–41. Schaub, Melissa. Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction: The Female Gentleman. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013. Shiach, Morag. Discourse on Popular Culture: Class, Gender and History in Cultural Analysis, 1730 to the Present. London: Polity, 1989. ———. ‘Feminism and Popular Culture.’ Critical Quarterly 2(1991): 37–46. Tarzan the Ape Man. DVD. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke (LA: Metro-­G oldwynMayer, 2004 [1932]). Warwick Research Collective (WReC). Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015. Williams, Raymond. ‘Book Review: Fiction and the Writing Public.’ Essays in Criticism VII. 4(1957): 422–8. ———. ‘On High and Popular Culture’ New Republic, 22nd November, 1974. Accessed 14th June, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/79269/ high-and-popular-culture. ———. ‘The Analysis of Culture.’ In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 48–56. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. ———. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 [1977].

Part I

The Radical Popular

1 ‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’ BBC Radio and the West Indian Everyday Rachael Gilmour On 12th January 1971, less than a year after it first started b ­ roadcasting, British Broadcasting Corporation (hereafter BBC) Radio London began airing a new comedy drama serial, devised in collaboration with the BBC’s English by Radio unit. The University of Brixton, set in ­Brixton’s West Indian community and dramatising the everyday goings-on of the Plummer household, was aimed at teaching immigrants from the Caribbean to speak ‘Standard English’; each episode began with the announcement ‘Welcome to the University of Brixton. You won’t get degrees or diplomas here, but you can get a first-class education.’1 Though now largely forgotten, the 26-part series may justifiably be seen as one of BBC local radio’s successes of the early 1970s. Its popularity saw it repeated on Radio London the following year as well as broadcast in other English cities with sizeable West Indian populations: Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, Manchester, Derby and Leeds. 2 The series was also syndicated to seven radio stations in the Caribbean as well as stations in the United States: in Massachusetts and across the Eastern Pacific Radio Network. 3 Representations of and programming for black and minority ethnic audiences on British radio have not received the same kind of scholarly attention as film and television in this period.4 Yet radio – and, in particular, local radio – was central to the BBC’s efforts to provide dedicated programming for Britain’s immigrant communities in the late 1960s and 1970s, and what few programmes the BBC did produce were capable of attracting large numbers of listeners. 5 The University of Brixton illuminates the BBC’s strategic emphasis on teaching ‘Standard English’ and educating for citizenship through domestic programming for ethnic minority listeners in this period. The programme sees the Corporation acting to promote linguistic and cultural integration as a means to serve the West Indian community’s needs – as it saw them – in a time of crisis. The programme emerges out of, and itself dramatises, a complex negotiation between the BBC’s normative protocols and burgeoning notions of West Indian cultural

28  Rachael Gilmour distinctiveness, while its self-conscious agenda of integration operates both in recognition and in denial of the era’s incendiary racial politics.6 Written and broadcast less than two years after the watershed of 1968 and Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, the series makes a decisive intervention by casting West Indians as central to the emphatically local, everyday life of ­Brixton in a largely frictionless blending of Caribbean and British cultures, a move made possible by recourse to the popular fictional forms of the soap opera and radio comedy drama. Framed around the teaching of ‘Standard English,’ as well as the legitimisation of state institutions and procedures (the police, the legal system, employment law, education), the series appealed to the sensibilities of that first generation of West Indian migrants for whom connection to British culture was deeply felt.7 Yet its storylines – aimed, albeit in a lightly comic vein, at the pressing issues of the day – obliquely engage all sorts of contemporary debates within the West Indian community around the politics of language and culture, and of West Indian and British belonging, in a period of rapid cultural and political change. Thus for all its light-heartedness, and indeed in many ways its downright oddness, at the heart of The ­University of Brixton lies a complex push-and-pull between elite, popular and vernacular cultural forms, and between various kinds of ‘containment and resistance,’ in Stuart Hall’s terms, via a fictionalised version of the day-to-day goings-on of West Indian life in South London in the early 1970s.8 Immigrants from the ‘new Commonwealth’ had been arriving in ­Britain in sizeable numbers since the late 1940s, but it was not until the 1960s that the BBC began to take seriously the issue of broadcasting for ethnic minorities. Conceived very much under the aegis of educational programming, the Corporation’s de facto assumption from the outset was that, as a public service broadcaster, its programming for minority groups should revolve around teaching the English language, British culture and citizenship. In 1965, two BBC conferences were held with representatives of the Indian, Pakistani and West Indian communities in Britain to solicit feedback on broadcasting.9 Representatives from the Indian and Pakistani communities responded warmly to proposals for dedicated programming geared to language learning and advice around British culture and institutions. Shortly thereafter, a new weekly magazine programme devised along these lines, Make Yourself At Home, broadcast primarily in ‘Hindustani’ (in ‘the basic vocabulary common to both Hindi and Urdu’ and therefore aimed notionally at both Indian and Pakistani audiences), was first aired on radio and television.10 Each programme included discussion, answers to listeners’ questions about life in Britain, music from Indian and Pakistani films, and a short English lesson, prepared by the BBC’s English by Radio unit, which featured a storyline of new immigrants, Mr and Mrs Chaudhury, ‘making their first attempts at speaking English in shops, in buses, at railway

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   29 stations, or in telephone kiosks.’11 Representatives of West Indian community organisations at the 1965 Conference, by contrast, were largely resistant to the notion of separate programming. Colonially educated and English-speaking participants were clear that there was no need for programming designed to help West Indians to adapt linguistically or culturally to life in Britain. They were keen to emphasise instead the need for programmes for mainstream audiences that were about the ­Caribbean and reflected its connections to Britain through the histories of slavery and colonisation, and, above all, for normalised representations of West Indians as part of everyday life in Britain.12 The question of programming for ethnic minorities was reopened by the launch, in the late 1960s, of a series of new local radio stations as  the  newly developed FM radio frequency allowed radio broadcasting to be diversified and localised for the first time. Local radio, able to target urban communities with relatively large immigrant populations, provided the Corporation with new, directed means to fulfil its remit as a public service broadcaster, to ‘provide a comprehensive service meeting the needs of minorities as well as majorities.’13 The focus continued to lie with the requirements of Britain’s South Asian communities and specifically on language teaching; but there was renewed attention too to the perceived needs of West Indian listeners. At a time when mainstream discourses around race and immigration were swinging decisively to the right, approaches to programming for immigrant communities were underpinned by a sense that the BBC should serve as a force for ­integration  – although at the same time, the Corporation was highly conscious of needing to avoid fuelling the impression that public service broadcasting was being usurped by the needs of minorities. As early as 1964, S­ tuart Hall was advising the BBC that there was a need among West Indian listeners for provision of ‘specialist ­information  – about how society is organized, what their rights are, etc.’ and for ‘­knowledge – language teaching, etc.,’ which could best be served by local radio broadcasting.14 Subsequent reports from within the BBC also suggested the need for dedicated programming for West Indian communities – which would, in spite of the feedback from the 1965 Conference, be geared specifically to ‘remedial’ help with previously unacknowledged ‘language difficulties.’15 There is certainly a sense in which this emphasis on language fitted, as we have seen, with the BBC’s existing model of programming for ethnic minority communities, which revolved around language support, on the successful model of Make Yourself At Home, and relied on the expertise of the English by Radio unit. In other words – and in relation to a West Indian community which, in many ways, it barely knew – this had the merit of being something the Corporation already knew how to do. English by Radio was also a strong driver of the project, and its end-of-empire fantasies of English’s linguistic dominion should

30  Rachael Gilmour probably not go unremarked. As its Director Christopher Dilke put it, surveying the unit’s changing role in the era of decolonisation, ‘Our future, then, is one of increasing difficulty and complexity, but at least we have booked seats on a voyage which has a definite destination, the establishment of English as the world language.’16 Yet the University of Brixton project also needs to be understood in relation to contemporary debates about the role of language in West Indian communities in Britain and in the education of West Indian children in British schools. As the sociolinguist Viv Edwards, among others, reported at the time, white teachers of West Indian children often regarded their language as ‘“babyish”, “careless and slovenly”, “lacking proper grammar” and even “very relaxed like the way they walk.”’17 Bernard Coard’s influential How The West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal In the British School System, published in 1971, summarised arguments that had long been made by black educational activists (organised since the mid-1960s under the umbrella of the Black Education Movement) in addressing the British school system’s failures in supporting West Indian children and their disproportionate allocation to ‘educationally subnormal’ (ESN) schools. Coard emphasised the impact of linguistic prejudice on the part of teachers – bound up, of course, in complex ways, with race prejudice – as well as unacknowledged communication problems deriving from: [L]inguistic differences between West Indian English and ‘standard classroom’ English. The West Indian child’s choice of words, usage and meaning of words, pronunciation, and intonation sometimes present tremendous difficulties in communication with the teacher, and vice versa. This factor, while recognized in a lip-service way by many of the teachers and other authorities involved, is often ignored when assessing and generally relating with the child. Thus, teachers often presume to describe West Indian children as being ‘dull,’ when in fact no educated assessment of the child’s intelligence can be made under these circumstances.18 These, then, were the contexts in which, in 1969, the BBC commissioned a language-teaching radio series for West Indian immigrants with a ‘soap-opera format’ – its humorous and involving storylines intended to draw listeners in, to maximise its popularity as a drama and to mitigate the sense that it was a ‘remedial’ project.19 Louis Marriott, a ­Jamaican journalist, broadcaster and playwright living in London, and already producing a magazine programme for immigrants for BBC Radio ­London called New Londoners, was commissioned to write the script. 20 ­Marriott was also a member of the Caribbean Artists’ Movement (CAM), the hugely influential London-based artists’ and activists’ collective which, as I have discussed elsewhere, was instrumental,

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   31 through the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the development of a distinctly ­Caribbean literary aesthetic grounded in Caribbean creole languages and vernacular cultures. 21 John La Rose, one of CAM’s founding members, also helped to set up the Black Education Movement, with its emphasis on the revaluing of black children’s speech. Marriott, certainly, regarded his work on The University of Brixton as consonant with these projects; as he has put it in a recent article, ‘the BBC, the final arbiter of the English language, wanted full recognition and respect to be accorded to the Jamaican language.’22 John Wells, a young lecturer working in the newly formed Linguistics department at University C ­ ollege London, meanwhile, was recruited as Marriott’s linguistic adviser. Wells had carried out extensive linguistic fieldwork in Jamaica and had done his doctorate on Jamaican Creole phonetics in London. 23 Marriott and Wells’s remit for the BBC was to devise a comedy radio serial with a storyline which could also be used for episode-by-episode teaching of particular points of grammar and pronunciation. The result was the 26-part University of Brixton. Set in the Jamaican community in Brixton, South London, the series followed the day-to-day life of the middle-class Plummer family and their working-class lodger Bertie Johnson and the comings and goings of the Plummer household. For its casting, the series drew on the community of well-known and upand-coming Jamaican actors living in London in 1970, with M ­ arriott himself in the role of Reasoning Pinnock. Charles Hyatt, already a household name in Jamaica for his radio series ‘Here Comes Charlie,’ was the voice of Bertie Johnson; Nina Baden-Semper, who among a host of BBC and ITV television credits had appeared in the pioneering Rainbow City in 1967, played Lily Mae Plummer. 24 As the narrator frames the series at the start of Episode One: Jonathan and Lily Mae Plummer, their three children, and their boarder, Bertie Johnson, live in an ordinary terraced house in the heart of Brixton in London – ordinary except that their friends and neighbours call it a special name. They call it ‘The University of Brixton,’ because it is the centre of enlightenment, the fountain of knowledge, and the breeding-ground for ideas among West Indians living in that part of Brixton. Casual visitors gravitate towards the ‘university,’ pooling trivial news, and opinions on weighty issues of the day, and often taking away wise counsel, particularly from men like Reasoning Pinnock.25 The series’ hapless hero is Bertie Johnson, whose use of Jamaican Creole leads him into all kinds of comedic scrapes: misapprehension, misprision and incomprehension abound, and it is these and their awkward repercussions that serve as the comic motor of the series. When Bertie trips over a milk crate and ends up in hospital, for example, in Episode

32  Rachael Gilmour Two, his attempts to get the nurse to phone his girlfriend Pat using the third-person Creole pronoun ‘him’ meet with great consternation: BERTIE: Call Pat Adams for me. See the number NURSE: Who’s Pat Adams? BERTIE: Him is my girlfriend. NURSE: I beg your pardon, Mr Johnson!


(sotto voce to nurse) I don’t think we should grant that request. 26


Playing opposite Bertie, Reasoning Pinnock (played by Louis Marriott himself) is the series’ main advocate of ‘Standard English,’ an autodidact who is quick to point out Bertie’s linguistic mistakes and to reflect on his mishaps. Reasoning is an ambitious self-made man whose storylines exemplify the series’ light-touch engagement with contemporary events and debates. At one point – referencing the controversy surrounding the planned construction of the London Ringways, a network of high-speed roads encircling central London – he tells Bertie and the Plummers, ‘I have to go to a citizen’s association meeting in North London, to help plan a campaign of protest. You know they’re building a ring-way out there.27 His motivation, he insists, is civic ­responsibility; as he explains, ‘the world has become a smaller place of late […] We are our neighbour’s keepers,’ but Lily Mae suspects that the real reason is to protect his real estate investments: ‘I notice that whenever you get involved in issues outside ­Brixton, a threat to the value of property is always present.’28 Reasoning thus stands for the small but growing number of West Indian landlords in ­London (often catering in particular to fellow West Indians refused housing elsewhere on grounds of their race), as satirised by Sam Selvon in the ‘Jamaican fellar’ who ‘buy out a whole street of houses in Brixton’ in The Lonely Londoners (1956), as well as the older, jaded Moses of Moses Ascending (1975).29 Reasoning is also the series’ strongest advocate of linguistic assimilation, as we hear in the first episode: All right, all right, Mr Reasoning. Why you so particular about your English? REASONING: Because we’re living among English people, in England. When you’re at home it’s perfectly in order to speak your own ­language, and when you’re among your own there’s nothing wrong either. But you have to know how to speak English for English people to understand you, because most of them don’t speak your language. (music – reggae hit)30 BERTIE:

Each ten-minute episode was followed by a brief linguistic commentary on differences between Jamaican Creole and Standard English, which

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   33 had been exemplified in the preceding narrative. To accompany the series, 3,000 workbooks were printed by the BBC – circulated to educational and community organisations around the UK and made available by post, free of charge, by application – which included the broadcast scripts and linguistic commentary, together with linguistic exercises devised by John Wells.31 The series was modelled on the situational approach to language teaching that had been pioneered by the BBC’s English by Radio unit, which relied on a sequential narrative to place language in context – effectively, a kind of soap opera format, although one signally lacking in eventfulness. As its Director Christopher Dilke described it, the English by Radio world was a gently conventional one in which ‘nothing very dramatic’ ever happened: Nobody is born, or dies, except at a distance, and the love-life is deliberately low-keyed. English by Radio is a world in which it is usually afternoon and a cup of tea is never very far away. It is not a propagandist world. Englishmen are presented, not as 007s, but as they are at their most average. 32 Thus the comedy of The University of Brixton represented a kind of ­attempt to bridge the English by Radio model of the mundane and respectable everyday – ‘in which it is usually afternoon and a cup of tea is never very far away’ – with early 1970s West Indian life in ­Brixton, South London. This involved, at the very least, some negotiation. ­Britain’s West Indian communities, Brixton’s among the largest, had been growing since the 1940s, developing through slow accretion in the face of British racism that rendered notions of established black civil society precarious. 33 In 1970, less than two years after Enoch Powell’s notorious ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, white Britons’ racial fear and hatred had become openly speakable: the ultra-right wing National Front, formed in 1967, had surged in popularity, and graffiti on the streets of Brixton urged ‘Powell for PM!!’34 In Britain’s black communities, this was a period of intense political and cultural activity, a drive to renewed self-determination born out of Powellite adversity. Along with combating racist violence, black communities were also faced with the challenge of responding to highly visible and escalating police harassment as well as discrimination in employment, housing and education. Activist organisations and political collectives included the Brixton Black Panthers, based in Shakespeare Road in Brixton, and the Black Unity and Freedom Party, based in West London, both founded in 1970, the year The University of Brixton was first broadcast. 35 Activism also coalesced around the burgeoning black-run bookshops such as New Beacon Bookstore in Finsbury Park, Bogle L’Ouverture Bookshop in Ealing or Centerprise Bookstore in Dalston (all, perhaps in perverse recognition of their

34  Rachael Gilmour importance, subject to repeated racist attacks); and community-run supplementary schools such as the George Padmore School in Finsbury Park and Ahfiwe (Jamaican Creole – ‘it is ours’) in Brixton. In 1970 too, a coordinated campaign led by black parents’ groups against educational banding included plans for Britain’s first-ever parents’ strike. 36 In The University of Brixton, the narrative indeed touches on many of the ‘weighty issues of the day,’ though it does so very lightly, dealing, for example, with consumer rights (after Bertie is mis-sold some encyclopaedias by a door-to-door salesman) or employment law (when he is fired from his building job for mistakenly knocking down a wall). The thrust of each storyline is to show how the institutions of state power and civic authority – all of them, within the series’ world-view, implicitly race-blind – can be negotiated with the right kind of communication, in ‘Standard English.’ In this respect, the series refracts the ‘weighty issues of the day’ through a quietist lens, offering a counter-narrative to contemporary radical black politics. A note in the ­University of ­Brixton workbook on ‘The School,’ for example, explains how education in ­Britain differs from Caribbean norms, telling parents that ‘you are sure to be welcome if you visit your child’s school and take an interest in his progress.’ In ESN schools specifically, ‘there are very small classes and the children are given a lot of individual help,’ a perspective that would have surprised (to put it very mildly) many ordinary black parents as well as educational activists. 37 This startlingly benign view of British institutional authority extends to the police as well. In this linguistic exercise from Episode Six, for example, it is possible for a West Indian criminal suspect to ‘take turns’ with a police inspector: Imagine you are a police inspector. Question a suspect about what he did last Tuesday. For example, ‘Did you go to visit your girlfriend?’ ‘Didn’t you leave the club at all?’ The suspect can answer, ‘No, I didn’t.’ Then the suspect can question the police inspector. 38 Along the way, the narrative emphasises issues of law and institutional practice, serving as a kind of primer for citizenship: various episodes provide brief insights into consumer rights, employment rights, union representation, tax law, the British legal system, adult education and the right to legal aid. In each instance, mastery of ‘Standard English’ unlocks the power to participate in British civic life. It comes as no surprise, of course, to find the BBC acting not only as the arbiter (as it had in the decolonising Caribbean, as much as in Britain) but also the active agent of linguistic normativity. The series’ approach also echoes wider arguments about the importance of ‘Standard English’ in post-war Britain, uneasily aligning arguments about effective communication with assertions of prestige, all the while insisting

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   35 that this is simply common sense: ‘[t]o get on in life you have to know S­ tandard.’39 Jamaican Creole, writes John Wells in the Introduction to the University of Brixton workbook, is a ‘dialect,’ like London Cockney. However, he goes on, unlike Cockney it is not commonly understood in Britain: ‘[s]o every West Indian who wants to be sure English people can understand him properly has to be able to talk Standard English.’ Moreover, he adds, Another reason for learning Standard English is that people tend to show no respect for someone who can’t talk and write Standard. If you use dialect forms of words or sentences, an official or an employer will tend to think you must be uneducated or stupid. Sometimes even the way you pronounce Standard words will make him think that.40 The University of Brixton’s position on Jamaican Creole is, therefore, in many ways conflicted. It is a remedial project that cannot help but associate Jamaican Creole with being ‘uneducated or stupid,’ and its comedy largely revolves around Bertie and his linguistic mishaps. Bertie is a highly sympathetic comic figure; but he is also the butt of jokes that rely on a gap between his understanding of the situation and the listener’s. When he goes to enter his girlfriend Pat in the ‘Miss ­Brixton International’ contest, for example, BERTIE: I come to enter a frien’ o’ mines. BURTON: “What’s a ‘frenomines’”? BERTIE: No. Not yours. Mines. BURTON: Sorry. I don’t follow you, mate. BERTIE: I say my girlfriend waan enter eena the…. BURTON: Oh, your girlfriend. What about her, mate? BERTIE: She waan enter eena the contes.’ BURTON: She… one…? BERTIE: Not she one. She waan. BURTON: Carry on, mate. I’ll soon get used to it. BERTIE: She waan enter the contes.’ BURTON: Oh, your girlfriend is Ena, the countess. I

believe you. From what country? BERTIE: She have about a 36-inch bus’ and a nice pair o’ hip, an’ lovely wais.’ BURTON: A 36-inch bus, eh? Tell me, is it a double-decker? BERTIE: But of course. Wha’? You don’ think it could be only one….?41 For all listeners, the full nudge-nudge effect of the joke relies on some familiarity with (or at least a willingness to guess at) both sets of language

36  Rachael Gilmour norms, to understand how what Bertie says makes one kind of sense in Jamaican Creole but has entirely different implications to a speaker of Standard English. The humour of this slightly absurd, gently risqué scene is not strictly at Bertie’s expense: it is a comedy of mutual incomprehension. For West Indian listeners specifically, however, it also serves to reinforce the idea that to speak Creole to white Britons like Burton is to risk frustration, miscommunication – or indeed, sounding ‘uneducated or stupid.’ Yet, at the same time, both the narrative itself and the structural approach of the accompanying commentary and exercises are informed by a drive to legitimate Jamaican Creole as a distinct and rule-bound language in its own right. For example, in an involved subplot spread over three episodes, Bertie and his friend Sonny end up in court on a charge of criminal damage, after misinterpreting the workplace instruction ‘mind you don’t break down the whole wall,’ by mistaking the standard English negative ‘don’t’ for the Jamaican Creole completive aspectual marker ‘don’ (rough translation: ‘make sure you have broken the whole wall down’).42 As Bertie prepares his defence and the trial gets under way, the narrative turns on the ‘communication gap’ between Jamaican Creole and Standard English: BERTIE: Mek me tell you LILY MAE: Look, Bertie.

something, Johnny. You just said ‘mek me tell you.’ Now you can bet that an English lawyer wouldn’t understand that kind of speech. JONATHAN: Wait a minute, Bertie. Wasn’t the lawyer West Indian? BERTIE: No. Him is English. JONATHAN: And you didn’t have an interpreter with you? BERTIE: Wha’ me doing with interrupter? Fi interrupt wha’ him say? JONATHAN: Well, no wonder. The communication gap caught up with you again, Bertie. I think you need someone who can understand you and yet make himself understood by the judge. You need an interpreter or a West Indian lawyer. And not any West Indian lawyer. One that can understand Jamaica talk.43 Bertie’s lawyer’s defence is based on the fact that he and the building site manager speak ‘different languages’; indeed, a ‘Research Fellow in Linguistics’ is called to give evidence about the structural differences between Jamaican Creole and Standard English, and the communication difficulties these can cause.44 In many ways, the world of the Plummer household evinces what Bill Schwarz has called ‘the gradual, uneven creolization of the metropolis’: day-to-day life in South London that moves to the rhythms of reggae and calypso, where people speak Jamaican Creole and play dominoes, while negotiating minor dramas of a resoundingly local sort, such as dealing with persistent door-to-door salesmen, entering a beauty contest,

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   37 organising a party or negotiating problems at work.45 This is, of course, the ‘average’ and unremarkable world of English by Radio.46 It also sits within the broader conventions of ‘everyday’ drama in Britain in the post-war period, comic and otherwise, in which audiences were invited to engage with the day-to-day lives of characters defined by their ‘ordinaryness’ in readily recognisable domestic settings.47 This latter association is one of which the series is clearly conscious: in the exercises to accompany Episode Three, addressing the use of pronouns, we find the names of characters from The University of Brixton set alongside the names of characters from the ITV television drama Coronation Street (1960–): 2. Say whether each of these people is ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Bertie Annie Walker Alphonso Elsie Tanner Lily Mae Albert Tatlock The nurse Ena Sharples The doctor Lucille Hewitt Reasoning Pinnock Ken Barlow48 The parallel with Coronation Street here emphasises the status of the series as a soap opera, representing the lives of West Indians in London as part of the commonplace of everyday British life, much as the television drama series Empire Road (1978–79) – dubbed ‘the black Coronation Street’ – was to do a few years later.49 Looked at this way, the quotidian storylines of The University of Brixton represent a form of what James Procter has called the ‘postcolonial everyday’: the representation, that is, of a kind of mundane embeddedness of black communities within English daily life.50 At the same time, while The University of Brixton represents a lightly creolised South London via popular culture – a happy harmony of beauty contests and reggae – it does so to promote an agenda of ‘Standard English’ buttressing what we might reasonably call middle-class values of respectable conformity. Certainly, it has little truck with contemporary radical black politics, which it lampoons in the figure of the President of the Society for the Preservation of Jamaican Speech, who doorsteps Reasoning Pinnock in a number of episodes, accusing him of attempting to ‘destroy Jamaican speech.’51 At one point, the President turns up with a petition with two hundred signatories, and a crowd of protestors, insisting that Reasoning ‘cease and desist’ from his threats to Jamaican language until Reasoning turns the tables on him with his own mastery of ‘J.A. talk’: PRESIDENT: You hear him talk, Fellows? You no see how the man sell out

him own birthright?

38  Rachael Gilmour Ef oonu waah me to taak like say me deh back a yard me can taak same lakka oonu. But air wha’ me seh. Me seh ef oonu deh a lib a Englant oonu fi taak Hinglish so the Hinglishman can understan’ oonu. (cheers) PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. Reasoning Pinnock. Is really you that? Well, well. You not such a bad fellow after all. REASONING: Nonsense. Listen, I was only showing you that I can speak Jamaican. That’s no reason why I shouldn’t speak English as well, because I’m living in England and I have to make myself understood well in English. So take your protest to my address, and stay within the law. Good evening, Mr President. (jeers) (Reasoning knocks on the Plummers’ door) PRESIDENT: Down with Reasoning Pinnock. CHORUS: Down with traitors. PRESIDENT: Down with Reasoning Pinnock. CHORUS: Down with traitors. 52 REASONING:

The decisiveness of Reasoning’s apparent victory here – being equally at ease speaking ‘Standard English’ and ‘like say me deh back a yard’ – illuminates the position The University of Brixton seems, often, to want to adopt: simultaneously celebrating the sounds of Creole on the radio while insisting that in Britain, in the end, only ‘Standard English’ will do. Thus the kind of collective, vernacular agency represented by the President of the SPJS and his supporters is treated as absurd, in comparison to the power to speak for oneself in ‘Standard.’ Yet, while the President is laughed off as a kind of essentialising linguistic preservationist, he also stands metonymically for the radical black politics, post-­ Powell, largely unspoken within the world of The University of Brixton, in which the sequential progression from immigration to assimilation is not a given. By the end of the series, the victory over Jamaican Creole seems assured, with Bertie now committed to ‘Standard’ and having secured a new job as a foreman as a result. 53 However, the Plummers’ eldest son, Alphonso, is a different case altogether: a teenager growing up in London, keen on football and rugby (to the horror of his cricket-loving elders), he does not accept the language politics of his parents, and his Creole speech becomes more pronounced as the series progresses. By the final episode, the linguistic comedy has fully transposed to Alphonso: ALPHONSO: And this SUSAN: Bredda? ALPHONSO: Bradda.

is Joseph, my little bredda.

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   39 SUSAN: Bradda? ALPHONSO: Brodda. SUSAN: Brodda? REASONING: Brother. 54

This reverse trajectory is clearly intended to be both comic and cautionary in suggesting what may happen if black youth aren’t taught ‘Standard English.’ As Bertie says in the final episode, ‘D’you know, Alphonso? I’m a bit worried about your English.’55 Alphonso also serves as a comedic representation of a new generation of young people, growing up in Britain, for whom Creole was becoming a self-consciously adopted sign of a distinct, popular black politics. As Dick Hebdige observed in the mid-1970s, Language is used as a particularly effective way of resisting assimilation and preventing infiltration by members of the dominant groups. As a screening device it has proved to be invaluable; and the ‘Bongo talk’ and patois of the Rude Boys deliberately emphasize its subversive rhythms so that it becomes an aggressive assertion of racial and class identities. As a living index of the extent of the black’s alienation from the cultural norms and goals of those who occupy high positions in the social structure the Creole language is unique. 56 The narrative the series wants to promote – of a movement away from Jamaican Creole, towards ‘Standard English’ – is associated with Alphonso’s parents’ generation of colonially educated West Indian immigrants, for whom a sense of the Caribbean as ‘home’ could be reconciled with a commitment to ‘Standard English.’ As Bertie puts it in a poem celebrating his linguistic transformation in the final episode, ‘at home, Jamaican; in England, Standard.’57 Yet it is Alphonso, growing up in Britain, who recognises the subversive, identitarian power of ‘one piece o’Jamaican talk.’58 Britain in 1970 was determined, as the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies’ classic analysis Policing the Crisis contends, by political and social discontent, precipitated by a sense of crisis in the post-war social order, that coalesced in the politics of racial exclusion.59 These popular race politics, post-Powell, associated Englishness with whiteness and urged the expulsion of black communities from the English body politic as threats to English civility. The University of Brixton, which must be seen in many ways as a response to this crisis, represents some kind of accommodation between the BBC’s particular vision of inclusion and the aspirations of at least a significant segment of the first generation of immigrants from the West Indies. Within its purview, their sense of cultural distinctiveness and connection to ‘home’ were to be

40  Rachael Gilmour maintained through certain kinds of popular culture – reggae and calypso, dominoes and cricket – but not those more radical cultural forms which might threaten a model of civic inclusion based on conformity (rather than necessary challenge) to British linguistic and cultural mores, citizenship and middle-class respectability. On the one hand, the series thus advocates a kind of political quiescence: as against the founding assumptions of a contemporary politics of collective, radical blackness, it reinterprets the problems of West Indians in Britain as failures of communication and casts them therefore as resolvable through the agency of the individual, whose willingness to speak ‘Standard’ and to adopt the responsibilities of citizenship vouchsafe a happy ending. Nevertheless, the series’ displacement of race onto language – in some senses its most problematic move – also made it possible to allude, albeit obliquely and comically, to many topics of pressing concern in the lives of Caribbean immigrants in Britain, the ‘weighty issues of the day’ – from problems in employment and housing, to interactions with police and the law – and aimed to teach people their rights as well as responsibilities as citizens.60 These, in The University of Brixton, could become the stuff of popular comic drama. The University of Brixton workbooks were used for language teaching for West Indian students, in community education classes and supplementary schools, and were also employed in multicultural teacher training courses, to educate British teachers about the culture and language of their West Indian pupils. The sociolinguist and educationalist Viv Edwards, in her pioneering work on Caribbean Creoles in Britain in the 1970s, recommended The University of Brixton as a teaching tool for adults and older children, praising it as ‘perhaps the most useful material yet prepared for West Indians in this country.’61 Much more recently, Louis Marriott has invoked it, in a series of articles for the Jamaica Gleaner, in support of his arguments for the importance of teaching Jamaican Creole in the contemporary Jamaican school system.62 Yet it is certain that far more people listened to it as a radio serial than ever employed it for the purposes of language learning; and although as we have seen, its comedy was aimed primarily at West Indian listeners, it probably did also capture a wider ‘eavesdropping audience.’63 Produced by that bastion of cultural authority, the BBC, it ­promoted an agenda of participative citizenship through ‘­Standard English’; but it relied for its appeal on a narrative that dramatised the uneven interplay between elite and popular, West Indian and British, conformist and radical, standard and vernacular, middle-class and working-class cultural forms that distinguished, in many ways, how Britain’s West Indian communities were experiencing their own becoming-­postcolonial. The series fell across a fault line between a generation for whom ‘home’ was largely in the Caribbean, even as they often considered themselves culturally and linguistically British, and their children, for whom ‘home’ was a Britain in need of radical transformation. If the BBC found, in The University of Brixton, a way to

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   41 serve the needs of the former, then as a public service broadcaster it struggled through the 1970s to find a way to connect with the latter. The Local Radio Ethnic Minority Programmes Conference, held in 1977, recognised that no adequate programming had been developed to cater to British-born black youth who identified neither with ‘the host community,’ nor with ‘the first generation immigrants.’64 John Bright, then manager of Radio Derby, observed, ‘if you talked to young West Indians now, they would dissociate themselves from the views of […] their parents’ generation. I suspect that some want not only their own programme but their own separate radio Corporation!’65 ­Notwithstanding this, he ventured, ‘[w]ould there be some merit in inviting someone to break up the sea of white faces and mild exchanges? Why not invite along a West Indian (and there are some very articulate ones) who would tell us exactly what is wrong with what we presently do – or don’t.’66

Notes 1 Louis Marriott, ‘The Jamaica Language Issue – Part I,’ Jamaica Gleaner 17th September, 2006. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060917/focus/ focus3.html [accessed 19th July, 2013]. 2 ‘“The University of Brixton”: BBC Radio Series to Help West Indian Immigrants,’ English by Radio and Television, BBC Written Archives Centre (WAC) R103/341/1. 3 Viola Huggins, ‘The University of Brixton,’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1.5 (1972): 458. One journalist, recalling his childhood in Monserrat, describes his upbringing on ‘BBC comedies’ like The University of Brixton, which formed a ‘method of transport’ connecting the Caribbean with Britain via the airwaves. Andrew Skerritt, ‘Tuning in to Life,’ St Petersburg Times Floridian, 6th June, 2004. www.sptimes.com/2004/06/06/Floridian/ Tuning_in_to_life.shtml [accessed 1st August, 2013]. 4 For discussion of television in the period see Darrell M. Newton, Paving the Empire Road: BBC Television and Black Britons (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2011); Stephan Bourne, Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in Film and Television (London: Continuum, 2001); Sarita Malik, Representing Black Britain: A History of Black and Asian Images on British Television (London: Sage, 2001). 5 Make Yourself At Home, a weekly magazine programme for South Asian listeners in Britain first broadcast in October 1965, is estimated to have attracted an audience of half a million. Asa Briggs, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom Vol V: Competition (Oxford and New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), 592. 6 ‘Our Aim is Integration, not Assimilation.’ Notes on the BBC Immigrants Unit, 2nd June 1969, WAC R78/1816/1. 7 See Bill Schwarz, ‘“Claudia Jones and the West Indian Gazette”: Reflections on the Emergence of Postcolonial Britain,’ Twentieth Century British History, 14 (2003): 267. 8 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, ed. John Storey (London: Pearson, 2009), 509.

42  Rachael Gilmour 9 See Darrell M. Newton, ‘“How Can We Help You?”: Hugh Greene and the BBC Coloured Conferences,’ Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal, 3 (2002): 3–16; Newton, Paving the Empire Road, 120–32. 10 The British Broadcasting Corporation: First Conference on Immigrants (India and Pakistan). Held at Broadcasting House, London, Tuesday 6th July 1965. Report of Proceedings, WAC R78/1,816/1. On the history of Hindustani see David Lelyveld, ‘The Fate of Hindustani: Colonial Knowledge and the Project of a National Language,’ in Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia, eds. Carol A Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 189–214. Make Yourself At Home was broadcast on medium wave on the Home Service from the London, Midland, North and Scotland transmitters, and twice weekly on BBC-1. BBC Make Yourself at Home, WAC R16/820/1. The question of language, and the programme’s balance of coverage between Indian and Pakistani audiences, continued to be highly vexed for as long as it was broadcast. 11 Christopher Dilke, ‘English by Radio and Television,’ BBC Lunch-time Lecture Fourth Series, no. 7, 13th April, 1966, WAC R78/1816/1. English by Radio had been established during the Second World War as a specialist unit devoted to language teaching, its output broadcast via the BBC Overseas service. Briggs, History of Broadcasting Vol V, 592, 158, 527; R J Quinalt, ‘English by Radio,’ ELT Journal 1.5 (1947): 119–25. The launch of Make Yourself At Home was widely reported in the British press; see WAC E12/854/1. See also Make Yourself At Home, September, 1965, WAC B575/005/002; ‘The Launching of the Programmes for Immigrants,’ October, 1965, WAC R34/1303/2. For at least a decade thereafter, the BBC’s concerns with programming for the Indian and Pakistani communities centred on the need for language instruction; the long-running and successful Make Yourself at Home was succeeded by the Parosi radio project, aimed specifically at South Asian women in the home. See for example ‘A Report on the Monitoring of the BBC’s Parosi Project,’ WAC R99/339/1. 12 The British Broadcasting Corporation: Second Conference on Immigrants (The West Indies). Held at Broadcasting House, London, Tuesday 13th July 1965. Report of Proceedings, WAC R78/1816/1. 13 R. S. Postgate to Acting Secretary S.B.C. ‘Local Broadcasting: Programmes to Teach English to Immigrant Children,’ 10th August, 1967, WAC R16/820/1; British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting in the Seventies: The BBC’s Plan for Network Radio and Non-metropolitan Broadcasting (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1969), 1. 14 Stuart Hall to ‘Phil,’ 16th June 1964, WAC B575/005/002. 15 Barbara Crispin, Assistant Senior Education Officer, ‘Consultative Meeting on Audio-Visual Material for Immigrant Schoolchildren,’ 18th May, 1966, WAC R16/820/1; Wilfred Proudfoot, ‘The Case For and Against FE Provision in English as a Second Language for Immigrants,’ WAC R103/254/1; Viola Huggins to Hal Bethell, Education Organiser, Local Radio, 13th May, 1971, WAC R103/341/1. 16 Christopher Dilke, ‘English by Radio and Television,’ 15, emphasis in original. 17 1970 report by the Birmingham branch of the Association for Teachers of English to Pupils from Overseas (ATEPO) cited in Viv Edwards, The West Indian Language Issue in British Schools: Challenges and Responses (­London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), 42.

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   43 18 Bernard Coard, How The West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal In the British School System (London: New Beacon, 1971), 30, 13. For an overview of the treatment of black children in the British education system, and the role of English language teaching in ‘successful assimilation’ and to remedy perceived ‘cultural and educational backwardness,’ see Hazel V Carby, ‘Schooling in Babylon,’ in The Empire Strikes Back: Race and racism in 70s Britain (Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1982), 187–8. 19 Programmes for Immigrants: record of a meeting between Viola Huggins and FELO, 21st January, 1971, WAC R103/341/1. 20 Matthew Linfoot, A History of BBC Local Radio in England, c.1960–1980 (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Westminster, 2011), 286. 21 Rachael Gilmour, ‘“Sight, Sounds and Meaning”: Voice/Print Transitions in Black British Poetry,’ in Flower/Power: British Literature in Transition, volume 2, 1960–1980, ed. Kate McLoughlin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). On Marriott’s involvement with CAM see Anne Walmsley, The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966–1972: A Literary and Cultural History (London and Port of Spain: New Beacon, 1992), 288, 293. See also the special UK issue of Savacou, the CAM journal, guest edited by John La Rose and Andrew Salkey, which includes a poem by Marriott. Savacou 9/10 (1974). 22 Louis Marriott, ‘The Jamaican Language Issue – Part I.’ 23 ‘John Wells,’ in Linguistics in Britain: Personal Histories, eds. Keith Brown and Vivien Law (London: Philological Society, 2002), 301–2. 24 ‘BBC Programme to help W.I. Immigrants,’ Kingston Gleaner, 13th November, 1971, 4. 25 British Broadcasting Corporation, The University of Brixton. A Series for West Indians. Dialogues by West Indian author, Louis Marriott. Linguistic notes and exercises by Dr J C Wells of University College, London. Edited and Produced by Viola Huggins (London: BBC, 1971), 1. 26 The University of Brixton, 13. 27 The University of Brixton, 107–8. 28 The University of Brixton, 107–8. 29 Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (Harlow: Longman, 2004), 27. 30 The University of Brixton, 4. 31 The University of Brixton; Viola Huggins, ‘The University of Brixton’, 458. Unlike some English by Radio series produced for overseas listeners, the University of Brixton materials were not marketed commercially and did not include sound recordings. 32 Christopher Dilke, ‘English by Radio and Television.’ 33 On the emergence of black communities in Britain in the 1950s and 60s see Donald Hinds, Journey to an Illusion. The West Indian in Britain (London: Heinemann, 1966); Bill Schwarz, Claudia Jones and the West Indian Gazette, 264–85. 34 According to a contemporary leaflet, posters with the slogan ‘Keep ­Britain White!’ appeared in Brixton High Street in the summer of 1969, while police harassment of young black people in the area continued to escalate. ‘Black Power Mass Rally, 2nd August, 1969,’ Black Cultural Archives (BCA) Wong/2/10. Analyses of the racial coordinates and cultural and political impact of Powellism are to be found in Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. Second Edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013); Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies, The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain (London: Hutchinson, 1982); Paul

44  Rachael Gilmour Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (London: Hutchinson, 1987); Bill Schwarz, The White Man’s World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Camilla Schofield, Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). 35 On the BUPF in this period see Harry Goulbourne, Caribbean Transnational Experience (London: Pluto Press, 2002), 79–111. 36 ‘Formation announced of the Haringey Advisory Centre for Education,’ 25th January, 1970. George Padmore Institute, Black Educational Movement Archives BEM 1/2/5. 37 The University of Brixton, 11. 38 The University of Brixton, 72. 39 The University of Brixton, iii. On debates around ‘Standard English’ see Tony Bex and Richard Watts, Standard English: The Widening Debate (London: Routledge, 1999); Tony Crowley, Standard English and the Politics of Language (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003). 40 The University of Brixton, iii. 41 The University of Brixton, 43–4. 42 See Peter L Patrick, ‘Jamaican Creole Morphology and Syntax,’ in A Handbook of Varieties of English Vol 2: Morphology and Syntax, eds. Berndt Kortmann et al. (Berlin and New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter, 2004), 407–38. 43 The University of Brixton, 83. 4 4 The University of Brixton, 89, 98. 45 Bill Schwarz, ‘Claudia Jones and the West Indian Gazette,’ 272. 46 Christopher Dilke, ‘English by Radio and Television.’ 47 A History of BBC Local Radio in England c.1960–1980, 24. Such ‘everyday’ drama on the radio included Mrs Dale’s Diary (1948–69) and the hugely successful and long-running The Archers (1950–). 48 The University of Brixton, 16–7. 49 Newton, Paving the Empire Road, 153. 50 James Procter, ‘The Postcolonial Everyday,’ New Formations 58 (2006): 62–80. See also Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Postcolonial Melancholia or Convivial Culture? (London: Routledge, 2004). 51 The University of Brixton, 144. 52 The University of Brixton, 189. 53 The University of Brixton, 224. 54 The University of Brixton, 214. 55 The University of Brixton, 223. 56 Dick Hebdige, ‘Reggae, Rastas and Rudies,’ in Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain, eds. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1976), 136. 57 The University of Brixton, 225. 58 The University of Brixton, 196. 59 Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. Second Edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), 215–67. 60 The University of Brixton, 1. 61 Viv Edwards, West Indian Language: Attitudes and the School. Revised Edition (Derby: National Association for Multi-Racial Education, 1977). 62 Louis Marriott, ‘The Jamaica Language Issue.’ 63 ‘English Language Series for Immigrants,’ Neil Barnes to EdSec, 29th March 1971, WAC R103/254/1. 64 Local Radio Ethnic Minority Programmes Conference, Pebble Mill, 28th September 1977, WAC R102/38/1.

‘Welcome to The University of Brixton’   45 5 John Bright to LREPSO, 12th September 1977, WAC R102/38/1. 6 66 John Bright to LREPSO.

Bibliography ‘BBC Programme to Help W.I. Immigrants.’ Kingston Gleaner, 13th November, 1971. Bex, Tony, and Richard Watts. Standard English: The Widening Debate. ­London: Routledge, 1999. Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies. The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain. London: Hutchinson, 1982. Bourne, Stephan. Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in Film and Television. London: Continuum, 2001. Briggs, Asa. The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom Vol V: Competition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. British Broadcasting Corporation. Broadcasting in the Seventies: The BBC’s Plan for Network Radio and Non-Metropolitan Broadcasting. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1969. ———. The University of Brixton. A Series for West Indians. Dialogues by West Indian Author, Louis Marriott. Linguistic Notes and Exercises by Dr J C Wells of University College, London. Edited and Produced by Viola ­Huggins. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1971. Brown, Keith, and Vivien Law, eds. Linguistics in Britain: Personal Histories. London: Philological Society, 2002. Carby, Hazel V. ‘Schooling in Babylon.’ In The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain, 183–211. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1982. Coard, Bernard. How The West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal In the British School System. London: New Beacon, 1971. Crowley, Tony. Standard English and the Politics of Language. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003. Edwards, Viv. West Indian Language: Attitudes and the School. Revised Edition. Derby: The National Association for Multi-racial Education, 1977. ———. The West Indian Language Issue in British Schools: Challenges and Responses. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979. Gilmour, Rachael. ‘“Sight, Sounds and Meaning”: Voice/Print Transitions in Black British Poetry.’ In Flower/Power: British Literature in Transition, ­Volume 2, 1960–1980, edited by Kate McLoughlin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. Gilroy, Paul. There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation. London: Hutchinson, 1987. ———. After Empire: Postcolonial Melancholia or Convivial Culture? ­London: Routledge, 2004. Goulbourne, Harry. Caribbean Transnational Experience. London: Pluto Press, 2002. Hall, Stuart. ‘What is this “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ In Black Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent, 21–33. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992.

46  Rachael Gilmour Hall, Stuart. ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular.”’ In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 442–53. London: Pearson, 2009. Hebdige, Dick. ‘Reggae, Rastas and Rudies.’ In Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, edited by Stuart Hall and Tony ­Jefferson, 135–54. London: Routledge, 1976. Hinds, Donald. Journey to an Illusion. The West Indian in Britain. London: Heinemann, 1966. Huggins, Viola. ‘The University of Brixton.’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 1.5 (1972): 458. Lelyveld, David. ‘The Fate of Hindustani: Colonial Knowledge and the Project of a National Language.’ In Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia, edited by Carol A Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer, 189–214. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993. Linfoot, Matthew. A History of BBC Local Radio in England, c.1960–1980. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Westminster, 2011. Malik, Sarita. Representing Black Britain: A History of Black and Asian Images on British Television. London: Sage, 2001. Marriott, Louis. ‘The Jamaica Language Issue – Part I.’ Jamaica Gleaner, 17th September, 2006. Accessed 19th July 2013. http://jamaicagleaner.com/ gleaner/20060917/focus/focus3.html. Newton, Darrell M. Paving the Empire Road: BBC Television and Black Britons. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2011. ———. ‘“How Can We Help You?”: Hugh Greene and the BBC Coloured Conferences.’ Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal 3.2 (2002): 3–16. Patrick, Peter L. ‘Jamaican Creole: Morphology and Syntax.’ In A Handbook of Varieties of English Vol 2: Morphology and Syntax, edited by Berndt ­Kortmann et al., 407–38. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2004. Procter, James. ‘The Postcolonial Everyday.’ New Formations 58 (2006): 62–80. Quinalt, R J. ‘English by Radio.’ ELT Journal 1.5 (1947): 119–25. Schofield, Camilla. Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Schwarz, Bill. ‘“Claudia Jones and the West Indian Gazette”: Reflections on the Emergence of Postcolonial Britain.’ Twentieth Century British History 14.3 (2003): 264–85. ———. The White Man’s World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Selvon, Sam. The Lonely Londoners. Harlow: Longman, 2004. Skerritt, Andrew. ‘Tuning in to Life.’ St Petersburg Times Floridian, 6th June, 2004. Stuart, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts, eds. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. Second Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013. Walmsley, Anne. The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966–1972: A Literary and Cultural History. London and Port of Spain: New Beacon, 1992.

2 FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving Alda Terracciano

Nothing is created without a sense of urgency; urgency always produces its supersession in speech. Jacques Lacan

Prologue Before proceeding to the analysis of FUTURE HISTORIES’ practice of archiving, I need to inform the reader that this essay is bound to be partial. In the spirit of ‘critical auto-ethnography,’ which, as specified by Ellis, ‘refers to the process as well as what is produced from the process,’ I will be framing what follows in relation to my own experience as a Southern European, young researcher who joined activists, artists and academics in the United Kingdom in a common effort to liberate the knowledge of black performance from the confines of a Eurocentric way of collecting, interpreting and interacting with its heritage in mainstream cultural institutions.1 At the same time, I will focus on some specific aspects of FUTURE HISTORIES’ ethos and practice of work to illustrate the organisation’s attempts at popularising and disseminating the history of black performance to a wider range of audiences while directly engaging with the community of black and Asian artists nationally and internationally. To better elucidate this point, the activities developed by the organisation will be read in light of the philosophical and cultural rethinking of the role of heritage in the formation of national identities by Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. 2 The work will also be framed by current developments in radical archive practices, special collections’ policies, and funding schemes intended to widen public participation promoted by organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF); the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA); and the Museums Association (MA). FUTURE HISTORIES’ vocation as ‘cultural agitator’ will be analysed using the critical tools provided by the American political writer, essayist and poet Hakim Bey in his writings on the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). In his words, TAZ is

48  Alda Terracciano ‘a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it.’3 In the final section, I will reference the radical propositions of the performance art of the 1960s and 1970s, transposing the concept of ‘work of art as a body in space’ to ‘work of art as the archived body in a virtual space’ in order to reflect on systems put in place by the organisation when engaging with the act of archiving performance. Using the paradigm of ‘total theatre’ practiced in a number of African and Asian theatre traditions, the creative interaction with audiences will be highlighted as FUTURE HISTORIES’ trademark. The categories of ‘speech’ and ‘history’ are used here to reflect on the intrinsic intersubjectivity of the archiving medium and the multiplicity of voices encompassed by black British performance. In this respect, FUTURE HISTORIES – which was incorporated in 2001 as an arts and heritage organisation after two years of operations – represents more an organism promoting change and mobility than a traditional, stable repository. Finally, I will endeavour to include a range of voices who contributed to the making of the organisation; therefore, references to reports, evaluations and research carried out by external parties will be made when possible in an attempt to provide external perspectives on its activities.

‘The Personal is Political’: Incipit of an Action Writing on black performing arts and archives from the perspective of a white European researcher, artist and activist requires an acknowledgement of the dialogical nature of the author’s experience of black British identities and histories, gained through direct interaction with people’s narratives and cultural events. In the absence of academic literature on the black theatre movement in the early 1990s, my research on the subject involved mostly interviews and visits to private archives and holdings. At the time, a kind of unwritten script developed whereby a question about my personal motivations would usually be followed by a response asserting the value I placed on the experience of black British artists, both in political and aesthetic terms, as privileged doors on our changing world. Was the ritual enacted to find a potential, hidden agenda at the core of my motivations? The question was a constant reminder of my unstable position within a world I was new to. At the same time, it helped me to get to the core of a research process developed within communities marginalised and discriminated against by a dominant culture and system of social practices, raising the issue of legitimacy as the basic condition for an ethically sound research practice. Who was I to ask to enter a field in which a white European colonialist narrative had been used to control and appropriate other people’s histories? How was my origin going to be negotiated within this context, and how would the personal connections built during the research process

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  49 affect my future professional practice? These initial questions, and the answers I progressively started to receive, sowed the seeds of my archival activism, a form of direct social and political action that would steadily grow over the following two decades. Among the challenges I encountered in that early period of study, I remember a visit in autumn 1992 to the Westminster Reference Library in central London. I went to inquire about academic publications on the subject of black theatre in Britain. Having approached the librarian after a series of unsuccessful attempts with the card catalogue, the response I received was that ‘no such thing was available at the library unless I meant Théâtre Noir’ – which, I later discovered, was an avant-garde movement in Prague. Incredulous, I responded that the presence of a significant black population in Britain, and the achievements of black Britons in the arts, should lead to the assumption of black artists on the British stage and academic publications that interrogated these subjects. His firm denial cut the conversation short, and I left the place uncertain of myself and of the tools I was going to employ in my research. Clearly, my naïve expectations revealed an ignorance of the complexities of the field. Yet the sense of frustration over what I perceived as a selective representation of British theatre history was seminal and helped me to change my strategy. I started looking for traces of black performance in theatres, community halls, black culture magazines, street markets, music gigs, people’s private collections and independent repositories, such as the George Padmore Institute, Black Cultural Archives and the African and Asian Visual Artists Archive (AAVAA). Seven years later, Stuart Hall described the corrosive impact of the absence of systematised archives on research and dissemination. Referencing Eddie Chambers’s private archive to reflect on the state of black visual arts, Hall noted: No proper archive, no regular exhibitions, no critical apparatus (apart from a few key journals like Third Text and the now-defunct Ten 8), no definitive histories, no reference books, no comparative materials, no developing scholarship, no passing-on of a tradition of work to younger practitioners and curators, no recognition of achievement amongst the relevant communities […] Heritage-less.4 Hall’s stigmatisation of such a deplorable situation eventually contributed to activating a sense of urgency in me, shifting the focus of the discourse from criticism to the need for collective, cohesive action.

Passing on the Baton Following in the footsteps of other anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist experiences in British arts, FUTURE HISTORIES developed from a project I originally devised in 1999, inspired by the writings and political

50  Alda Terracciano actions of John La Rose (1927–2006), a poet, essayist, publisher, trade unionist and cultural and political activist who belonged to a Caribbean tradition of radical and revolutionary activism. He was connected to a number of movements in the United Kingdom as well as international campaigns for social justice, mostly run from the George Padmore Institute, a centre I regularly visited in the early 1990s. 5 As part of my doctoral research, I came across the archive of the Black Theatre Forum, a coordinating body of 17 black theatre companies which also functioned as the producer of the Black Theatre Seasons – a festival organised in the West End during the 1980s, aimed at de-marginalising black British theatre and moving it to central London venues.6 Having lost its Arts Council England core funding, the Forum closed its office in 1998. As a result, its archive was being stored in uncatalogued files held in various locations, where they could not be protected against the risks of longterm damage or dispersal. Support from its board of directors, members of staff, individuals and friendly organisations had been vital in preserving the integrity of the company files, but something more needed to be done to ensure that the history of this organisation would be preserved for future generations. The importance of the material lay in the Forum’s groundbreaking efforts to take black and Asian theatre out of the ‘community funding box’ and into the mainstream. The plan was to reassemble, preserve and make accessible material charting more than two decades of its activities, which ‘represented a dynamic multiracial arena where black theatre aesthetics and politics were creatively explored.’ 7 Based on this initial project, the Black Theatre Forum (BTF) submitted a joint funding application with the Victoria & Albert Theatre Museum to the Clore Foundation. As a result of its unsuccessful outcome, and in consideration of the unwillingness of the Forum to donate its archive to the institution, it was agreed that the best solution would be to establish an independent organisation focussed on preserving and disseminating black British performance heritage.8 Following two years of research and development, FUTURE HISTORIES was officially set up in 2001. In the following months, FUTURE HISTORIES engaged in a number of meetings with funding bodies and external institutions to get the project started. It soon became apparent that definitions of heritage by these bodies would not necessarily fit the needs, expectations and living heritage of the communities that were to be served by the organisation. It took some effort to navigate the complex ideas and beliefs conjoined in the concept of national heritage as its representation of a uniform, culturally homogenised British past did not fit the reality of British multicultural cities. FUTURE HISTORIES was keen to promote a more diversified practice in which intangible cultural heritage and the performing arts could play their role in offsetting a concept of a nation state based at worst on the exclusion of the non-white ‘other’ and at best on its condescending assimilation. Hall’s analysis of the intimate

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  51 connection between the idea of nation state and the practice of heritage – described as ‘the whole complex of organisations, institutions and practices devoted to the preservation and presentation of culture and the arts’9 – had brought to the fore the drawbacks of a methodology that privileged preservation and conservation over production. In particular, Hall noticed that: The works and artefacts so conserved appear to be ‘of value’ primarily in relation to the past. To be validated, they must take their place alongside what has been authorized as ‘valuable’ on already established grounds in relation to the unfolding of a ‘national story’ whose terms we already know.10 Crucially, in October 2003, UNESCO recognised intangible cultural heritage ‘as a mainspring of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development.’11 The announcement had important implications as it strengthened FUTURE HISTORIES’ case for action. In the first funding application to HLF, the organisation had stressed the importance of preserving the history of black performance in Britain in terms which would be later used in the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to it, The processes of globalization and social transformation, alongside the conditions they create for renewed dialogue among communities, also give rise, as does the phenomenon of intolerance, to grave threats of deterioration, disappearance and destruction of the intangible cultural heritage, in particular owing to a lack of resources for safeguarding such heritage.12 Carefully negotiating a path through a problematic rhetoric aimed at reconciling the needs of the organisation with priorities set out by national funding bodies, during the following years, FUTURE HISTORIES focussed its efforts on developing activities that would counteract the imbalance of resources available within the heritage sector to black and Asian performance heritage. Its programme included pioneering cataloguing projects, which digitised and made accessible for the first time archives of performing arts companies, both physically and online; archive training sessions delivered for free to members of the arts community; educational workshops for university students; reinterpretation of archive collections through artistic events; and an inclusive curatorial approach that led to the creation of physical and digital exhibitions aimed at ‘popularising’ the use of primary resources beyond the parameters set up by governmental policies, or the practices of academic and intellectual elites. The following two sections will attempt to analyse the practice and impact of these projects within the wider cultural

52  Alda Terracciano landscape in which the organisation operated. More specifically, FUTURE HISTORIES’ contribution to providing access and disseminating archival resources and research, later incorporated within the wider ‘impact agenda’ of government policies on higher education, was matched by an attempt to democratise the process of knowledge production and consumption by employing and deploying art and activism in relation to the archive.

A Balancing Act: Independence Versus Sustainability Whilst we continued to attempt to access resources from public funding bodies, it became clear that the system had been designed for an institutional heritage apparatus with little understanding of the needs of, or conditions experienced by, independent organisations lacking core funding. To overcome this impasse, a strategy was agreed upon whereby I, as CEO, and some board members agreed to volunteer our time at great personal cost. At the same time, creative partnerships with mainstream heritage and educational institutions were developed in order to benefit from their infrastructural resources. Notwithstanding the success of its projects, the crux of the problem was that such a strategy forced ­F UTURE HISTORIES to follow a system of capitalist reproduction which based its success on the same exploitation of racial, class and gender ­divisions that the organisation was challenging. Project development and partnership building were carried out on a voluntary basis, while the delivery of funded projects, although remunerated, could never reflect the amount of work required to achieve professional standards. It soon became clear that by joining the voluntary sector the organisation had fallen into the trap of what Žižek describes as the paradox of modern capitalism, which ‘cannot reproduce itself on its own. It needs extra-economic charity to sustain the cycle of social reproduction.’13 We discovered that the ‘tyranny of democracy,’ as he described it, translated into endless hours of rewriting funding applications in order to make them fit the narrow parameters of a process designed for organisations with staff and resources that far outsized FUTURE HISTORIES’. Embedded in these political, philosophical and practical constraints, the first archive project, Re-membering Black Performance, was developed in partnership with The National Archives’ (hereafter TNA) A2A (Access to Archives) programme and delivered between 2002 and 2004. Its main objectives were to preserve, catalogue and make accessible the archives of the BTF and Nitro Theatre Company (NTC), formerly known as Black Theatre Cooperative (the oldest living black company in the United Kingdom now renamed as NitroBEAT), through TNA’s online portal and the newly opened archive reading room at ­M iddlesex University’s Cat Hill campus, which FUTURE HISTORIES had been key in establishing.14 In planning activities and negotiating terms of

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  53 collaboration with its project partners, the organisation was keen to establish a modus operandi that allowed artists to retain control over their material. To this end, new terms of agreement were negotiated and the conventional form of ‘gift to the nation’ (in the case of a museum) or permanent deposit in a university or public library were avoided in favour of loan agreements to FUTURE HISTORIES. In turn, FUTURE HISTORIES negotiated temporary deposit agreements with its projects partners, Middlesex University, the V&A and, later, Goldsmiths University. This gave the creators of the archive resources the opportunity to retain ownership of their material and control of interpretation and dissemination activities. In this respect, the organisation paved the way for others operating in the sector, offering an alternative solution to the standard donation form, which was objected by a number of so-called ‘minority arts practitioners’ for lack of confidence in mainstream organisations to properly contextualise materials and provide access to black communities.15 For FUTURE HISTORIES, the temporality of these agreements was aimed at activating a sense of urgency in all parties involved, preventing the risk of archive material remaining unsorted for years in the stores of a museum or university library by generating a more committed focus. This had been the case, for example, of the Black Mime Theatre Company archive, which was held uncatalogued for years at the V&A Theatre Museum.16 This ‘activist practice of archiving’ was intended to subvert the status quo of the heritage apparatus and produce the kind of ‘poetic uprising’ described by Hakim Bey (2003). Breaking away from a history of institutional neglect and exclusion, this project – like the others that followed – was intended to raise awareness of the archives of black performance through a direct call for action. At the time, it was common for museum audience demographics in the United Kingdom to register a low attendance rate of so-called ‘ethnic minorities.’ The 1998 study Cultural Diversity: Attitudes of Ethnic Minority Populations Towards Museums and Galleries revealed a failure in museum policy towards the inclusion of ethnic minorities, which the report concluded was a result of a top-down approach in curating exhibitions and connecting with communities.17 FUTURE HISTORIES’ ambition was to counteract this trend by directly involving people from the black and Asian communities with its activities through volunteering, focus groups and workshops. At the same time the organisation engaged with the vernacular oral traditions and popular cultural forms explored by playwrights like Edgar Nkosi White and Derek Walcott, and by artists like Ali Zaidi, Keith Khan and Felix Cross, to bring them into the heritage arena and used the valence of the ‘popular realm’ to create a critical heritage approach that would open up definitions of nationalism and national heritage. By pioneering a new practice which favoured the role of the artist and community members in the planning and delivery

54  Alda Terracciano of heritage projects FUTURE HISTORIES aimed to counteract the risk of objectifying history, privileging a dialogic, process-based approach which had the potential of opening up debates about race, class and postcolonial critique to new audiences.

The Call for Visibility through Direct Action Although the Re-membering Black Performance team was met with a number of challenges – not least operating within the strict parameters of a heritage institution like TNA, with high professional standards, matched by resources to implement them – the main achievement of this project was shifting and changing the paradigm of power, which, in Foucauldian terms, reflects ‘not simply a relationship between partners, individual or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others.’18 As described in the funding application to HLF, [T]he project will fill the gap in archiving that Phase 1 of A2A has already successfully addressed in other areas of the British Heritage, but not yet in black history […] By allowing the sustainability of the archive and supporting the partnership, the funding required will allow the recovery of historical resources which risk to be dispersed and lost and stimulate the emergence of other similar projects.19 The project was intended to give visibility to so-called ‘alternative theatre histories’ through mainstream channels and align FUTURE HISTORIES with the action of other independent black heritage organisations, such as the George Padmore Institute, the Black Cultural Archives, African and Asian Visual Artists Archive (AAVAA) and the South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive (SALIDAA), in their radical questioning of the foundations of the heritage practice. It is worth mentioning that, within this context, other institutions such as the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) also played an important role in supporting the preservation of black heritage. In 2005, LMA agreed to house the Huntley archive with the aim of developing cataloguing and outreach activities together with the Friends of the Huntley Archives (FHALMA). However, issues of space and availability of resources inevitably limited the number of collections this institution could house. 20 As Andrew Flinn argues, ‘[t]he very existence of these independent archives, operating outside the framework of mainstream, publicly funded, professionally staffed institutions is both a reproach and a challenge to that mainstream.’21 To enter institutional spaces meant that new narratives could be written on the palimpsest of the mainstream heritage industry, effecting change in similar ways to those of black artists as ‘their ineluctable presence disturbs, disrupts and problematizes the post-colonial border.’22 As Stevens, Flinn and Shepherd note in their analysis of a later

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  55 project delivered by FUTURE HISTORIES with TNA, ‘[w]orking with independent community-based organisations can also help mainstream organisations reflect on their own practices; in this respect they act as “indirect” consultants.’23 In line with this bi-frontal cultural strategy (engaging the artists and the wider community to change the culture of partnering mainstream heritage institutions), FUTURE HISTORIES decided to mark the launch of this project with an exhibition on the African Caribbean playwright Edgar Nkosi White at the Museum of Domestic Architecture (MoDA). Though his role was not fully acknowledged at the time, White had been a key contributor to the radical black theatre scene of the 1970s and 1980s in venues like the Keskidee Arts Centre in north London. 24 Thanks to the direct involvement of his former partner Alison Leacock, Edgar White agreed to attend the event and flew from New York to rejoin fellow practitioners in London for an evening which included a play reading of extracts from one of his plays. As a result of a successful marketing campaign, White gave an interview to BBC Radio One to publicise the exhibition and attract members of the Caribbean community to a museum whose collections included ‘wallpapers, textiles, designs, books, catalogues and magazines from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century.’25 The exhibition was an enormous success. 26 The audience numbers demonstrated the important point that placing the exhibition in a museum that did not have a specific remit for black and Asian communities was a way to engage new audiences with the history of black British performance, promoting cultural diversity within the institution and opening up the archive to new interpretation activities. At that time, the organisation also began to be involved in a series of lobbying activities, accepting invitations to working groups, conferences and advisory boards. Significantly, the principles developed by FUTURE HISTORIES contributed to, and influenced the workings of, the Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage, designed ‘to begin the process of initiating a higher level of debate and strategic planning ­related to diversity within the heritage sector.’27 During the same period, the MLA set up a Task Force to explore the role of archives in twenty-first-century Britain. FUTURE HISTORIES was invited to contribute to the consultation process and became vocal in expressing the needs of the independent heritage sector, joining and strengthening a grassroots movement that, as stated in the MLA report ‘is an expression of the often strongly felt need to celebrate, record, and rebuild the sense of community in our lives today.’28 Bhikhu Parekh’s report, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, highlighted key critical points. He argued that multi-ethnic Britain was in fact a ‘community of communities.’29 Lord Parekh’s proposed revision of Britain’s national story, based on a pluralist model supported by the Runnymede Trust, proved controversial and far from unanimously

56  Alda Terracciano accepted. Yet for FUTURE HISTORIES it represented a crucial tool to reconfigure the archive as a space where a multiplicity of voices could be heard and represented on equal terms, and the ‘bundle of relationships’ between power, truth and subject, to echo Foucault’s analysis, could be closely observed, stimulating a wider critique of the hegemonic discourse on culture and heritage in Britain.30 It was from this perspective that FUTURE HISTORIES embraced some key elements of the report and looked at the performing arts as a powerful tool to positively engage with cultural diversity, contributing to shift perspectives both on and offstage.

The Living Archive Revealing the inextricable sets of intercultural relations in British arts and cultural history was the motivating force in FUTURE HISTORIES’ live reinterpretations of archive material which were enacted through a series of play readings for the ‘A2A Uncovered’ event at the Public Record Office in 2002, the launch of the Staging the Journey exhibition at MoDA in 2004, and at Brixton Art Gallery later on that year. 31 This methodology was shared with other organisations at a number of consultation events, including the workshop on ‘identity and current positioning of culturally diverse artists,’ organised in September 2005 by Tamasha Theatre Company at the National Theatre in London. The approach was then taken to a higher level by the National Theatre through the groundbreaking project Black Plays Archive, which was launched in 2008 and since then has recorded and made available online a substantial number of play extracts from black British, African and Caribbean writers produced in the United Kingdom.32 While taking part in the wider discourse on nationalism and the role played by archives in promoting popular engagement with culturally diverse heritage, FUTURE HISTORIES developed its second cataloguing project Re-membering Asian Performance to preserve and catalogue the archive of the motiroti [sic] arts organisation; raise awareness of the importance of archiving performance by providing free training to black and Asian companies; and produce an archive-based live art installation at TNA. This event, in particular, resulted in an enriching experience as it brought together different dimensions of engagement and allowed further exploration of the notion of ‘public encounter’ with the living archive. As stated on the organisation’s website: The event was marked by ‘Life in Performance,’ a live installation created by Alda Terracciano in collaboration with Ali Zaidi in the foyer space of the National Archives. The invited guests were submerged in images selected from the archives held by FUTURE HISTORIES, together with sounds and light sculptures from the

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  57 motiroti archive and tastes and flavours especially prepared by the chef Shams Uddin in collaboration with Ali Zaidi. 33 The activation of the institutional space proved successful in that it offset audiences’ expectations of where digital reproductions from an archive should be placed, projecting them directly on their bodies as they entered the main hall. These ‘temporary virtual tattoos,’ which inscribed the signifier within the subjective space of the audience, played with critical questions on the archive posed by Derrida in his seminal study Archive Fever: This name apparently coordinates two principles in one: the principle according to nature or history, there were things commence, physical, historical or ontological principle – but also the principle according to the law, there where men and gods command, there where authority, social order are exercised, in this place where order is given – nomological principle. There we said and in this place. How are we to think of there? And this taking place or this having a place, this taking the place one has of the arkhe. 34 Indeed, Derrida’s reflection on the relationship between place, authority and social order within and outside the archive had been seminal for me in the creation of this live art event at TNA, which engaged with the complexity of representation within the institutional framework, by dislocating visual fragments from the archive outside their expected setting. At the same time, the reconfiguration of the physical space was intrinsically connected to Derrida’s idea of ‘parole’ as ‘utterance’ in the present living moment, outside the ‘logo-centrism’ of the discourse, and a transient moment of plaisir, pleasure produced through the simulacra.35 Mixing the archive images as in a live DJ set induced in the audience a sense of estrangement and creative engagement, challenging a more conventional way of ‘looking’ at archives and unsettling preconceived ideas of accessibility and identity. Intimately connected to the idea of ‘archive as process,’ that is of increased awareness of the present moment by relating to the past, was another art intervention that took place a year later at the V&A Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. This time, in my role as Creative Director, I embarked on a new creative collaboration with Tuup, a master storyteller, and Jamika Ajalon, a musician and sound designer, to create an original storytelling session based on Derek Walcott’s script Dream on Monkey Mountain held in the Nitro Theatre Company Archive. Raising questions of love, madness, power and the search for identity, the tale explores the influence that dreams can have in shaping our lives. Reclaiming the place of speech as an act of imagination and displacement, this performance focussed on the fate of the main character in

58  Alda Terracciano search of his African roots, so as to bring attention to the many new layers produced in the process of retelling stories at different times and settings. Playing with the words of George W. Bush in his proclamation of the ‘us and them’ divide, which followed the 9/11 attacks, the performance created a ‘locus of speech’ from within the archive aimed at critically engaging the audience with the intrinsic intersubjectivity of this medium and its relationship with the ‘other’: ‘The Other is, therefore, the locus in which is constituted the I who speaks to him who hears, that which is said by the one being already the reply, the other deciding to hear it whether the one has or has not spoken.’36 The success of the event confirmed an approach that surpassed the archive binary of an inside and outside, and aimed at reconfiguring the archive as a site from which new dialogues between the past and the present could be initiated. At the same time, it gave FUTURE HISTORIES the impetus to start its next phase of experimentation and find ways of taking this live art practice to the digital realm, thereby reaching out to a wider international audience.

Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery In my role as FUTURE HISTORIES’ voluntary CEO, I devised the Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery project for a consortium of partners including Talawa Theatre Company, the V&A Theatre Collections and The National Archives.37 Each partner was responsible for a different area of activities and FUTURE HISTORIES took responsibility for creating the Trading Faces online exhibition, the first online resource on the legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in British performing arts. In 2006, the HLF had been entrusted by the government to fund projects commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the trade in Britain. This offered FUTURE HISTORIES the opportunity to access resources not only to enable work with archives it directly managed (including the newly acquired Talawa Theatre company archive) but also with other material housed in the stores of the V&A Museum, which remained uncatalogued.38 One of FUTURE HISTORIES’ strategic priorities was to actively promote cataloguing activities of black theatre collections held in public repositories. Therefore, the idea to chart 200 years of black performance in Britain was particularly valuable as it would have uncovered the role that theatre played in bringing to public attention issues related to the abolition of the slave trade and the ensuing fight for civil rights. At the same time, it intended to highlight the way in which popular forms, originating in Africa and practiced by descendants in the Caribbean, South America, the United States and the United Kingdom, had contributed to a dissident culture of resistance. A number of artists and academics of African and Caribbean origin were involved in interpreting the archival material selected for the exhibition and exploring a

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  59 number of themes, such as ritual; patois and creole speech patterns; Carnival; religious practices; music; dance; and popular theatrical forms, such as the Jamaican pantomime and the Anansi stories. The idea was to disseminate information about these cultural forms while attempting to overcome the limitations of access to black British history imposed by physical, geographical, social and cultural barriers using an online platform.39 Another key aim of the exhibition was to activate a digital interaction between the past and the present by juxtaposing the voices of black abolitionists Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince with those of two contemporary migrants trapped in enforced labour and human trafficking. The idea was to offer a critical view of the commodification of human life produced by a capitalist system that flourished under the trade and continues today as the risk implied by ‘new capitalism,’ according to Pasolini, ‘will not limit itself to changing one type of man historically but humanity itself.’40 As stated in the online exhibition: Supported by historical essays and links to further resources, ­Equiano and Prince’s views and experiences are brought to the fore through the dramatisation of extracts from their writings, performed by contemporary professional actors. These are set against the stories of Natasha and Liu, whose memories of their degrading treatment in the UK, recorded and filmed in London in April 2008, resonate uncannily with the voices from the past. These memories reflect the pernicious continuity of two key aspects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: economic exploitation and the infringement of human rights.41 Following this line of thought, the connection between commodification of human life past and present in this section of the exhibition was intended to raise a critical stance towards the wider risks of consumerism in contemporary society, which can create ‘a context for its own hedonistic ideology, a context of false tolerance and of false laicism: that is to say, the false attainment of civil rights.’42 It was also an attempt to reconnect the work of FUTURE HISTORIES to a tradition that had seen the term ‘black’ used as a banner for common political action. As Gilroy reminds us: The historic turn away from the simpler efficacy of blackness – a bridging term that had promoted vernacular cosmopolitan conversation and synchronised action among the victimised – cannot be ­separated from the pursuit of more complex and highly – ­differentiated ways of fixing and instrumentalising culture and difference. These developments have made anti-racism less politically focused and ­certainly more difficult if not impossible to organise.43

60  Alda Terracciano Re-engaging with the ‘bridging’ anti-racist agenda common to all black theatre collections held in the archive was a way of actualising history while taking a critical stance against current forms of political fragmentation and inhumane, neo-liberal market forces. Despite the considerable success of the exhibition, what FUTURE HISTORIES did not anticipate was the impact that the project was going to have on its sustainable development.44 The absence of any funding to cover the archive’s core activities meant that board members undertook a significant number of tasks during the three years that spanned from project planning to delivery. More importantly, lack of financial support made it difficult to capitalise on the achievements of this project beyond its lifespan. FUTURE HISTORIES lobbied for a trainee archivist of A ­ frican descent to work alongside the cataloguer at the V&A as part of the project activities, but, in the absence of a coherent strategy to stimulate the entrance of people of African and Asian descent into the heritage professions, this did not come to fruition.45 Borrowing Enwezor’s words, ‘recognition of difference does not in itself connote inclusion nor acceptance,’ and unfortunately, no follow-up ensued the initiative at the end of the exhibition.46 Nonetheless, the project offered an opportunity to experiment with a methodology of ‘call and response’ borrowed from the ancient practices of African Orature and total theatre, which was translated into an inclusive curatorial approach, porous to the ideas and contributions of external artists, academics, curators, students and other stakeholders, and to the submissions of digitised documents and other contributions by members of the public.47 We used focus groups that took place during the selection process, incorporating their outcomes into the final selection, organisation and description of the material displayed. The timeline, designed as navigation tool of the exhibition, hinted to the fragmentary and open nature of this act of recollection and narration of past performative acts: The historical discourse had to be located ‘in between’ the objects populating the time line, in the gaps, the absence of documents, in what had yet to be collected and catalogued. This structure would make the limits of the collection policies of national museum, community archives, or individual collectors overt and at the same time open towards other forms of representation of the ‘Other.’48 Once again this was an attempt to popularise the use of archival resources outside the circle of heritage professionals and instigate a more distributed, collective practice of interpretation by directly engaging people from the community and younger generations. At the same time, applying the practice within an online environment meant that the exhibition had the potential to stimulate a transnational dialogue with

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  61 history in cultural, aesthetic and narrative terms, paraphrasing Lacan’s theory, ‘I shall show that there is no speech without a reply, even if it is met only with silence, provided that there is an auditor.’49 In this respect, the project responded to FUTURE HISTORIES’ focus on developing educational activities on black heritage, a need stressed by Hall in the previously cited conference paper: Unless the younger generation has access to these cultural repertoires and can understand and practice them, to some extent at least, from the inside, they will lack the resources — the cultural c­ apital — of their own ‘heritage,’ as a base from which to engage other traditions.50

Conclusions: the Archive as a Site of Continual Reconstruction A heritage system that risked erasing the history of black performance artists by neglecting their traces compelled those involved in the ­management of FUTURE HISTORIES to look at the archive not so much as a collection of documents but as a site of political and artistic re-engagement with questions of power and popular art practices. By positioning the organisation within the dynamic network of relations emerging from postcolonial struggles and narratives, the archive became an extended body of work which involved not only the collections directly entrusted to the organisation but also the wider legacy of black performance history in Britain. FUTURE HISTORIES engaged with the issue of power and its uneven distribution within a divided society by actively reconfiguring the ‘geometry of relations’ between the three segments of the theatrical discourse, the practitioner, the critique and the audience through a creative engagement programme, which drew directly from notions of the popular and practices originated within communities of African and Asian descent. 51 A case in point is the online exhibition for the Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery project, which benefited from consultation with artists and members of the public as a result of a practice based on co-curation and co-creation that I had adopted in my role of exhibition curator, indebted to the African practice of ‘Orature.’ As pointed out in the curator’s forward: The question here is not only of including voices from outside the heritage sector, but of re-moulding the practice of archiving and representing archival material, and to resist the tendency of objectifying the past within rigid co-ordinates of time and space. Involving black artists in the curatorial process was a way of privileging a synchronic rather than diachronic approach to history and memory. 52

62  Alda Terracciano The essays commissioned on the aesthetic legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in British performing arts, linked popular traditional art forms originated on the African continent to wider developments in black British performance history as mapped in the V&A and FUTURE HISTORIES archives. The affective charge intrinsic to the process of archiving performance had its raison d’être in a collective notion of black performance history in which topical, contending issues returned in the work of different artists and arts organisations as a result of politics of exclusion and discrimination, which the organisation was keen to address. From this perspective, the artistic events it developed as part of its wider cataloguing and digitisation projects, aimed at challenging traditional views of the archive, placing institutions and archive users in a complex set of relations with primary resources, constantly reused and reinterpreted to subvert the traditional roles of enunciator and listener. In this sense, the reference to Hakim Bay’s Temporary ­A utonomous Zone has been used in this essay to extend the notion of archive from a physical collection to a space of shared information and intervention. From this point of view, the Trading Faces online exhibition represents the most notable example as it used the internet to compact data into an ‘infinitesimal space,’ carrying information across geographical and cultural boundaries and making it readily available to users. Moreover, the intrinsic performativity of FUTURE HISTORIES’ act of archiving responded to the need of addressing the ambiguity of the position it occupies as an independent cultural organisation operating at the margins of the mainstream heritage system. Following Debord’s line of thought, its actions could not escape the ‘spectacle’ of exclusion and divisiveness, which it was trying to redefine from the inside, as ‘[t]he spectacle that falsifies reality is nevertheless a real product of that reality. Conversely, real life is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle and ends up absorbing it and aligning itself with it.’53 With regard to the broader relationship between archives, performativity and language, it is useful to add that a critical approach to archival documentation asks for a review of the cataloguing practice developed by the organisation, which involved artists and producers of the original material working alongside project archivists to ‘describe’ archive items, using a terminology and a reference system rooted in their cultural practice. Again, Debord’s critique of the ‘society of the spectacle’ can be used to interpret a methodology aimed at resisting a system in which ‘[e]verything that was directly lived is now merely represented in the distance.’54 The point was to establish an archival practice that used the performative origin of the archive as an epistemological tool for its reinterpretation, re-engagement and re-evaluation.

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  63 Finally, the relationship between the archival collections managed by FUTURE HISTORIES and the performative nature of such acts of interpretation represented a way to retain a notion of ‘live data,’ always ready to be reassembled in a multiplicity of ways and able to shed new light on the past as well as the present. Using Peggy Phelan’s analysis of the strength of performance lying in its resistance to the ‘economy of reproduction,’ the point for FUTURE HISTORIES was to create situations that would activate memory and the desire to ‘relationally’ engage with the works it presented. 55 Generally excluded from the ‘official’ sites of performance in the 1970s and 1980s, many of the records kept in the collections carried the potential to be recontextualised, contributing to social inclusion and cultural change. This dialogical quality of FUTURE HISTORIES’ practice of archiving has counteracted the risks that visibility brings with it (in Foucauldian terms the exercise of a controlling system of power and knowledge), which, in a society of the spectacle, sees everything reduced to reproducible material objects of knowledge. As Debord pointed out, ‘[t]he spectacle is not merely a matter of images, nor even of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. It is the opposite of dialogue.’56 Therefore activating archives by creating new performance work, has contributed to counteract the risk of ‘representation’ as a mechanism detached from the original creation, extending the effects of these archived performance histories beyond the past. I would like to close with a note on a performance marking the last day of the L.A. Rebellion film series at Tate Modern in April 2015. The evening featured the invited artists Ben Caldwell and Roger Guenveur Smith presenting a multimedia performance based on Smith’s acclaimed solo performance Rodney King, devised not long after King’s death in 2012 and exploring the past and present of racism in America. It made use of Caldwell’s multiple projection piece, Spaces Looking In Looking Out, based on his extensive archive assembled for the 1983 video collage Babylon is Falling. As I watched the story unfolding, the word ‘archiving’ inevitably resounded in between the words and images of the performance: archiving as a site of tension; archiving as a site of activation and collective reconstruction; archiving as a site where the word radical becomes a terrain for experimentation. This was, and continues to be, FUTURE HISTORIES’ ambition.

Notes 1 Carolyn Ellis, The Ethnographic I (Oxford: Altamira Press, 2004), 32. 2 See Stuart Hall, ‘Un-settling “The Heritage,” Re-imagining the Post-nation. Whose Heritage?’ Third Text 13 (1999): 3–13; and Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

64  Alda Terracciano 3 Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological ­Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1991), Part 3 http:// hermetic.com/bey/taz_cont.html [accessed 9th April, 2015]. 4 Stuart Hall, ‘Un-settling “The Heritage,”’ 11. 5 In 2010, the George Padmore Institute developed ‘The Dream to Change the World,’ a cataloguing project which made available to the public John La Rose’s archives and produced a series of outreach activities including school workshops, an exhibition and web resources. For more information see www.georgepadmoreinstitute.org/projects. 6 For a detailed description of the activities of the Forum see Alda Terracciano, ‘The Black Theatre Forum and the Experiments of the Black Theatre Seasons,’ in Alternatives within the Mainstream: British Black and Asian Theatres, ed. Dimple Godiwala (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006), 22–60. 7 Alda Terracciano, ‘Black Theatre Forum’ (March 2006) FUTURE HISTORIES, www.futurehistories.org.uk [accessed 20th April, 2015]. 8 As co-founder of the organisation, I took on the role of voluntary CEO and projects Creative Director. Other members of the initial board of directors included Ameena McConnell, co-founder, Jennifer Bernard, chair of the Black Theatre Forum, Denise Wong and Errol Lloyd, artists, and Ruth Thompsett, senior lecturer at Middlesex University and Carnival expert. See ‘FUTURE HISTORIES Certificate of Incorporation,’ 12th July, 2001. 9 Stuart Hall, ‘Un-settling “The Heritage,”’ 3. 10 Stuart Hall, ‘Un-settling “The Heritage,”’ 3. 11 ‘Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural ­Heritage,’ UNESCO, www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/convention [accessed 12th March, 2016]. 12 ‘Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.’ 13 Slavoj Žižek, Violence (London: Profile Books, 2008), 20. 14 Following the initial transfer of the archives to a reclaimed storage room at Middlesex University Bounds Green campus, FUTURE HISTORIES negotiated the opening of a reading room with annexed archive store at the Cat Hill Campus. The space was eventually used to store not only FUTURE HISTORIES’ archives but also the Runnymede Trust and the Bernie Grant archives. 15 See Sarah Wajid, ‘Resourceful Asian Seeks Partner with Money,’ Times Higher Education, 10th September, 2010, 7. 16 The situation had been highlighted in a number of reports including Diane Mitchell, Securing the Future (London: London Arts, 2001) and the one produced by CASBAH project. For more information see Louise Craven, ed. What Are Archives? (London: Routledge, 2008). 17 Philly Desai and Andrew Thomas, Cultural Diversity: Attitudes of Ethnic Minority Populations Towards Museums and Galleries (London: Qualitative Workshop, BMRB International for the Museums and Galleries Commission, 1998). 18 Michel Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power,’ Critical Inquiry 8.4 (Summer 1982), 788. 19 Re-membering Black Performance Heritage Lottery Fund Application, 2002, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. 20 In July 2009, FUTURE HISTORIES approached the London Metropolitan Archives to discuss the possibility of re-housing its collections in its premises due to the approaching termination of the deposit agreement with Middlesex

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  65

21 22



25 26

27 28


30 31

32 33 34 35

University. However no agreement was reached due to limitations of space and resources. See Ameena McConnell, email message to author, 6th July, 2009. Andrew Flinn, ‘Archival Activism: Independent and Community-Led Archives, Radical Public History and the Heritage Professions,’ InterActions 7 (2011), 5, http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9pt2490x [accessed 12th January, 2015]. Okwui Enwezor, ‘Between Worlds: Postmodernism and African Artists in the Western Metropolis,’ in Reading the Contemporary African Art from Theory to the Marketplace, eds. Okwui Enwezor and Olu Oguibe (London: INIVA, 1999), 245. Mary Stevens, Andrew Flinn and Elisabeth Shepherd, ‘New Frameworks for Community Engagement in the Archive Sector: From Handing Over to Handing On,’ in Heritage and Community Engagement. Collaboration or Contestation? eds. Emma Waterton and Steve Watson (London: Routledge, 2011), 77. The quest for ancestral roots is at the core of many plays by Edgar Nkosi White, which were produced in London between 1977 and 1987. Amongst these Trinity (1982), The Nine Night (1983), Redemption Song (1984), Ritual (1985) and Moon Dance Night (1987) featured in the Staging the Journey exhibition. MoDA, ‘About MoDA,’ www.moda.mdx.ac.uk/home [accessed 12th March, 2016]. As listed in the final report to the HLF, the exhibition was previewed on 25th March, 2004 by selected members of the black performing arts, heritage and museum sectors, academics, students and educationalists (a total of 65 attendees). It was subsequently visited by a total of 677 visitors. See: Re-membering Black Performance, Heritage Lottery Fund Final Report, 30th April, 2004, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage – Project Overview, 2003, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company’s files. Archives Task Force, Listening to the Past, Speaking to the Future: Report of the Archives Taskforce (London: MLA, 2004), 43, www.mla.gov.uk/ what/publications/~/media/Files/pdf/2004/listening_to_the_past_report. ashx [accessed 12th January, 2015]. Steven Vertovec, ‘Islamophobia and Muslim Recognition in Britain,’ in Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora, eds. S. Koshy and R. Radhakrishnana (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), 97–123; and Bhikhu Parekh, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The Parekh Report (London: The Runnymede Trust, 2000). Michel Foucault, The Politics of Truth, trans. Lysa Hochroth and Catherine Porter (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007), 47. See A2A Uncovered programme, FUTURE HISTORIES files. Burt Caesar and Vernon Douglas performed extracts from The Nine Night by Edgar Nkosi White at Brixton Art Gallery on 9th August, 2004 following the same reading on 25th March at MoDA. For more information on the Black Plays Archive see: www.blackplaysarchive. org.uk. Alda Terracciano, ‘Installations,’ FUTURE HISTORIES, www.futurehistories. org.uk [accessed 22nd March, 2016] Jaques Derrida, ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,’ Diacritics 25 (Summer 1995), 9. See Jaques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London and New York: Routledge, 2005).

66  Alda Terracciano 36 Jaques Lacan, Écrits. A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 155. 37 The V&A Theatre Museum in Covent Garden closed in 2007 and was replaced by new galleries at the V&A’s main site in South Kensington, while the archives were transferred at Blythe House. 38 The Trading Faces online exhibition facilitated the cataloguing of a number of performing arts collections held in the V&A museum’s stores, including Black Mime, Temba, Alfred Fagon, Roundhouse, Open Space, Unity Theatre and the V&A Black Theatre Collection. See Trading Faces Cataloguing Methodology, Appendix 4 to HLF funding application, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. 39 In line with the organisation’s policy, the key here was to privilege a practice focussed on creative engagement with archival material, against a widespread attitude towards culture ‘as property rather than process.’ For a more in-depth analysis on this topic see Paul Gilroy, Joined-Up Politics and Post-Colonial Melancholia (London: ICA, 1999), 17. 40 Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lutheran Letters, trans. Stuart Hood (New York: Carcanet Press, 1987), 124. 41 Alda Terracciano, ‘Voices,’ Trading Faces Online Exhibition, FUTURE HISTORIES, 31st October, 2008. www.tradingfacesonline.com [accessed 18th March, 2016]. 42 Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lutheran Letters, 124. 43 Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), xiv. 4 4 In 2006, Future Histories worked in consultation with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) to develop a funding strategy ensuring its sustainable development. Unfortunately, recommendations could not be implemented as the board members had to devote their time and energies on project fundraising first and on delivery later. See ‘CAF Grant Offer Letter,’ e-mail message to the author, 29th March, 2006. 45 FUTURE HISTORIES had consistently advocated for direct action to increase the presence of people of African and Asian descent within the heritage profession. As a result, it negotiated with the HLF a pilot positive action traineeship as part of the Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery project. For more information on the proportion of people from minority ethnic groups engaged in professional archives work in Britain at the time see Archives Task Force, Listening to the Past, 3, 5, 7. 46 Okwui Enwezor, ‘Between Worlds,’ 248. 47 For a more detailed account of the curatorial approach to the online exhibition, see Alda Terracciano, ‘Trans-national politics and Cultural Practices of the Trading Faces Online Exhibition,’ in Black Arts in Britain: Literary, Visual, Performative, eds. Annalisa Oboe and Francesca Giommi (Roma: Aracne, 2011), 107–22. 48 Alda Terracciano, ‘Trans-national Politics and Cultural Practices of the Trading Faces Online Exhibition,’ 114. 49 Jacques Lacan, Écrits. A Selection, 44. 50 Stuart Hall, ‘Un-settling “The Heritage,”’ 11. 51 See: Alda Terracciano, ‘Together We Stand,’ in Navigating Difference, ed. Heather Maitland (London: Arts Council England, 2005), 101–5. 52 Alda Terracciano, ‘Curator’s Forward,’ Trading Faces Online Exhibition, FUTURE HISTORIES, 31st October, 2008. www.tradingfacesonline.com [accessed 16th March, 2016].

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  67 53 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Ken Knabb (Camberra: Treason Press, 2002), 4. 54 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 4. 55 See Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 2004). 56 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 5.

Bibliography AAVV. Delivering Shared Heritage. London: Greater London Authority, 2005. Archives Task Force. Listening to the Past, Speaking to the Future: Report of the Archives Taskforce. London: MLA, 2004. Accessed 25th April 2018. http://www.ceice.gva.es/documents/163449496/163453359/ ArchivesTaskForce.pdf/58e8d636-af87-4588-ae48-e7f2f4ce6f66. Bey, Hakim. T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2003. Accessed 9th April 2015. http://hermetic.com/bey/taz_cont.html. British Library. Exhibiting Diversity: Report. 27th September 2004. FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. Craven, Louise, ed. What are Archives? Cultural and Theoretical Perspectives: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2008. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle, translated by Ken Knabb. Camberra: Treason Press, 2002. Derrida, Jacques. ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression.’ Diacritics 25 (1995): 9–63. ———. Writing and Difference, translated by Alan Bass. London and New York: Routledge, 2005. Desai, Philly and Andrew Thomas. Cultural Diversity: Attitudes of Ethnic Minority Populations towards Museums and Galleries. London: Qualitative Workshop, BMRB International for the Museums and Galleries Commission, 1998. Ellis, Carolyn. The Ethnographic I. Oxford: Altamira Press, 2004. Enwezor, Okwui. ‘Between Worlds: Postmodernism and African Artists in the Western Metropolis.’ In Reading the Contemporary African Art from Theory to the Marketplace, edited by Olu Oguibe and Okwui Enwezor, 244–275. London: Institute of Visual Arts (INIVA), 1999. Flinn, Andrew. ‘Archival Activism: Independent and Community-Led Archives, Radical Public History and the Heritage Professions.’ InterActions 7 (2011). Accessed 12th January 2015. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9pt2490x. Foucault, Michel. ‘The Subject and Power.’ Critical Inquiry 8.4 (Summer 1982), 777–95. ———. The Politics of Truth, translated by Lysa Hochroth and Catherine Porter. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007. Gilroy, Paul. Joined-Up Politics and Post-Colonial Melancholia. London: ICA, 1999. ———. There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

68  Alda Terracciano ———. Postcolonial Melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Hall, Stuart. ‘Un-settling “The Heritage”, Re-imagining the Post-nation. Whose Heritage?’ Third Text 13.49 (1999): 3–13. Accessed 9th April 2015, doi:10.1080/09528829908576818. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. A Selection, translated by Alan Sheridan. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Lloyd, Errol. ‘Speech Patterns.’ In Trading Faces Online Exhibition. Accessed 16th March 2016. www.tradingfacesonline.com. Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage – Project Overview. 2003. FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. mpr ltd. Archiving the Arts of England’s Culturally Diverse Community. ­London: ACE, 1999. Parekh, Bhikhu. The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The Parekh Report. ­London: The Runnymede Trust, 2000. Pasolini, Pier Paolo. Lutheran Letters, translated by Stuart Hood. New York: Carcanet Press, 1987. Phelan, Peggy. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. London: Routledge, 2004. Re-membering Black Performance, Heritage Lottery Fund Application. 2002, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. Re-membering Black Performance, Heritage Lottery Fund Final Report, 30th April, 2004, FUTURE HISTORIES’ company files. Stevens, Mary, Andrew Flinn and Elisabeth Shepherd. ‘New Frameworks for Community Engagement in the Archive Sector: from Handing Over to Handing On.’ In Heritage and Community Engagement. Collaboration or Contestation? edited by Emma Waterton and Steve Watson, 67–84. London: Routledge, 2011. Terracciano, Alda. ‘Together We Stand.’ In Navigating Difference, edited by Heather Maitland, 101–5. London: Arts Council England, 2005. ———. ‘The Black Theatre Forum and the Experiments of the Black Theatre Seasons.’ In Alternatives Within Mainstream: British Black and Asian Theatre, edited by Dimple Godiwala, 22–60. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006. ———. ‘Trans-national Politics and Cultural Practices of the Trading Faces Online Exhibition.’ In Black Arts in Britain: Literary, Visual, Performative, edited by Annalisa Oboe and Francesca Giommi, 103–18. Roma: Aracne, 2011. ———. ‘Installations.’ FUTURE HISTORIES, 22nd March 2006. Accessed 16th March 2016. www.futurehistories.org.uk. ———. ‘Black Theatre Forum,’ FUTURE HISTORIES, 22nd March 2006. Accessed 20th April 2015. www.futurehistories.org.uk. ———. ‘Curator’s Forward.’ In Trading Faces Online Exhibition. FUTURE HISTORIES, 31st October 2008. Accessed 16th March 2016. www.trading facesonline.com. ———. ‘Voices.’ In Trading Faces Online Exhibition, FUTURE HISTORIES, 31st October 2008. Accessed 18th March 2016. www.tradingfacesonline. com.

FUTURE HISTORIES – An Activist Practice of Archiving  69 UNESCO. ‘Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.’ Accessed 12th March 2016. www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/ convention. Vertovec, Steven. ‘Islamophobia and Muslim Recognition in Britain.’ In Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora, edited by S. Koshy, and R. Radhakrishnana, 97–123. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008. Wajid, Sarah. ‘Resourceful Asian Seeks Partner with Money.’ Times Higher Education, 10 September 2010, 7. Žižek, Slavoj. Violence. London: Profile Books, 2008.

3 Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production Comics Collectives in Israel and South Africa Charlotta Salmi ‘I was frequently upbraided for reading books I shouldn’t have,’ Edward Said notes in his memoirs, but it was precisely these private papers, popular books and comics that made the budding postcolonial critic aware of reading as an act that could push against the rules and boundaries of the world in which he grew up.1 Comics, as the illicit and illegitimate sources of pleasure, have a long history of encouraging reading as a transgressive, potentially dangerous act. They have often been accused of perverting their readers’ ‘taste for the finer influences of education, for art, for literature and for the decent and constructive relationships between human beings,’ as Fredric Wertham’s now infamous Seduction of the Innocent (1955) demonstrates. 2 However, it is by flouting that which is considered civilised – in literature and society – that comics have not only exposed the pedagogical and ideological pressures that determine what and how we read, as Said argues, but also guided many readers, like Said, to an awareness of the power dynamics imbued in subcultures.3 Through the graphic medium of comics, zines and serials, artists say what can’t otherwise be said, render explicit what is barely imagined and invite a different understanding of the lines that define collective identity. Comics are not just a popular art form but also an alternative, radical one. If Said’s (and others’) endorsements have contributed to the form gaining credibility as a subject of criticism over the last two decades, its new-found prominence in literary studies is yet to result in a greater understanding of how comics grapple with the cultural mediation of the economic, cultural and political relations of domination and subordination that also define postcoloniality.4 Outside of past and present imperial centres, comics occupy an unusual interstice between experimental art and commercial literature, which can demonstrate the political effect of popular art in postcolonial societies. Two examples of such transgressive comics can be found in South Africa’s celebrated Bitterkomix magazines and anthologies (produced by Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes since 1992), and the albums of Israel’s most famous comics group Actus Tragicus (founded in 1995 by Rutu Modan and Yirmi Pinkus).

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  71 Bitterkomix is known for its deliberately crude approach to controversial subjects – Conrad Botes’s graphic depiction of white-on-black violence in South African history or Kannemeyer’s sexually explicit confessional narratives – while Actus has been associated with the dark humour that characterised their early collaborations with Israeli short story writer ­Etgar Keret. Keret’s prose stories are renowned for highlighting the ­absurd in Israeli society, and, while the comics collective has expanded both its membership and output since these early adaptations of Keret’s work, it has stayed true to his ironic approach, exposing the surreal in everything from suicide bombings to suburban life. Across both examples, irony is highlighted through the jarring effect of adult images or themes rendered in deceptively juvenile form. These comics collectives’ clear provocation to ‘decency’ served to confront the ideas and ideals of their respective audiences, whether political correctness in South Africa or middle-class anxieties in Israel. The contrast between content and delivery packed an intentional punch: ‘I like to seduce the viewer,’ Conrad Botes notes, ‘and then give them a kick in the teeth.’5 The illicit and explicit content of comics like Bitterkomix or Actus’ albums can, as such, be used to deliver a more subtle critique of contemporary culture and the contradictions and biases inherent in supposedly open and democratic media and literary discourses. Both of these collaborations brought provocative art-house comics into the mainstream market in order to challenge the dominant position of particular, contested cultural identities. Botes and Kannemeyer’s graphic depictions of sex, interracial relations and violence, for example, led not only to public outcry and media debate but also, eventually, to exhibitions, international invitations and solo work. Like Actus, they received recognition in daily newspapers and attracted attention from bookshop chains and art critics. These comics collectives’ manipulation of the market for political ends and vice versa are, therefore, instructive instances of the popular as a site of struggle not just in but also over postcolonial culture. Comics, like Actus’ albums or the Bitterkomix anthologies, often fall foul of a ‘high’/‘low’ art divide to the detriment of their political credibility; as examples of ‘popular’ art, they are seen as pandering to the lowest common denominator in ways that rule out oppositional political engagement. As such, they have been perceived as a threat not only to the aesthetic order, but also to progressive politics through a latent populism. Consequently, comics in particular, and popular culture in general, have largely been sidelined in both studies of the literary field – Pierre Bourdieu, for example, claimed political efficacy for the autonomous field of pure art over commercial art– and postcolonial criticism as even Marxist critics have remained sceptical of the radicalism of culture in commodity form.6 In fact, in postcolonial studies at large, a distinction is made between what Graham Huggan has termed the postcolonial, a celebration of postmodern heteroglossia and hybridity, and postcoloniality,

72  Charlotta Salmi a political radicalism rooted in specificity – where the former is assumed to pander to the market and the latter is understood to retain a residual political force. Commercial art can, however, as Huggan himself argues, work as much for, as against, political radicalism. This is doubly so within comics production, which blurs the boundaries between ‘pure’ or ‘commercial’ art, tending towards both the avant-garde and the didactic in the same popular form.7 The upshot of this critical history is that the politics of global comics, as Benita Mehta and Pia Mukherji argue, has been judged as either ‘the incorporated visual economy of a conservative mass culture’ that the Frankfurt School critiqued or recuperated by recent cultural history ‘from a mass to a “popular” cultural product.’8 In the latter case, ‘popular’ is used to denote a wide audience by skirting the negative ring of ‘commercial appeal.’ While Mehta and Mukherji are right to be sceptical of this evasion of comics’ ‘mass’ roots, the approach drawn from the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies permits, at least, the reframing of comics not as banal reiterations of hegemonic forms and structures but as the very terrain on which cultural transformation occurs. Stuart Hall proposed that popular culture need not be what Walter Benjamin thought of as a tool of enforcing conservatism in an age of mechanical reproduction; rather, it can serve as the site of struggle between hegemonic and oppositional forms.9 In this light, comics’ politics could be understood more through ‘the forces and relations which sustain the distinction’ between high and low, elite and not, than as an endorsement of the status quo.10 This is also the approach that this essay takes. Hall’s is a useful model for postcolonial comics in particular since comics from these areas, while undoubtedly ‘popular’ – in the sense that they use a visual and textual vocabulary that draws from consumer culture – are not always mass produced. Postcolonial comics have never been commercial in the same sense that ‘sequential art’ in historical and neocolonial centres have: the long tradition of comics in America, Europe and ­Japan are rooted in particular print cultures, which have not only thrived through globalised markets but have also been relatively untroubled by censorship or political instability. In these contexts, serialised comics not only prop up particular ideas of national culture (Marvel’s white, ­middle-class hero Captain America is a pertinent example of this) and of its ‘others’ (such as the Congolese, Egyptians and Chinese in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin) but also appear to cement rather than query dominant ideologies. Comics in areas like South Africa and Israel, on the other hand, developed through a particular intersection of global popular culture and ­political activism. Both regions had an active alternative press in the 1970s, which revolved around trade union movements and student activism, and in both cases these publications drew inspiration from an American underground youth culture. While short strips (and cartoons

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  73 especially) were commonly used by anti-Apartheid publications (such as Staffrider) and the radical Israeli left (Mazpen) in posters and magazines, it was the influx of satirical American magazines that turned comics into a politically rooted counterculture. Both Al Feldstein’s humour magazine, MAD, and Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s RAW, which had opened comic books in America to ‘taboo-breaking attitudes,’ were widely circulated in student groups and movements.11 Rutu Modan and Yirmi Pinkus, for example, not only met at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem but started out editing the Israeli version of MAD magazine, whereas Bitterkomix, set up by Anton ‘Joe Dog’ Kannemeyer and ­Conrad ‘Konradski’ Botes during their time as students in S­ tellenbosch, was modelled along the lines of Spiegelman and Mouly’s RAW.12 Although there are notable exceptions to these alternative comics, they never achieved the same mainstream success. Uri Fink’s 1970s superhero Sabraman, who battled the infamous Dr Mengele of Auschwitz, for example, clearly supported a nationalist ideology (in this case the celebration of the ‘new’ Jew over diasporic Judaism) but failed to grab the imagination of the reading public. The strip was soon discontinued in The Jerusalem Post. The comics market in these areas remains so dominated by alternative rather than mainstream publications that it not only fuels, as artists like Amitai Sandy argue, a demand for social realist comics, rather than fantasy or superhero genres, but also retains strong links to a politically active underground.13 In Israel’s largest comics festival in Tel Aviv, for example, zines are sold alongside established series and Anarchist distributions, and visitors frequently go, as Sandy himself does, from the convention straight to ‘protest against the occupation in some small village on the west bank (sic.).’14 Nevertheless, mainstream North American comics have also been entangled in geopolitics, if not local political activism. Comics were, in fact, a key tool in American Cold War strategy – the United States Information Service spent over three million dollars on pro-American ­popular culture in the Middle East in the 1950s alone – and, as such, they have a parallel history to that of the literary canon in British and French empire-building.15 Like the classics, comics were used to disseminate particular ideological models, whether American-enforced capitalism or European ‘civilisation,’ with the result that postcolonial comics creators, like writers, have borrowed tropes, themes and techniques to ‘write back’ to the models embedded in American and European genres. Both Actus and Bitterkomix, for example, draw from European influences like Hergé’s – or Georges Remi’s – Tintin. However, they do so with one key difference: unlike their more literary counterparts, comics cannot escape being part of the globalised capitalist system that Cold War comics were used to entrench. In contrast to contemporary ­novels, comics often have their origins in strips or series and are therefore particularly dependent on print publications (such as newspapers,

74  Charlotta Salmi supplements or magazines) for their dissemination as well as their very form of expression. Thus, while postcolonial comics producers, like novelists, use the borrowed form to reflect critically on the cultural systems they sprang out of, they do so with an awareness of how some of those systems – such as the globalised marketplace – are not only still in place but instrumental to their own success. Actus and Bitterkomix therefore respond not so much to foreign systems of cultural value as to the lines of distinction, of domination and subordination, that such systems left behind within postcolonial cultures. That is to say they reflect on the divisions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, and what constitutes an authentic national culture versus an imported cultural commodity. Rutu Modan and Anton Kannemeyer both draw on Georges Remi’s signature style – the ligne claire – to expose the divisions between self and other that particular cultural systems have come to represent. If the ligne claire, or ‘clear line,’ gives equal weight to every line on the page, it suggests a clear position in relation to what it portrays – what is inside and outside a figure or frame; in Kannemeyer and Modan’s works, it also upholds a system that equalises background with foreground, marginal details with main focal points.16 Modan’s sex scenes, for example, cut not only across social strata – in unlikely romantic matches – but also across the gutters on the page. While sequential panels are used to heal social divisions, the frames that remain between bodies serve as reminders of the fragments that make up any union. As such, in these postcolonial responses, the ligne claire is used to reveal precisely the cultural othering that the clear line of distinction tries to hide. Kannemeyer, in fact, not only draws from Hergé’s style but also his plots and characters, using the recognisable figure of the adventurer to depict white, middle-class Afrikaans-speaking subjects, including Kannemeyer himself. In these strips, for which Kannemeyer is perhaps most well known, Tintin moves seamlessly between representing the white South African liberal and, as Danie Marais writes, ‘an oblivious little psycho on safari.’17 Indeed Tintin becomes a pictogram for the ways in which the two discourses are interlinked: the paternalistic discourse of a colonial past and the latent, as well as explicit, racial prejudice of the present day. Modan, on the other hand, uses Hergé’s block colours and prominent backgrounds not only to render visible the ‘boundaries and limitations of identity in the modern age,’ as art critic Ariella Azoulay comments, but to reveal how the marginal or suppressed haunts, or makes itself felt, in dominant culture.18 In Modan’s graphic novel Exit Wounds, for example, the echoes between the mundane backgrounds – a bus stop in Hadera or a taxi rank in Tel Aviv – and the muted tones of the events in the foreground remind the viewer of the ways in which the characters, or action, are rooted in their cultural and historical setting. As Ariel Khan points out, the subtle colouring of the two protagonists’ jackets, in light

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  75 blue, and green and red, respectively, bring together Israeli and Palestinian symbols to subvert the ideology the characters appear to represent.19 The popular in postcolonial comics thus operates in an inverse way to the commercial style of European or North American predecessors. Comics like Actus and Bitterkomix channel popular art, as in of and for the people, to reconsider rather than reinforce the ideologies behind particular elite-driven cultural systems, and, like their forebears, they do so by challenging the social and ideological pressures behind what constitutes the ‘civilised’ in culture. They offer critiques of the systems in which they are embedded via both their collective mode of production – which models more open and democratic forms of collaboration and organisation – and their graphic responses to the kinds of division that European colonial culture and its American successors enforced through their literary production. This undermining of certain lines of difference by drawing new lines of connection, affiliation and literary influence can best be explained, as Jason Dittmer argues more generally, through the geopolitical concept of the assemblage. As a whole defined by its relations, where component parts are never reduced to their mere function but are understood as part of multiple wholes at once, ‘the assemblage’ originally served as a corrective to earlier theories of the nation state, where it highlighted capacities (and their contingency) rather than properties. As such it offers not only an apt model for conceptualising collectivity but also, as Dittmer suggests, the cultural products that give it discursive shape. 20 Comics represent via assemblages (of panels and grids) while themselves existing and operating as objects within multiple larger systems – such as the series, the market and the cultural field. Actus and Bitterkomix, operate in very particular postcolonial markets, where their aesthetic choices reflect not only the power dynamics behind a ‘high’ versus ‘low’ art divide but also specific cultural histories that have seen certain groups dominate mainstream culture in areas that are far more culturally diverse. By showing how different elements exist in a relation of domination/subordination within a system, they reveal how the nation state or community as an assemblage works to suppress some cultural subsets in favour of others. In short, they use their assemblages on the page to meditate on their larger assemblages off the page – both cultural and political. Read this way, the postcolonial comic can query society as an organic whole that comprises the ‘sum of its parts.’21 This is particularly clear in the South African and Israeli contexts, which are sites of multiple forms of postcoloniality. Having first been ­European colonies (in the case of Palestine a British Mandate), South ­Africa and Israel have both gone on to replicate, internally, systems of colonisation between postcolonial groups. As such, they exemplify cultural fields where multiple forms of ‘dominant,’ or oppressive cultural systems are at play. South Africa’s apartheid past enabled an Afrikaner minority

76  Charlotta Salmi to both monopolise the means of production and occupy a privileged position within the cultural field, while Israel’s conflict with the surrounding Arab states, and ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, has resulted in the suppression of diverse cultural forms of expression – not only Palestinian but also Arab Israeli – within the shifting boundaries of the nation state.22 These deeply divided societies therefore bring to the fore the dynamics at work in what constitutes ‘popular’ culture – in the sense of speaking for and to a wider populace– in all postcolonial societies. The birth of comics collectives like Bitterkomix and Actus in the 1990s did indeed respond to right-wing political pasts that had furthered division. Their sexually explicit style (in the case of Bitterkomix) or sexually alternative content (as in Actus’ queer storylines) posed challenges to the heteronormative politics of Israeli society, and to a Christian conservatism in South Africa, precisely in order to question their cultural hegemony. They formed part of larger cultural movements that queried what Anne McClintock has described as the highly gendered, as well as racial, discourse of kinship that frames the postcolonial nation. 23 Bitterkomix, for example, ran a controversial strip on sexual abuse where the degeneracy of patriarchal Afrikaner culture was made explicit through the well-worn allegory of the family. Afrikaner sons who are made to bear the burden (or indeed come to perpetuate) their fathers’ violent and incestuous desires are commonplace in post-apartheid novels like Mark Behr’s The Smell of Apples (1993) or Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf (1994). In Israel, the message behind rosy vignettes of gay domestic life, or a schoolgirl’s brush with a sympathetic Palestinian soldier, are cemented in the title of Actus’ collection: How to Love (2007). These comics draw attention to the discrepancy between the heteronormative family as the model for political community and the diverse, heterogeneous populations that make up its citizenship. As such, they facilitated a more complex confrontation with segregation in popular culture at a time when the relative inclusivity or exclusivity of dominant cultural groups and systems were called into question. Both Actus and Bitterkomix sprung out of a transitional era that was marked by the contentious Oslo accords in 1993 (which proposed a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine) and the first free democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. The establishment of commercial comics in what Nadine Gordimer called the ‘interregnum’ (after Antonio Gramsci’s term for the period when the ‘old is dying, and the new cannot be born’) is, of course, linked to the end of the apartheid-era’s strict censorship laws in South Africa, as well as Israel’s economic boom after a relatively slow opening to global culture.24 However, the coincidence is not just socio-economic. Comics are also particularly fertile sites for dominant and emergent cultural forms to be worked through, as Stuart Hall suggested, and as such, they are pertinent outlets for the ‘wars of position’ that Gramsci argued

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  77 determined the struggle for hegemony in culture. 25 During a period when the national community or political collective is changing its shape or form, comics like those by Bitterkomix and Actus – albeit to different degrees – operated as sites of struggle where new orders and cultural identities could be forged from the old. As the alternative subjects of Actus’ albums and the Bitterkomix anthologies indicate, the South African and Israeli comix that not only emerged but also entered the mainstream in this era were at once more art house, or experimental, and more politically provocative than commercial comics culture in North America or Europe. They breached the distinction between a ‘postmodern’ popular literature and a politically engaged cultural margin that Graham Huggan draws for the postcolonial novel. These anthologies, magazines or albums sprang up not only to assert and protect diversity in the field during a period of cultural change, they also undermined established ideas of authorship and used a doubly ‘graphic’ aesthetic (both explicit and illicit) to critique the arbitrary lines that defined cultures in the national imaginary. If their collective form of production turned political engagement into commercial art – the collective itself operating as a model for diversity within a cohesive unit – then the postcolonial graphic aesthetic of these two magazines or albums served to turn the commercial into a transgressive politics. The collective was, in cultural fields that stemmed out of decades of conflict, one of the only ways of shifting from the margins to the (commercial) mainstream, through the means of independent production. Actus Tragicus, for example, was set up by Modan and Pinkus specifically with the view to reach a wider international audience (as their now defunct website states). As the group told Merav Yudilovitch in his report on ‘Love According to Actus,’ for YNetNews on 29 August 2009, Actus turned to self-publishing in order to ‘do what we wanted and free [ourselves] of any restraints.’ Collaborative projects cut individual publication costs, increased print runs and made it possible to disseminate marginal, less successful (or more experimental) artists’ work through channels they would otherwise not have had access to. The collective, as such, was the route to wider audiences in a mass-market. While Actus have been hailed in Europe as taking the Israeli comics scene in a ‘purely artistic direction’ – according to online blurbs on Comics Festivals like Athens’ – they have, in fact, forged the path for a commercially viable form of politically engaged comics culture. It is its market success (at home and abroad – or at home because of abroad) that has inspired younger generations to follow the same path, such as the more recent Dimona, a group set up after Actus’ model. However, it is the commercial appeal that gives these comics their currency as critique – not just because of reach and readership but also because it conveys the writers’ own embeddedness in the systems that they try to disentangle. If even the ‘alternative’ comic is part – and ­commodity – of

78  Charlotta Salmi the structure it critiques, then these collectives in ­particular were representative of the cultural systems whose hegemony they were trying to challenge. Kannemeyer and Botes are Afrikaans speakers, and Modan and Pinkus are middle-class Israelis. Actus and Bitterkomix thus depict the fault lines of a privileged or dominant culture from within those very cultural positions. Many of their comics address the everyday fears of privileged groups vis-à-vis the historically marginalised, whether that be anxiety over crime in South Africa or Israeli paranoia over bombings, and they do so to reveal how such terror feeds into the systems of oppression that engendered the violence they fear in the first place. As such, comics groups or partnerships, while commercially strategic, also forged particular paths of political engagement in the literary field – ­engagements that cannot be disentangled from their commercial success. My argument therefore is less about how the ‘anti-colonial is neo-­ colonial,’ that is to say, as Huggan argues, that resistance itself is ­commodity and commodification a mode of resistance, but rather to say that the complex positions that comics occupy in a field of cultural production lend them particular credibility as political representatives of societies that in themselves are grappling with the difficulty of defining or redefining a national culture. In that sense, the postcolonial comic is postnational, as Stein and Swedenburg argue for popular culture in general. 26 It challenges the possibility of a clearly delineated cultural entity that does not exert some form of domination over the others in its midst, and in this sense it also marks the transition from the imaginary homelands or ‘migrant metaphors’ that preoccupied postcolonial literature to the broader questions of translation and circulation that mark current debates in world literature. In ‘1974,’ a strip initially written for the international anthology ­Comix 2000, for example, Kannemeyer brutally satirises suburban nightmares through bringing his white subject to confront his worst fears. 27 The strip depicts a balding middle-aged Tintin figure whose TV-evening is interrupted by an angry black face staring in through the window. After discovering that the telephone lines are cut, ‘Tintin’ runs for a gun and evacuates the house, only to enter into a lethal battle with a gang of spear-wielding characters. Such scenes clearly play with the construction of racial identities through fear or terror – the black man, depicted in Hergé’s racist figures, becomes ‘the native’ that the white man constructs him to be. As Frantz Fanon wrote in his anti-colonial tract The Wretched of the Earth, Kannemeyer’s ‘native’ is left only to look with lust and envy, to dream of ‘all manner of possession: to sit at the settler’s table, to sleep in the settler’s bed, with his wife if possible.’28 However, the sequence also depicts a white subject whose fears of the ‘swart gevaar’ or ‘black peril’ are self-fulfilling prophecies: every incident of domestic crime replays a colonial encounter that reinforces racialised stereotypes and the savagery of a ‘race war.’ The comics’ reliance

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  79 on type, or visual shorthand, for its representational framework is used to satirise the stereotypes that also inform other, less explicit, cultural narratives. It is through the confrontation with white fear made literal that, as Rita Barnard notes wryly, Bitterkomix readers do not learn, as much as ‘unlearn’ conventional responses to South African history. 29 Kannemeyer’s work thus shows the contentious ways in which comics can trouble a dominant culture from within those self-same cultural positions. They subvert via replicating dominant signs and symbols. Modan’s work similarly places her reader in uncomfortable positions of identification. In one of her more renowned short strips, ‘Jamilti,’ she plays with the lines of empathy that cut through Israeli society and its engagement with the Palestinian other. The story tells of Rama, a nurse, who runs into traffic after arguing with her fiancé over the notion that Israel ‘should bomb [the Palestinians] all to hell,’ only to be the first person on the scene of a café bombing. 30 As Rama tries to resuscitate a wounded man, the background of Modan’s panels disappear into a deep orange hue, zooming in on the locked lips of the nurse and her patient. Later the same evening, Rama hears on the news that the only casualty of the bombing was the bomber himself, and her fiancé confirms that the one word she heard him whisper – ‘jamilti’ – is Arabic for ‘my beautiful one.’31 In this deceptively simple storyline, Modan’s characteristic style, which Ruth Direktor describes as ‘piquant and merciless,’ controversially casts both central figures as equally wounded and violent: if the bomber ultimately injures no one apart from himself, Rama may have just avoided harm in the café, but in the taxi, she is at least implicated by association in the hate-fuelled society that her fiancé represents. 32 The strange encounter that blurs the boundaries of self/other, victim/perpetrator, thus confronts the reader with not just their inherited cultural positions, but the allegiances they may lead one to. As these examples suggest, works like Kannemeyer’s and Modan’s diversify what constitutes popular culture – in the sense of a nationally representative mainstream – by querying both the complicity of particular cultural forms in histories of oppression and challenging their hegemony through representations of that which is marginalised or suppressed within those cultural forms. Kannemeyer’s silent strip is titled after the year the apartheid state implemented the Afrikaans Medium Decree – a policy which not only dictated that the language of instruction in black schools had to be Afrikaans but also sparked an outcry that eventually led to the famous Soweto riots of 1976. The silent strip thus testifies to a united mode of communication while pointing to the breakdown in understanding that the dominance of one culture over another enforces. Modan’s strip, likewise, turns on the foreign word that signals an act of tenderness (or empathy) across a boundary of understanding. ‘Jamilti’ forges a kind of intimacy that is both emblematic of a society where conflicted groups are in close, and violent, proximity and of terror itself

80  Charlotta Salmi as the paradoxically ultimate act of identification – as Jacqueline Rose argues – between the self and the other, unified in a ‘deadly embrace.’33 If the violent intercultural or racial encounters in both Kannemeyer and Modan’s strips challenge the assumptions of the dominant culture, their drawings also push against what is deemed acceptable: Kannemeyer’s play on controversial racist tropes, for example, suggests that the comic presents itself – that is, its crude graphic drawings – as being on a par with the ‘black threat’ to comfortable, middle-class Afrikaans assumptions. The viewer’s unease with the former is due to their uncomfortable identification with the latter. Stereotype, for Kannemeyer, serves as a historical citation, unlike the blanket caricatures used by controversial satirical magazines like Charlie Hebdo.34 The joke is on the viewer, or the discourse, of which the stereotype forms a part. Kannemeyer thus manipulates reader identification and discomfort, through a wry humour steeped in irony, while the muted tones of Modan’s palette render complex ethical decisions seductively simple. An act of tenderness serves as not just recognition but the embrace of the Arab other as always the third and silenced party in the Israeli national family. Transgressing both the rules of art and decency (the rules of decency in order to make critical art) they force an equally discomfiting reality on their reader, inviting them to question their own positions within a larger, more diverse national or regional culture. These readings can be taken a step further: the comics are not only blurring the lines between victims/perpetrators and a socially acceptable versus alternative view (bringing the marginal into the mainstream and thereby showing how they are marginalised in the process), but they also reveal how the terror that drives such cultural positions is itself an aestheticised response. Terror, as Robert Young argues, is not only defined by its effects, that is to say, it is an affect, but it is thereby a close companion of aesthetic experiences like the sublime. 35 In the hands of the state, terror translates politics into aesthetics, and participation into ritual, where it can lead to the kind of fetishisation of authenticity that Benjamin argued pandered to fascist culture. 36 This model of terror that polices both the boundaries of society (against infiltration) and mimics or tries to capture the sublime effects of art is, therefore, one of the risks of a society or state that tries to hold on to particular cults of authenticity in the contemporary moment. In response, Modan and Kannemeyer offer the popular as a site of struggle, which, whilst shocking, crude and explicit, draws its force from its very reproducibility and inauthenticity. Their comics become the politicised art that Young proposes is the only way to turn ‘effect back into significance,’ resisting the dangerous game of cultural ‘authenticity’ in mass production. 37 That the work of both of these collectives or collaborations has made it into art galleries is indicative of how arts establishments have,

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  81 in a sense, responded by sanitising and thereby depoliticising their message. This is particularly clear in the case of Bitterkomix, who after first being celebrated as the Afrikaner art scene’s enfant terrible, fell out of favour when their dedication to comix came into conflict with the forms of transgression that was palatable in ‘fine art.’ While the gallery exhibitions of politically rooted content were a success, their more lurid spin-offs, Gif: Afrikaner Sekskomiks (Poison: Afrikaner Sex Comix) was among the first post-apartheid publications to be banned. 38 The celebration of the Bitterkomix duo’s production by ‘high’ art establishments comes, as Andy Mason argues, at the expense of their real contribution to graphic literature: the black-andwhite comic strips, which, while almost entirely absent from the 2006 commemorative Big Bad Bitterkomix Handbook, continue to merge the pornographic with the politically provocative in the Bitterkomix magazines. 39 In all, artists and producers like those of Actus and Bitterkomix assert precisely the ‘right to transgress the most sacred values of the collectivity,’ such as patriotism, that Bourdieu identified in the intellectual art of Dreyfus-era France, or Paris during the Algerian War, and they do so in favour of values ‘transcending those of citizenship.’40 These values are embedded not only in their graphic content but also in the commercial unit of the collaborative group or collective. As such they do not operate so differently from Bourdieu’s ideal collective intellectual, who monopolises production for the purpose of political engagement. This is not through a ‘politics of purity,’ however, but a politics of popularity that comes from particular market relations.41 These postcolonial groups centre on particular forms of comics practice: the collective brings different styles together but under one rubric, logo or ‘brand.’ The album’s uniformity is not in style but in subject, giving the impression of community despite fragmentation and diversity. In that sense the collective borrows from big American, commercial conglomerates, such as DC, and Marvel, who invest in the idea of the company as creator to the extent that they claim copyright over that of the individual creator. The mixing that ensues in albums or anthologies, between the edgier and the more conventional, the politically provocative and the slapstick, however, is also a defence of individuality united by a shared democratic ethos: that is to say it is driven by a shared desire to defend multiplicity and stylistic variation within dominant forms. Actus’ thematised albums, like Jetlag or How to Love, for example, determine each member’s individual output by setting a single subject matter, and despite each contributor producing independent pieces, members weigh in on each other’s work through continuous dialogue.42 As such, the album or anthology resembles a culture in miniature, an assemblage of parts, which exists in relation to a whole. It seeks to define the larger national culture via

82  Charlotta Salmi its form (a more democratic model) while it transgresses the boundaries of different ideas of national culture in its content. It is, in many ways, the defence of provocation – the right to not just surprise but shock and offend for the sake of some kind of cultural tolerance – that drives this idea of individuality within a microcosm of a socialist democratic ideal. As such, Dittmer’s application of the assemblage – of grids that cut across other grids, frameworks that run through frameworks – to comics can facilitate an understanding of the entangled networks of postcolonial comics culture. As Achille Mbembe argues of African modernity, the ‘discontinuities, reversals, inertias and swings’ that make up this form of cultural production and its products mean that multiple ideas of modernity and commercial/art operate at once, reconfiguring systems of value and taste, through both the graphic page and the mode of production.43 If postcolonial comics are ‘popular’ sites of cultural struggle, then it is precisely because the lines they draw are blurry: they straddle divides, transgress distinctions and bring new audiences into their fold. We see this especially in the work of Actus and Bitterkomix, who not only straddle ‘the “great divide”’ between commercial and high art, ‘rearranging the landscape on both sides of the fence’ of art and cartooning, but effect a bidirectional movement to legitimise a literary form, while radicalising its content.44 The fields they sprang out of created a comics scene where what normally would be considered alternative – sexually explicit and politically provocative comix – became the mainstream. The result of this contradictory field of postcolonial production, is that comics reflect critically on their own culture or systems of representation: that is to say, they use their ability to transgress lines of taste and tradition, political partisanship and propriety, to blur the boundaries between commercial and critical art, and marginal and mainstream culture. Through a collective mode of production, the combined artistic work – the magazine or ­album – and a doubly ‘graphic’ aesthetic that is both explicit and illicit, they frame questions of social justice through a sensual and sexual imagery that combines violence and intimacy on the same page. ­Bitterkomix ­ frikaner ­patriarchy – demonstrates the graphic sexualized violence of an A the sins visited upon the sons by their fathers – while Actus tries more subtly, to teach us ‘how to love’; but these different strategies, of overt shock and delicate dissent, both empower their readers to read across lines of ‘taste’ and cultural difference, and draw the political into the private realm. Such comics are therefore particularly effective in speaking to political contexts in which racial and ethnic divisions have defined and determined the forms of cultural production. Against the historical boundaries upheld by not just particular political parties but the lingering fears that permeate culture, they level a subtle critique of the largest assemblage of all: the geopolitical unit of the nation state and the residual discourse of domination and subordination it can perpetuate.

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  83

Notes 1 Edward Said, Out of Place: A Memoir (London: Granta Books, 1999), 31–3. 2 Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent (London: Museum Press, 1955), 91. 3 Edward Said, ‘Homage to Sacco,’ in Palestine, by Joe Sacco (London: ­Jonathan Cape, 2003), ii. 4 I am borrowing here from Bart Moore-Gilbert’s definition in Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics, (London: Verso, 1997), 12. The notable exception to the omission of comics in postcolonial criticism is Benita Mehta and Pia Mukherji’s edited collection Postcolonial Comics: Texts, Events, Identities (Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 2015). These collected essays present various, insightful, examples of postcolonial comics, but they do not trouble what postcolonialism in comics might mean beyond acting as a geographical-temporal marker. 5 Bibi Slippers, ‘10 QUESTIONS: Bitterkomix. Anton Kannemeyer and ­Conrad Botes Discuss the 16th Edition of their Irreverent Comic,’ in Aerodrome: Words and People. 21st January, 2015. http://thisisaerodrome. com/10-questions-bitterkomix/ [accessed 7th April, 2016]. 6 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Postscript: For a Corporatism of the Universal,’ in The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, trans. Susan Emanuel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), 340; and Rebecca L. Stein and Ted Swedenburg, ‘Introduction: Popular Culture, Transnationality, and Radical History,’ in Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture, eds. Rebecca L. Stein and Ted Swedenburg (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005), 1. 7 Graham Huggan, Marketing the Margins: The Postcolonial Exotic (­London: Routledge, 2001). 8 Benita Mehta and Pia Mukherji, ‘Introduction’ in Postcolonial Comics: Texts, Events, Identities, eds. Benita Metha and Pia Mukherji (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2015), 2. 9 Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’ in Illuminations, by Walter, ed. Hannah Arendt and trans. Harry Zorn (London: Pimlico, 1999). 10 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “The Popular,”’ in People’s History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (London, Boston and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), 221. 11 Lawrence Rodman, ‘MAD’s Guest Writers,’ in Comic Books and the Cold War 1946–1962: Essays on the Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social Concerns, eds. Chris York and Rafiel York (Jefferson and London: McFarland and Co., 2012), 170. 12 RAW was in fact particularly attuned to a South African audience as it published activist South African art in one off ‘one shot’ issues, such as Sue Coe and Holly Metz disturbing graphic How to Commit Suicide in South Africa (1983). 13 Jonah Weiland, ‘Talking with Amitai Sandy about Israeli Comics and Dimona Comix Group,’ in Comic Book Resources, 28th April, 2005. www. comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=4948 [accessed 4th November, 2015]. 14 Jonah Weiland, ‘Talking with Amitai Sandy.’ 15 Alon Raab and Eli Eshed, ‘With a Star of David He Swings: Tarzan in the Holy Land’ in Global Perspectives on Tarzan: From King of the Jungle to International Icon, eds. Annette Wannamaker and Michelle Ann Abate (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), 128.

84  Charlotta Salmi 16 Dafna Pleban, ‘Investigating the Clear Line Style,’ The Comic Foundry, 7th November, 2006. http://comicfoundry.com/?p=1526 [accessed 4th ­November, 2015]. 17 Danie Marais, ‘Postscript,’ in Pappa in Afrika, by Anton Kannemeyer (Cape Town: Jacana, 2010), 94. 18 ‘Rutu Modan: Illustrator,’ Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. www. icexcellence.com.html [accessed 4th November, 2015]. 19 Ariel Kahn, ‘From Darkness into Light: Reframing Notions of Self and Other in Contemporary Israeli Graphic Narratives,’ in The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, eds. Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 210–1. 20 Jason Dittmer, ‘Geopolitical Assemblages and Complexity,’ Progress in ­Human Geography 3 (2014), 387. 21 Jason Dittmer, ‘Geopolitical,’ 387. 22 ‘Arab Israeli’ is used here to refer both to the Sephardim – Israeli Jews originating from Middle Eastern states – and to non-Jewish Arabs (of Palestinian or other Arab descent) living in the Israeli state. 23 Anne McClintock, ‘“No Longer in a Future Heaven”: Gender, Race, and Nationalism,’ in Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, eds. Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 90. 24 Nadine Gordimer, ‘Living in the Interregnum,’ in The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics and Places, ed. Stephen Clingman (London: Penguin, 1988), 263. 25 Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Volume 1, ed. Joseph A. Buttiegieg, trans. Joseph A. Buttiegieg and Antonio Callari (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992). 26 Rebecca L. Stein and Ted Swedenburg, ‘Introduction,’ 7. 27 Anton Kannemeyer’s strip ‘1974’ was later reproduced in The Best of Bitterkomix Volume 2 in 2002. 28 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, preface by Jean-Paul Sartre, trans. Constance Weidenfeld (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1963), 39. 29 Rita Barnard, ‘Bitterkomix: Notes from the Post-Apartheid Underground,’ in The Big Bad Bitterkomix Handbook, eds. Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2006), 144. 30 Rutu Modan, ‘Jamilti,’ in Jamilti and Other Stories (London: Jonathan Cape, 2009), 10. 31 Rutu Modan, ‘Jamilti,’ 17. 32 ‘Rutu Modan: Illustrator,’ Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. www. icexcellence.com.html [accessed 4th November, 2015]. 33 Jacqueline Rose, ‘Deadly Embrace,’ London Review of Books 26.4 (4th November 2004). www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n21/jacqueline-rose/deadlyembrace [accessed 10th November, 2015]. 34 On the 7th January, 2015, Islamists attacked the editorial staff of the French satirical magazine, killing 11. In the media debates that followed the attack, the nature and appropriateness of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cultural representations were much discussed. Charlie Hebdo started life as ­Hara-Kiri, a provocative review-style magazine published in the 1960s, which was banned in 1970 after its depiction of Charles de Gaulle’s death. 35 Robert J.C. Young, ‘Terror Effects,’ in Terror and the Postcolonial, eds. Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 308, 314. 36 Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art,’ 234–5.

Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production  85 37 Robert J. C. Young, ‘Terror Effects,’ 315. 38 Andy Mason, What’s So Funny? Under the Skin of South African Cartooning (Claremont: Double Storey, 2010), 140–1. 39 In this celebratory anthology, extracts focus on ephemera – notebooks, posters, gallery art – instead of compiling the strips that dominate their output and their popularity. 40 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Postscript,’ 342. 41 Ibid. 42 Ariel Kahn, ‘From Darkness into Light,’ 198. 43 Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 14. 4 4 Rita Barnard, ‘Bitterkomix,’ 147; Mason, ‘What’s So Funny?’ 137.

Bibliography Actus Comics. How to Love, translated by Ishai Mishroy. Tel-Aviv: Actus Independent Comics, 2007. Barnard, Rita. ‘Bitterkomix: Notes from the Post-Apartheid Underground.’ In The Big Bad Bitterkomix Handbook, edited by Anton Kannemeyer and ­Conrad Botes, 142–55. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2006. Benjamin, Walter. ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’ In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zorn, 210–44. London: Pimlico, 1999. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, translated by Susan Emanuel. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992. Dittmer, Jason. ‘Geopolitical Assemblages and Complexity.’ Progress in Human Geography 3 (2014): 385–401. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Preface by Jean-Paul Sartre and translated by Constance Weidenfeld. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1963. Gordimer, Nadine. ‘Living in the Interregnum.’ In The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics and Places, edited by Stephen Clingman, 261–84. London: Penguin, 1988. Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks, Volume 1, edited and introduced by Joseph A. Buttiegieg, translated by Joseph A. Buttiegieg and Antonio Callari. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Hall, Stuart. ‘Notes on Deconstructing “The Popular.” In People’s History and Socialist Theory, edited by Raphael Samuel, 227–40. London, Boston and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981. Huggan, Graham. Marketing the Margins: The Postcolonial Exotic. London: Routledge, 2001. Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. ‘Rutu Modan: Illustrator.’ Accessed 4th November 2015. www.icexcellence.com.html. Kahn, Ariel. ‘From Darkness into Light: Reframing Notions of Self and Other in Contemporary Israeli Graphic Narratives.’ In The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, edited by Samantha Baskind and Ranen ­Omer-Sherman, 191–213. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 2010. Keret, Etgar and Actus. Jetlag, translated by Dan Ofri. Tel Aviv: Actus Tragicus, 1998. Marais, Danie. ‘Postscript.’ In Pappa in Afrika, edited by Anton Kannemeyer, 90–5. Cape Town: Jacana, 2010.

86  Charlotta Salmi Mason, Andy. What’s So Funny? Under the Skin of South African Cartooning. Claremont: Double Storey, 2010. Mbembe, Achille. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. McClintock, Anne. ‘“No Longer in a Future Heaven”: Gender, Race, and ­Nationalism.’ In Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, edited by Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat, 89–112. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. McDonald, Peter D. The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Mehta, Benita and Pia Mukherji, eds. Postcolonial Comics: Texts, Events, Identities. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2015. Menu, Jean-Christophe, Lewis Trondheim, Edmond Baudoin, Andreas, ­Jean-Claude Denis, Frédéruc Boilet, Manu Larcenet, Chris Ware, and Pablo Sapia, eds. Comix 2000. Paris: L’Association, 1999. Modan, Rutu. Jamilti and Other Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 2009. Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics. ­London: Verso, 1997. Pleban, Dafna. ‘Investigating the Clear Line Style.’ The Comic Foundry, 7th November 2006. Accessed 4th November 2015. http://comicfoundry. com/?p=1526. Raab, Alon and Eli Eshed. ‘With a Star of David He Swings: Tarzan in the Holy Land.’ In Global Perspectives on Tarzan: From King of the Jungle to International Icon, edited by Annette Wannamaker and Michelle Ann Abate, 123–47. New York and London: Routledge, 2012. Rodman, Lawrence. ‘MAD’s Guest Writers.’ In Comic Books and the Cold War 1946–1962: Essays on the Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social Concerns, edited by Chris York and Rafiel York, 169–78. Jefferson and London: McFarland and Co., 2012. Rose, Jacqueline. ‘Deadly Embrace.’ London Review of Books 26.4 (4th November 2004). Accessed 10th November 2015. www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n21/ jacqueline-rose/deadly-embrace. Said, Edward. Out of Place: A Memoir. London: Granta Books, 1999. ———. ‘Homage to Sacco.’ In Palestine, by Joe Sacco. London: Jonathan Cape, 2003, i–v. Slippers, Bibi. ‘10 QUESTIONS: Bitterkomix. Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes Discuss the 16th Edition of their Irreverent Comic.’ Aerodrome: Words and People. 21st January 2015. Accessed 7th April 2016. http://thisisaerodrome. com/10-questions-bitterkomix/. Stein, Rebecca L. and Ted Swedenburg, eds. Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005. Weiland, Jonah. ‘Talking with Amitai Sandy about Israeli Comics and Dimona Comix Group.’ Comic Book Resources, 28th April, 2005. Accessed 4th November, 2015. www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=4948. Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. London: Museum Press, 1955. Young, Robert J.C. ‘Terror Effects.’ In Terror and the Postcolonial, edited by Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton, 307–28. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Part II

The Middlebrow

4 Murder in Mesopotamia Agatha Christie’s Life and Work in the Middle East Nadia Atia

On 9th April 2003, the world’s news cameras relayed images of smiling Allied troops standing by as jubilant Iraqi crowds pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad.1 What is perhaps less well remembered now, though it briefly outraged the world, is that between 8th and 16th April, as Saddam Hussein fell from power, the Iraq Museum’s priceless artefacts, a unique collection of Mesopotamian archaeological treasures, left entirely unguarded by Allied troops, were looted. 2 As Lawrence Rothfield has noted, this is particularly ironic, given that during the first Gulf War: [E]ven Saddam, on the first day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had posted guards in front of the Kuwait National Museum to prevent looting. Yet somehow the United States and its allies had failed to take similar steps.3 The Iraq Museum in Baghdad reopened in February 2015, despite continued fears for the safety of its collections. Showing more foresight than their would-be liberators, the museum’s staff had hidden almost 8,000 of its most precious items, and it is estimated that around a third of the 15,000 artefacts stolen have now been recovered.4 However, these terrible losses now seem to pale in comparison to contemporary threats to Iraqi archaeological sites. The British Broadcasting Corporation (hereafter BBC) reported that the museum’s reopening had been brought forward in response to the destruction being wrought in northern Iraq by so-called ‘Islamic State,’ or IS, militants, who – viewing the ancient ruins of Nineveh and Nimrud as idolatrous – are destroying irreplaceable Iraqi archaeological sites under their control. 5 As I write, the world stands aghast once again as a different threat is left unchecked, one that is destroying people’s lives in northern Iraq and Syria, using abduction and beheading as weapons of war, reintroducing slave markets where Yazidi girls (let us not call them women as the youngest are of primary school age) are reportedly bought and sold as incentives for a growing number of fighters. And yet it is the ruins of the ancient world that these men find offensive. Palmyra, a UNESCO

90  Nadia Atia protected site of world heritage in Syria, was deemed so blasphemous that IS militants are reported to have blown up the ruins of its ancient temple of Baalshamin. Human tragedy and cultural tragedy were brought together with horrific poignancy in August 2015, when images of the mutilated body of 81-year-old Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad were released by IS supporters. The archaeologist is believed to have been murdered because he refused to give up the whereabouts of Palmyra’s treasures, hidden by archaeologists to prevent their looting, destruction and sale for IS profit. Archaeology, it seems, has never been so dangerous or so violent. In Agatha Christie’s Iraqi novels – often dismissed as predictable, easy, middlebrow genre writing – archaeology and violence are also often twinned. The violence of Christie’s murder mysteries, I will argue, makes manifest what is often obscured in our reading of such texts: it points us to the link between the very existence of the archaeological dig and its practices, and the imperial setting on which it is dependent. It was archaeology – the sites that the twenty-first century has seen destroyed by war, occupation or looting – that drew Agatha Christie to the Middle East in 1928. Recovering from a traumatic divorce from her first husband, Archie, Christie installed her only daughter Rosalind in boarding school, and then travelled to the Middle East. Famously, she took the Orient Express to Istanbul and travelled to Baghdad from Haidar Pasha station. When she arrived in Iraq she found a well-established, ex-patriot British community in Baghdad and its environs. Christie was wary of becoming ‘caught up in the social life of the English colony.’6 Keen to escape what she dismissively called the ‘memsahibs’ of English Baghdadi society, she travelled to Ur, where the eminent archaeologist Leonard Woolley was excavating the site known as Ur of the Chaldees in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Christie became friendly with the normally aloof Katherine Woolley, who was a fan of Christie’s crime writing, and was invited to return and stay with the couple in 1930. It was on that visit that she got to know Woolley’s assistant, Max Mallowan. ­Mallowan proposed several months later at Christie’s home in Devon, and the couple was married in September that year. Their loving and happy marriage lasted until Christie’s death in 1976. The young assistant whom Christie had married went on to have a long and prestigious career in Middle Eastern archaeology. Mallowan spent only one season in the Middle East without her: following his last season with the Woolleys, she spent at least six months of every year with him in Iraq, and later in Syria, for decades to come. The couple also owned a house in Baghdad and settled there while Mallowan ran the British School of Archaeology for a few years after the Second World War. Christie became extremely knowledgeable about Iraq, its people and its history. She was a hands-on companion, who played important, under-acknowledged roles on Mallowan’s digs. Christie supervised workmen, cared for their finds and became skilled at photographing

Murder in Mesopotamia  91 archaeological artefacts. Her interest in, and knowledge of, the archaeology of the region is evident in her writing but rarely recognised in the popular mythology surrounding her life. Moreover, as I’ll go on to argue, her love for the region, its peoples and its culture is clear in her autobiography (1978) and in the memoir she wrote of her time in the Middle East, Come, Tell Me How You Live (1944). These texts are a far cry from the hackneyed stereotypes that her novels reproduce of Middle Eastern life. It is this gap between fictional representation of the Middle East and the recollections contained in her life writing that this essay explores. Christie wrote three novels set in Iraq: Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), They Came to Baghdad (1951) and Absent in the Spring (1944), the last under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. An examination of just one of these ‘Iraqi novels’ illustrates how widely they continue to proliferate, continually being reinvented and reaching new audiences. Murder in Mesopotamia was published in both Britain and the United States in 1936. In 2001, the British commercial television network, ITV, adapted the text for television. This adaptation, starring David Suchet, differs in many significant ways from the novel and can be analysed independently as a popular form, as I will go on to discuss. Murder in Mesopotamia has subsequently been turned into a graphic novel by François Rivière, which was first published in France in 2005 and in 2008 in Britain. The novel was also adapted for radio in 2007; the dramatisation has since been aired five times in the United Kingdom.7 This novel, set in a fictional archaeological dig in Iraq in 1931, has therefore reached an extraordinarily wide range of audiences. In addition to this varied proliferation of her work, Christie remains one of the bestselling authors of all time.8 Her novels have been translated into hundreds of languages, including Arabic. Her stories, in a number of formats, have reached vast numbers of people. And yet, as Cora Kaplan argues, Christie’s work, like that of her fellow ‘Queens of Crime’ Ngaio Marsh (1895–1982), Margery Allingham (1904–66) and Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957), remains surprisingly under-critiqued, languishing on the periphery of serious academic scrutiny. As Kaplan explains, ‘[e]ven amongst feminist critics an unacknowledged cordon sanitaire has been drawn to separate these writers from their more “literary” sisters.’9 Alison Light reflects in her important study Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism Between the Wars that ‘[t]here is something about Agatha Christie […] which seems to mark her out for an especially cold shoulder and the particularly gratuitous insult.’10 Christie’s Iraqi novels evoke the colonial community she distanced herself from upon her arrival in Iraq in 1928. In Murder in Mesopotamia, the main narrator is a nurse, Amy Leatheran, who finds herself in Iraq caring for a young mother and her infant in the British community in Baghdad. We get a sense of an established colonial world

92  Nadia Atia whose manners and customs are reminiscent of the British Raj. This is unsurprising, given Mesopotamia’s historical significance to Britain as the land route to India, the importance of the Government of India to the Mesopotamian campaign and the role played by its officers in the establishment of the Iraqi state. Leatheran herself echoes the sentiments of British travellers to Baghdad from the turn of the century on: I must say it’s been nice to see a bit of the world – though England for me every time, thank you. The dirt and the mess in Baghdad you wouldn’t believe – and not romantic at all like you’d think from the Arabian Nights! Of course, it’s pretty just on the river, but the town itself is just awful – and no proper shops at all. M ­ ajor Kelsey took me through the bazaars, and of course there’s no denying they’re quaint – but just a lot of rubbish and hammering away at copper pans till they make your head ache – and not what I’d like to use myself unless I was sure about the cleaning [Christie’s emphasis].11 Here, Leatheran, who, as many critics have pointed out, serves an important function as the reliable, quintessential English voice in the novel, reiterates well-established critiques of Baghdad.12 She has enjoyed the adventure of Eastern travel, but it pales in comparison to English life. The city, relegated in Leatheran’s analysis to a ‘town,’ is dirty, messy, loud, at best ‘quaint’ and shorn of its romantic associations, here represented by the well-known Arabian Nights stories. Leatheran’s parroting of such critiques and associations is an important part of her Englishness, which itself is a crucial aspect of her function as a reliable narrator in Christie’s text. This description of Baghdad is echoed in the thoughts of the heroine of Christie’s post-war spy novel, They Came to Baghdad. Victoria Jones arrives in Baghdad a penniless and naïve traveller. Once again, the ­narrative is situated in and emphasises the norms of the established ex-patriot community. In this Cold War thriller, Jones arrives in Baghdad by plane, marking a shift into a modern relationship between Baghdad and London. Her associations with Baghdad remain familiar, however. She is drawn to the dig being conducted by ‘Dr Pauncefoot Jones, the well-known archaeologist,’ and, noting the fact that the film The Thief of Baghdad was showing at the local cinema, she becomes interested in ‘a new biography of Haroun el Rashid, Caliph of Baghdad.’13 The world had changed a great deal, but the vision of Baghdad in the English imagination, Christie’s novel suggests, remained almost exactly the same: archaeological digs and the Abbasid Caliph most associated with the Arabian Nights stories continue to be prominent signifiers. Like Amy Leatheran and countless travelogues before her, Christie’s heroine responds to modern Baghdad with disappointment:

Murder in Mesopotamia  93 Baghdad was entirely unlike her idea of it. A crowded main thoroughfare thronged with people, cars hooting violently, people shouting, European goods for sale in the shop windows, hearty spitting all round her with prodigious throat clearing as a preliminary. No mysterious Eastern figures, most of the people wore tattered or shabby Western clothes, old Army and Air Force tunics, the occasional shuffling black-robed and veiled figures were almost inconspicuous among the hybrid European styles of dress. Whining beggars came up to her – women with dirty babies in their arms. The pavement under her feet was uneven with occasional gaping holes.14 The sparkling minarets of the East, the romance of Harun al Rashid’s capital city, is nowhere to be found in the modern city Victoria finds. Eastern mystique has been replaced with noise, dirt and – most alarmingly, perhaps – the spread of Western clothing and Western wares but not Western manners or prosperity. Modernisation, signified by ­pseudo-Western clothing and European products, seems all the more incongruous when placed alongside the poor beggar women, the veiled figures and the offensive spitting and throat clearing. The real Baghdad is a pale and disappointing version of itself in Victoria’s imagination. In both narratives, therefore, the city signifies accepted and familiar colonial tropes in the British imagination, unaltered by the passing of time. Absent in the Spring evokes a slightly different but nevertheless familiar narrative of the East: the journey of self-discovery that desert travel enables, perhaps most famously evoked by T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922) or – more familiar to Christie’s readers perhaps – E.M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919).15 The novel tells the story of a Joan Scudamore, a respectable, middle-class, middle-aged English woman stuck in northern Iraq, awaiting a connecting train that will take her to ‘Stanboul’ and then, eventually, to London. Joan Scudamore is returning to London after a visit to her daughter, Barbara, who has been ill following the birth of her first child in Baghdad. Very little actually takes place in the novel, which centres on Joan Scudamore’s internal reverie. Her thoughts and memories are located in Crayminster, where she was born, raised, married and continues to live. She is presented to the reader as a proudly quintessential, untravelled, ordinary English housewife. However, this reluctant and most unlikely of desert adventurers is thrown into introspection by a chance meeting with an old school friend on the first leg of her journey. Once alone with ‘the Indian’ (the anonymous owner of the rest house Joan Scudamore is stuck in) and his ‘Arab boy,’ Joan sees her own life in a new light. In a classic evocation of the effects of the desert, Joan Scudamore experiences a mirage, a momentary distortion of her vision, which serves as a revelatory moment. She reflects that ‘this unspectacular watery effect was queer – it made one feel – what was ­reality? Mirage, she thought, mirage. The word seemed important.’16

94  Nadia Atia The mirage she experiences is distinctly lacking in palm trees and oases, but what she describes as the ‘watery effect’ enables her – in a moment of uncharacteristic insight – to see her life through fresh eyes. As a result, she realises that her husband’s relationship with Mrs Leslie Sherston was never a figment of her imagination but the most important thing in his life. She sees clearly for the first time that each of her children dislikes and resents her, and that her seemingly happy and contented life is a farce. In typical fashion, the mirage reveals the truth that has been right before Joan Scudamore’s eyes but which only the mysteries of the desert have enabled her to see. In each of these texts, the racial and imperial discourses of the novel are predictable. When they feature at all, Joan Scudamore refers to anonymous men of colour around her as ‘Orientals,’ grouping Indians and Arabs under the familiar term with its ready associations. In all these novels, Iraqi characters are at best peripheral; most often they serve – much like the desert and the iconic cities of the East – as a mere exotic backdrop for what is in essence a novel about a group of Western characters (in this case American, British and French), who could in fact be anywhere. In Christie’s Iraqi novels, Iraqis embody the stereotypical traits of the East. They are fatalistic; in the words of one of the Britons in They Came to Baghdad, ‘Iraqis are forever laying the responsibility upon the Almighty.’17 One of the protagonists, Carmichael – a liminal figure who passes as an Arab but who is in reality a legendary British spy, reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic spy, Kim, in his mastery of languages18 – longs for the freedom he associates with fatalistic abandon: [T]o be a man of East and not of Western blood. Not to worry over the chances of success or failure, not to calculate again and again the hazards, repeatedly asking if he had planned wisely and with forethought. To throw responsibility on the All Merciful, the All Wise. Inshallah, I shall succeed!19 In these texts, Arabs are always backward, loud and have a natural tendency towards mendacity and theft, which can be countered if they are compensated by extra ‘backsheesh,’ or tips for their finds. Iraqis are most often featured as servants, referred to as ‘boys,’ who attend to the needs of British and other Western characters, while Arab women are rarely mentioned. Christie’s choice of the ancient Greek name for the land between rivers, Mesopotamia, as a title for Murder in Mesopotamia is also significant, given the period during which she was writing. Mesopotamia had a pleasing alliteration and was, it might be argued, the obvious name for a novel dedicated to ‘many archaeological friends in Iraq and Syria.’20 Nevertheless, Anglo-Iraqi relations were turbulent as King Faisal I of Iraq struggled to balance his own demands for power in the 1920s, the

Murder in Mesopotamia  95 growing demands of Iraqi nationalists and his reliance on British air power in particular to police Iraq. 21 Christie was well aware of these tensions, not least because in 1935 (under Faisal I’s successor, Ghazi I) a new antiquities law, widely seen by archaeologists as a symptom of over-burgeoning nationalism, preventing the export of Iraqi antiquities, drove many Western archaeologists, including Max Mallowan, out of Iraq and into neighbouring Syria. Mallowan’s memoirs bitterly recall his last dig before the introduction of this law and the fact that ‘[w]hen we asked for our signed share of the division to be allocated to us there was a hitch and we suffered an unwarrantable delay of no less than five months until finally the permit was issued.’22 Christie was, therefore, aware of the changing tide of Iraqi politics. To use the ancient name Mesopotamia would have evoked a number of things for a contemporary British audience. Perhaps foremost for contemporaries, Mesopotamia was the site of the horrors of the ­Mesopotamian campaign, still fresh in the minds of those who had lived through the First World War. More recently still, it evoked debates in the contemporary press about whether or not it was economically viable to accept the mandate in Mesopotamia. However, Mesopotamia’s historical ­significance as the land route to India (famous from travelogues for centuries), its reputation as the seat of ancient Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, its importance as a Biblical land rumoured to have been the home of the Garden of Eden itself and – of course – its reputation as the very cradle of civilisation continued to resonate, as we have seen. To use the name Mesopotamia was to define modern Iraq by its ancient history, to locate it within a Hellenic tradition familiar in the West. In many ways, therefore, Christie’s ‘Iraqi novels’ evoke a familiar image of Iraq and Iraqis, rooted in an imperial tradition of Anglo-Iraqi relations. Christie and Mallowan spent much of their lives on digs in and around northern Iraq. After a year at Ur with the Woolleys, the couple went to Nineveh to work with another eminent archaeologist, Reginald ­Campbell Thompson. They spent years with ‘CT,’ as they called him, and his wife, Barbara, at one of the most famous archaeological sites in Iraq: Nineveh, first excavated and made famous by Austen Henry Layard in the nineteenth century. The couple then settled in Arpachiyah, a few miles north of Nineveh, in northern Iraq where Mallowan embarked on a groundbreaking new project. It is clear from Christie’s memoirs that she and her husband were an important part of the community there, employing around 200 men. For their final evening in the town, Christie and Mallowan organised a race, which – read generously – was meant as a warm farewell to people whom they wished to thank. Christie’s description of this race reveals her patronising attitude towards their workers as grown men were made to race one another for prizes that included eggs, chickens and a goat for slaughter. Her condescension is clear in her description of ‘the grave, older men [who] questioned

96  Nadia Atia whether they might not lose dignity by competing in such an event.’23 As Christie explains tongue-in-cheek, ‘[d]ignity was always very important. To compete with younger men, possibly beardless boys, was not the sort of thing that a dignified man, a man of substance, ought to do.’24 I would not wish to suggest that Christie’s relationship with the people around her is unproblematic by modern-day standards. However, uncomfortable as this is for a modern reader, there is no denying that Christie recalls with affection the ‘immense rejoicing’ of their final evening. Perhaps most telling is her description of their farewell to the town: ‘[w]e departed to cries of good will: ‘“God bless you!”, “You will come again”, “God is very merciful’ and so on.”’25 And while the problematic racial hierarchies she reproduces are self-evident, recollections such as these remain quite far from the two-dimensional caricatures that evoke the people of the Middle East in her novels, revealing a more complex relationship with the Middle East and its inhabitants than a simple reading of her fiction might suggest. Christie’s later memoir, Come, Tell Me How You Live, presents a starkly different vision of the people of Iraq and Syria. Her affection for them and for the life that she and Max enjoyed in the Middle East is undisguised. In this text, Christie offers a humorous and affectionate account of their Iraqi and Syrian colleagues and friends, which departs in a number of important ways from the stereotypes offered in her novels. As discussed, after 1934 Max Mallowan was reluctant to continue to dig in Iraq, worried that he would not receive the half of the dig’s finds that he felt was due to the expedition and its sponsors, including the British ­Museum. Come, Tell Me How You Live is therefore about three of the years that she and Max spent in northern Syria in an area on the border with Iraq and Turkey. Though they had relocated, many of their staff continued to be Iraqi men whom Mallowan and Christie liked and trusted from their previous digs. They also took on many Syrian staff. Christie describes the arrival of their trusted foreman, Hamoudi (an Iraqi Arab) and his sons in the following terms: An early awakening. At five a.m. our bedroom door opens, and a voice announces in Arabic ‘Your foremen have come!’ Hamoudi and his two sons surge into the room with the eager charm that distinguished them, seizing our hands, pressing them against their foreheads. ‘Shlon kefec?’ (How is your comfort?) ‘Kullish zen.’ (Very well.) ‘El hamdu lillah! El hamdu lillah!’) (We all praise God together!) […] Tea dispels the mists of sleep, and Hamoudi addresses various remarks to me, which Max translates, as also my replies. All three of them beam with happiness, and I realize anew what very delightful people they are. 26

Murder in Mesopotamia  97 In this warm description of the rather inconvenient arrival of Hamoudi and his family, the people described do not simply conform to norms expected by readers: they have distinguishing features beyond their race. Unlike the anonymous Arab boys of the novels, these men have names and individual characteristics, which she continues to describe throughout the stories that follow. As Christie’s memoir continues, each of the servants and workers acquires a background, a life and particular personality traits. Come, Tell Me How You Live does not depart entirely from racial stereotypes – these continue to proliferate in Christie’s descriptions. One of the most persistent is the idea of the ‘Oriental mind,’ most associated with Lord Cromer’s description of ‘the Oriental’ in his well-known imperial text ‘The Government of Subject Races’ (1908). 27 Christie reflects, for example, Accustomed as we are to our Western ideas of the importance of life, it is difficult to adjust our thoughts to a different scale of values. And yet to the Oriental mind it is simple enough. Death is bound to come – it is as inevitable as birth; whether it comes early or late is entirely at the will of Allah. 28 Here and elsewhere the text relies on the so-called ‘truths’ of racial difference. They are ingrained in Christie’s descriptions as ways to understand the world. Her reliance on the important imperial concept of the Oriental mind, which presumes a knowledge, and ability to predict the behaviour, of peoples considered ‘Oriental,’ is simply reproduced and accepted, unchallenged. Similarly, racial stereotypes of superstitious and lazy Orientals, tight-fisted Armenians and profligate Arabs are readily reproduced in Christie’s memoir. However, in its attention to detail and sympathetic tone, her text also complicates the very categories it partially relies upon. Christie recalls one of their drivers, an Armenian called Aristide, who tells her his life story ‘in his gentle, happy voice, with his quiet, cheerful smile’: [A] little boy of seven, who with his family and other Armenian families was thrown by the Turks alive into a deep pit. Tar was poured on them and set alight. His father and mother and two brothers and sisters were all burnt alive. But he, who was below them all, was still alive when the Turks left, and he was found later by some of the Anaizah Arabs. They took the little boy with them and adopted him into the Anaizah tribe. He was brought up as an Arab […] But when he was eighteen he went into Mosul, and there demanded that papers be given him to show his nationality. He was an Armenian, not an Arab! Yet the blood brotherhood still holds, and to members of the Anaizah he still is one of them. 29

98  Nadia Atia This story, which seems to describe the ethnic cleansing of Armenian families from Ottoman provinces during the First World War, written during and published just after the horrific genocide of the Second World War, would have been especially poignant to Christie’s readers and perhaps to Christie herself. However, beyond the outrage the story evokes, it is also striking as one of several examples in the text where the accepted discourses of race and ethnicity are challenged. Aristide, adopted by Bedouin Arabs, grows up to be a man who wishes to reclaim an ethnic identity as an Armenian denied to him by the actions of Ottoman soldiers. However, the story is also testimony to the human kindness of the Anaizah tribe, who rescued and adopted the little boy as one of their own, and who – even after he has reclaimed his Armenian ethnic heritage – continue to view him as a member of their family. The story therefore also subtly undermines the assumption, often repeated by Christie in both memoirs and fiction, that Orientals do not value life in the same way as Europeans. This story humanises Aristide and presents him as a man with a life story as opposed to an Oriental – a type of human being. It also demonstrates that the Bedouin, whom Christie tells us live in a community where ‘the value of human life is not accounted as important,’ save the life of an Armenian little boy left for dead by the Turks; an unlikely action for a people who truly place no value on human life.30 Concluding her autobiography, Christie reflected: How good it is to have these friends. Warm-hearted, simple, full of enjoyment of life, and so well able to laugh at everything. […] How much I have loved that part of the world. I love it still and always shall.31 Her affection for Iraq and its peoples is unquestionable here, yet mysteriously lacking in her fictional representations of them. They may be described problematically as ‘simple’ rather often, but they are also described as friends. It may be that the benefit of hindsight, the passing years and changing attitudes to race shaped Christie’s memories in these later texts. In the same way as Christie’s ‘Ten Little Niggers’ came to be called ‘Ten Little Indians’ or ‘And Then There Were None,’ so Christie may have altered her recollections or simply remembered through a refracted cultural lens. While it is possible that changing attitudes may well have enabled, or forced, a different approach to race in these texts, the affection and friendship, demonstrated in so many stories and anecdotes of everyday life seems to suggest a genuinely different relationship to these men and women than this interpretation allows. Moreover, a more detailed analysis of her novels reveals an uneasiness about the racial discourses at the forefront of her fictional work. Alison Light has argued that we should think of Christie as a novelist whose seemingly benign detective stories reflect the anxieties of her

Murder in Mesopotamia  99 era: a response to the bloodshed of the First World War, a ‘literature of convalescence’ in Light’s terms, and – importantly for my purposes – an exploration of anxieties about the changing nature of English society in the interwar years.32 She has persuasively argued that Christie’s novels critique communities no matter what their location, ‘[w]hether in ­Mesopotamia or in St Mary Mead, [in Christie’s novels] society is a society of strangers.’33 Light and others have also noted that Hercule Poirot, the curious Belgian detective, is significantly Other. He is, in Susan Rowland’s words, ‘[n]ot only […] not English, he is most determinedly foreign. An affront to English masculinity.’34 Developing Rowland’s analysis, Phyllis Lassner writes that Christie’s use of ‘an alien to solve a mystery that threatens the cohesiveness of British identity highlights a relationship deeply embedded in Christie’s Oriental plots of the 1930s, that is, between Britain and all those Other nations that constitute its sphere of influence.’35 In her essay on Agatha Christie’s ‘colonial novels’ of the Middle East, Lassner argues that in these texts, Christie cleverly turns the tables on the unsuspecting British reader of the interwar period, using the familiar and comfortable genre of crime fiction to critique British society.36 She writes that Christie uses the ‘inscrutable East’ to throw light on the anxieties of Britons about their own status in the global economy and the shape of Britain’s empire in the interwar years. Building on Light’s work, Lassner has also suggested that we should read the Orientalism in Christie’s novels as an examination of the anxieties surrounding the changing shape of the British Empire in this period: The truth these [Oriental] sites reveal is the overweening imperial confidence that masks concerns about emerging imperial threats. Moving backward and forward in time and between the deployment of individual and collective tyranny, Christie’s archaeological metaphor shows that what is inscrutable is not the Oriental landscape, but the lessons of history that remain opaque to her victims and villains alike. In these murders most modern, what archaeology uncovers is not just the individual will to power and the ebb and flow of empires but Christie’s daring and prescient vision.37 Lassner’s point that these simple narratives belie a complex interrogation of interwar domestic and imperial anxieties is well taken. Lassner and Light make a persuasive case that Christie’s writing needs to be explored beyond its face value and that the imperial values that these texts seem to present hide a multitude of subtle critiques of British society at home and abroad. However, I wonder if, in an attempt to reclaim Christie as an author worthy of serious consideration, we have somehow skipped over the commercial nature of her very popular work and its implications. While it is true that Christie turns the Orientalist gaze back on itself in her Iraqi novels, she also presents an audience with a vision of

100  Nadia Atia a place they think they recognise and reproduces the familiar colonial tropes they expect to see. Her novels echo colonial sentiments within generic forms with formulaic expectations: the spy thriller, the journey of self-discovery and – most importantly – the murder mystery. There is, I would argue, an element of giving the audience a little of what they want. Christie’s novels are a space for the simple recreation of stereotypical colonialist ideas and discourses; the ideas and descriptions her audience expects. To read her novels in isolation, one would never think that this was the same author who knew her Iraqi workers by name, remembering their families and individual traits fondly. Her novels certainly critique the British Iraqi community as Light and Lassner suggest (incidentally, the very people Christie could never stand to associate with), but they do not ask a British or American audience to reconsider their conceptions of Iraq and its people. However, that is not to say that they contain no critique of British, imperialist discourses. Mindful of the commercial and popular nature of her work, ever aware of her audience and its expectations, Christie embedded her critique – like a secondary mystery woven into the fabric of her stories – into the very structure of the stories themselves, using the archaeological setting as a constant reminder of the violence of empire. It is widely acknowledged that the discipline of archaeology has always been controversial; it has been linked with violence, appropriation and colonial power struggles since its inception. The history of archaeology in Iraq is no exception. Christie’s life with Mallowan was therefore steeped in a world in which the seemingly benign and scholarly pursuit of archaeological knowledge was deeply embroiled in a geopolitical power struggle between Iraqi nationalism and British and American imperial and neocolonial power. The Iraq Museum in Baghdad itself was established in the aftermath of the First World War. The museum, then called the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, was the brainchild of a formidable woman: Gertrude Bell. An Arabist, archaeologist, intelligence officer and, later, Oriental Secretary to the British High Commissioner in Iraq, Bell was also the museum’s first Director of Antiquities. It was also Gertrude Bell who enacted the country’s first antiquities law in 1924. Controversially, this law, designed by Bell to safeguard Iraq’s Mesopotamian treasures, theoretically protected unique items but allowed archaeological digs to take 50% of what they found back to their countries of origin.38 For many, this law can be placed in a long history of European appropriation of archaeological artefacts in the Middle East, which begins most conspicuously with Napoleon. The first laws that attempted to protect such finds were passed, but insufficiently enforced, by the Ottomans in the nineteenth century. Lawrence Rothfield argues that Bell’s law was unjustifiable at a time when most countries had equivalent statutes that prevented archaeologists from removing any finds from the country of origin without express

Murder in Mesopotamia  101 permission. Nevertheless, as he concedes, the policy remained in place well after formal independence was granted in 1932 and, though significantly amended in 1935, was not fully changed until the 1970s. 39 It was Bell, whose love of Iraq, its languages, culture, history and cultural heritage led her to establish a museum for the preservation of these antiquities at a time when Iraqi nationalism was not yet invested in them.40 It is perhaps unsurprising that Max Mallowan was exceptionally warm in his praise of Bell, writing in his memoirs that ‘Iraq owes her a debt beyond repayment’ for her work in preserving its archaeological history. He writes that ‘no tigress could have safeguarded Iraq’s rights better.’41 And yet, as many of her more controversial decisions as ­Director illustrate, she was undoubtedly an important and influential cog in a large, imperial machine. The Iraqi School of Archaeology, which Max ­Mallowan headed after the Second World War, was established in ­Baghdad in 1932. This important institution founded with a legacy from Bell and dedicated to her in acknowledgement of her work and legacy in the field, has since trained many Iraqi archaeologists. Christie’s life with Mallowan in Iraq was from its inception to its final post-war years, rooted in a world where the imperial power of the discipline was always at the forefront of their lives. The imperial violence (literal or metaphorical) of these discourses would have been obvious to Christie in a way that it would probably not have been to her readers. Ironically, it is this subtle pairing of the seemingly benign, scholarly pursuit of archaeology and the violence of empire that has been unwittingly distilled and brought into clearer focus in the ways in which Christie’s work has been reimagined in its late twentieth-century manifestations. The television film of Murder in Mesopotamia (screenplay by Clive Exton) opens to a night-time scene.42 The shadowy darkness is accompanied by familiar Oriental music and the eerie sounds of the desert. The camera pans to reveal archaeological remains, very much reminiscent of Layard’s winged bulls, now housed at the British Museum and probably the most famous of the Mesopotamian archaeological artefacts. As the noises of wild animals merge with the Oriental music, a lone Arab, identifiable by his skullcap and dishdasha (long dress-like garment, often worn by Arab men) is shown framed by the rocks of the dig. As the Oriental music becomes more menacing, the Arab, now also clearly identifiable by his skin colour, turns to face an anonymous interlocutor. This man is also framed by the rocks and ruins of the archaeological dig. As the two meet, the audience sees that one is a Westerner, though they speak only Arabic – a Levantine dialect of sorts that does not reflect the Iraqi setting but nevertheless enhances the Orientalisation of the scene to a British audience, unlikely to speak the language. The Westerner is identifiable by his dress: a white linen suit almost as ubiquitous a garment of imperial clothing as the pith helmet and his skin colour, made visible in a close-up of his anxious, white hands. It becomes clear that the white

102  Nadia Atia man is seeking to pay the Arab for something illicit, but – in a r­ eflection ­ riental – the of the predictably mendacious and greedy nature of the O Arab has upped his price since their last meeting. This enrages the anonymous Western character who throttles the Arab to death. As the ­dying man draws his last few breaths, the camera pans up once more to r­ eveal a statue reminiscent of Layard’s winged bulls. The Oriental music fades and the next scene brings daylight and the busy working day at an ­archaeological dig; Arabs mill in keffiehs (traditional checked headdress worn by Arab men) as the opening credits of the film roll. These first scenes – which in no way reflect Christie’s original opening to the novel – juxtapose the archaeological dig with the violence of the murder mystery. Mr. Maitland, a member of the archaeological dig and the first character introduced to us, explains that a strangled Arab was found on the dig as he drives Poirot and Hastings towards the expedition’s compound. Maitland predictably dismisses this first murder as a bit of ‘excitement.’43 This is another departure from the structure and plot of the original novel, which, as has been outlined, is narrated by Amy Leatheran and in which Hastings does not feature at all. In the novel, Poirot himself arrives only later to solve the key murder: that of Mrs Leidner. Incidentally, the murder of the Arab is never resolved in the film. We assume the murderer is the same person, but the Arab’s death is not one, the film suggests, worthy of investigation. As I hope is clear from the key differences in plot and structure (there are many more, but these serve as illustrations), the two forms of the novel are quite different. Yet both share a number of features. They are both easily accessible, popular forms, produced for mass consumption. In each, the audience/ readership is presented with stereotypes of the East, which serve as mere background. Not even the violence of the modern adaptation proves worthy of significant change to the narrative. In each, the Arabs and the location appear at first glance to be incidental. The emphasis remains firmly on the plot of each murder mystery as it unfolds: who wanted to kill Mrs Leidner, and how did they gain access to her room in order to do so? This is the crux of the mystery in each version of Murder in Mesopotamia, regardless of format. Nevertheless, the ITV adaptation has unwittingly highlighted the link – integral to Christie’s writing – between the archaeological dig and the imperial discourses it is dependent upon. In its addition of that extraneous first scene of violence, so clearly associated with the most famous and popular example of archaeological appropriation, Layard’s winged bulls, unceremoniously transported to London in 1851, the television film has made manifest, what is better hidden in Christie’s original text: the link between the very existence of the archaeological dig and its practices, and the imperial setting on which it is dependent. Because each element of Christie’s writing is so exaggerated for television, the associations seem far more obvious than in the novel. In the television

Murder in Mesopotamia  103 adaptation, for example, Poirot’s investigation is hampered by an irritating British officer, who is in charge of the Iraqi policemen. These men, though it would seem difficult to believe, are even more useless than their commanding officer and clearly under the control of the imbecilic police chief. On the one hand, this is a classic staple of the murder mystery, designed to enhance Poirot’s status, an equivalent to which is briefly included in Christie’s original mystery. Given the 1930s setting of the novel, the structure of the Iraqi police suggested by both novel and film is inaccurate, but nevertheless – as Christie would have been well aware – it is a true reflection of the continued reliance of Iraq on Britain. To a much lesser extent this association between violence and archaeology is also embedded in Christie’s 1951 novel, They Came to Baghdad. While this novel’s Cold War background and central plot revolves around espionage, rather than murder, the archaeological dig of the ­absent-minded Dr Pauncefoot Jones is central to the plot. His smart and quietly heroic assistant Richard Baker rescues Victoria Jones not once but twice, and the dig is a setting for espionage not only because Victoria accidentally ends up impersonating a member of the dig staff but also because Baker becomes embroiled in the actions of his Etonian school friend and talented spy, Carmichael. The dig is firmly in the background of the story as it unravels, but it is also key. The violence of the Cold War is subdued and different in tone to that of the interwar years, but it is nevertheless reflected by and situated in the archaeological dig in Christie’s narrative. In neither setting is the archaeological expedition separate, or separable from, the politics and violence of the imperial or neocolonial setting that seems at first glance to be incidental to Christie’s mysteries. Agatha Christie’s writing is seductively simple. Its genres, accessibility and popularity have for too long obscured it from serious critical attention. To read her novels as re-creations of the English house in its golden age, simply transported to more or less exotic locales, would be to miss the complexity and intelligence of her fiction. The popularity of Christie’s writing – its commercial success and mass appeal – played an important role in shaping the ways in which she chose to present the Middle East to her audience. I would neither wish to judge Christie by our contemporary standards nor excuse the ways in which her evident affection for the peoples of the Middle East itself remained essentialised in important respects. But behind the simple façade of the murder mystery, in an echo of the processes of the archaeological dig itself, her narratives seem to yield subtle and sophisticated critiques of Britain at home and abroad. In Christie’s Iraqi novels, there is no tangible trace of the affection she so clearly felt for the region, its peoples or its way of life – but the archaeological setting allowed her to subtly capture the violence and turmoil of an earlier era of Anglo-American nation-building while seemingly maintaining the format and predictable politics of the genres within which she worked.

104  Nadia Atia

Notes 1 My warm thanks to Michèle Barrett, Paul Hamilton and Cora Kaplan, who read early drafts of this essay and offered enormously helpful feedback. 2 Shawn Malley writes that this was ‘especially troubling for the archeological community, because the US Department of Defense was urged by a leading group of archaeologists prior to the war to protect antiquities in the major museums and archaeological sites from looting.’ Shawn Malley, From Archaeology to Spectacle in Victorian Britain: The Case of Assyria, 1845–54 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 20. 3 Lawrence Rothfield, The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum (London: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 2. Magnus T. Bernhardsson points out that ‘[i]t was not only the National Museum that was plundered. The Iraqi National Library and Archives […] and the ­M inistry of Holy Endowments and Religious Affairs […] were set on fire and/or looted during this same period. In addition to these major cultural institutions, universities and other research and cultural centers were also subject to considerable damage.’ Magnus T. Bernhardsson, Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2005), npag. 4 Anon., ‘Looted Iraqi Museum in Baghdad Reopens 12 Years On,’ 28th February, 2015. www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31672857 [accessed 10th September, 2015]; Andrew Lawler, ‘National Museum, Baghdad: 10 Years Later,’ n.d. www.archaeology.org/exclusives/articles/779-­nationalmuseum-baghdad-looting-iraq [accessed 10th September, 2015]. 5 The militant so-called Islamic group is referred to mainly as Daesh in the Middle East. It is also known as ISIL Levant and ISIS. 6 Agatha Christie, Autobiography (London: Fontana, 1978), 375. 7 Murder in Mesopotamia aired on BBC radio in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014. Information from the BBC iplayer website: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ b007jlw5 [accessed 5th July, 2016]. 8 According to Lucy Mangan writing in the Guardian: ‘Around 4bn copies of her more than 100 books and short story collections have been sold since that Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920. Four million copies of her books (in 103 different languages, making her the most translated author in the world) still fly out of shops around the world every year. Some 100,000 people came to see her former Devon home, Greenway, when it opened to the public for the first time last year, after a £5.4m refurbishment. Her play The Mousetrap opened in November, 1952 and is, famously, the longest-running play in history (over 24,000 performances and, at St ­Martin’s Theatre in the West End, still counting). And if you need any further proof of her enduring appeal and international fame, on her 120th birthday recently, the Google logo was changed for the day in tribute.’ Lucy Mangan, ‘Agatha Christie: Getting Away with Murder,’ The Guardian, 1st October, 2010. www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/01/agatha-christiegetting-away-with-murder [accessed 1st August, 2014]. 9 Cora Kaplan, ‘“Queens of Crime”: The “Golden Age” of Crime Fiction,’ in The History of British Women’s Writing, 1920–1945, ed. Maroula Joannou (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), 145. 10 Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars (London: Routledge, 1991), 63–4. Since Light’s 1991 study was first published a number of critics have written influential studies of Christie’s work. See for example: Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s: Class Domesticity, and Bohemianism (Oxford:

Murder in Mesopotamia  105


12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19 20 21

2 2 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Oxford University Press, 2001); Phyllis Lassner, ‘The Mysterious New Empire: Agatha Christie’s Colonial Murders,’ in At Home and Abroad in the Empire: British Women write the 1930s, eds. Robin Hackett, Freda Hauser and Gay Wachman (Newark, NY: University of Delaware Press, 2009), 31–50; Susan Rowland, From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000). Agatha Christie, Murder in Mesopotamia (London: Harper Collins, 2001 [1936]), 13. Emphasis in the original. For more discussion of travel writing on Mesopotamia from the turn of the century into the First World War years see Nadia Atia, World War I in Mesopotamia: The British and the Ottomans in Iraq (London: IB Tauris, 2016) and James Canton, From Cairo to Baghdad: British Travellers to Arabia (London: IB Tauris, 2011). See for example Phyllis Lassner’s discussion of Leatheran in the essay cited earlier. Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad (London: HarperCollins, 2003 [1951]), 49. Agatha Christie, They Came, 136. Though Pillars of Wisdom was first privately published in 1922, and a short print run published in 1926, it did not become widely available in Britain until 1935. See James Canton, From Cairo to Baghdad, 69. E.M. Hull, The Sheik: A Novel (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1919); T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (Oxford: np, 1922). Mary Westmacott, Absent, 176. Agatha Christie, They Came, 22. Rudyard Kipling, Kim (London: Penguin, 2015 [1901]). Agatha Christie, They Came, 62. Agatha Christie, Murder in Mesopotamia, front matter. See Jafna L. Cox, ‘A Splendid Training Ground: The Importance to the Royal Air Force of its Role in Iraq, 1919–32,’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 13 (1985): 157–84; Toby Dodge, Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied (London: Hurst, 2003); and Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (Oxford: ­Oxford ­University Press, 2008). Max Mallowan, Mallowan’s Memoirs: Agatha and the Archaeologist ­(London: HarperCollins, 2001 [1977]), 100. Agatha Christie, Autobiography, 480. Agatha Christie, Autobiography, 480. Agatha Christie, Autobiography, 481. Agatha Christie Mallowan, Come Tell Me How You Live (London: Collins, 1946), 35. Evelyn Baring, Earl of Cromer, ‘The Government of Subject Races’ in Political and Literary Essays 1908–1913 (London: Macmillan, 2010 [1913]), 3–53. Agatha Christie Mallowan, Come Tell Me, 96. Agatha Christie Mallowan, Come Tell Me, 49–50. Agatha Christie Mallowan, Come Tell Me, 96. Agatha Christie, Autobiography, 548–9. Alison Light, Forever England, 64–5. Alison Light, Forever England, 93. Susan Rowland, From Agatha, 64. Phyllis Lassner, ‘The Mysterious New,’ 33. Phyllis Lassner, ‘The Mysterious New,’ 33.

106  Nadia Atia 37 Phyllis Lassner, ‘The Mysterious New,’ 47. 38 There are many examples where this was not the case. See for example, D.  T.  Potts, A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East ­(Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 77, which details Edward Chiera’s excavation and removal of a ‘human-headed, winged bull statue’ in 1929. 39 Lawrence, Rothfield, The Rape, 10–11. 40 Lawrence, Rothfield, The Rape, 9; Magnus T. Bernhardsson writes that ‘[b]y the 1930s, however, the Iraqi political leaders turned to archaeology and ancient history to answer the latter question [‘Who are we?’]. Historical artifacts emerged as a useful and crucial foundation for the nation to build itself a modern present based on a “modern” past,’ Reclaiming a Plundered Past, npag. 41 Agatha Christie Mallowan, Mallowan’s Memoirs, 41. 42 Murder in Mesopotamia. Digital download, dir. Tom Clegg (London: Carnival Film and Television et al. Television Film, 2001). 43 Murder in Mesopotamia, digital download.

Bibliography Anon, ‘Looted Iraqi Museum in Baghdad Reopens 12 Years On.’ BBC, 28th February, 2015. Accessed 10th September 2015. www.bbc.com/news/ world-middle-east-31672857. Atia, Nadia. World War I in Mesopotamia: The British and the Ottomans in Iraq. London: IB Tauris, 2016. Baring, Evelyn, Earl of Cromer. ‘The Government of Subject Races.’ In Political and Literary Essays 1908–1913, 3–53. London: Macmillan, 2010 [1913]. Bernhardsson, Magnus T. Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2005. Canton, James. From Cairo to Baghdad: British Travellers to Arabia. London: IB Tauris, 2011. Christie, Agatha. Autobiography. London: Fontana, 1978. ———. Murder in Mesopotamia. London: Harper Collins, 2001 [1936]. ———. They Came to Baghdad. London: HarperCollins, 2003 [1951]. Christie Mallowan, Agatha, Come Tell Me How You Live. London: Collins, 1946. Cox, Jafna L. ‘A Splendid Training Ground: The Importance to the Royal Air Force of its Role in Iraq, 1919–32.’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 13 (1985): 157–84. Dodge, Toby. Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied. London: Hurst, 2003. Hull, E.M. The Sheik: A Novel. London: Eveleigh Nash, 1919. Humble, Nicola. The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s: Class Domesticity, and Bohemianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Kaplan, Cora. ‘“Queens of Crime”: The “Golden Age” of Crime Fiction.’ In The History of British Women’s Writing, 1920–1945, edited by Maroula Joannou, 144–57. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013. Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. London: Penguin, 2015 [1901]. Lassner, Phyllis. ‘The Mysterious New Empire: Agatha Christie’s Colonial Murders.’ In At Home and Abroad in the Empire: British Women Write the

Murder in Mesopotamia  107 1930s, edited by Robin Hackett, Freda Hauser, and Gay Wachman, 31–50. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2009. Lawler, Andrew. ‘National Museum, Baghdad: 10 Years Later.’ n.d. Accessed 10th September, 2015. www.archaeology.org/exclusives/articles/779-nationalmuseum-baghdad-looting-iraq. Lawrence, T.E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. Oxford: np, 1922. Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars. London: Routledge, 1991. Malley, Shawn. From Archaeology to Spectacle in Victorian Britain: The Case of Assyria. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Mallowan, Max. Mallowan’s Memoirs: Agatha and the Archaeologist. London: HarperCollins, 2001 [1977]. Mangan, Lucy. ‘Agatha Christie: Getting Away with Murder.’ The ­Guardian, 1st October, 2010. Accessed 1st August, 2014. www.theguardian.com/books/ 2010/oct/01/agatha-christie-getting-away-with-murder. Murder in Mesopotamia. Digital Download. Directed by Tom Clegg. London: Carnival Film and Television et al. Television Film, 2001. Potts, D. T. A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient near East. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Rothfield, Lawrence. The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum. London: University of Chicago Press, 2009. Rowland, Susan. From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000. Satia, Priya. Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Westmacott, Mary. Absent in the Spring. London: HarperCollins, 1997 [1944].

5 ‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’ Colin MacInnes’s Critical Adventures in Post-War Multiracial Britain Alice Ferrebe Colin MacInnes has never been exactly popular. Though he did work as a broadcaster for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), much of his journalism appeared in journals with readerships heavily circumscribed by educational opportunity and political affiliation, such as The Twentieth Century, New Left Review and Encounter. Even at the peak of his cultural prominence, his fiction, most notably the so-called ­‘London Trilogy’ (1957–60), was only cultishly read and appreciated. This was despite some determined marketing as purely popular fiction: Ace Book’s reprint of City of Spades, the first novel of the trilogy, bore the tagline ‘The struggles to escape the violence of mean streets’ atop its pulp noir cover.1 Yet MacInnes’s writings have sporadically been recognised as a markedly innovative attempt to document British popular culture after the Second World War. In the brief flurry of (posthumous) media attention that followed the 1983 publication of Tony Gould’s biography, MacInnes was credited with having ‘more or less invented youth culture’: [H]is fleeting authority as a highbrow journalist in the 1950s and 60s was founded on his ready familiarity with the newly visible urban presence, not only of youth gangs, but also of the black immigrants and homosexuals from whom they borrowed much of their style. 2 What status MacInnes’s work has garnered, then, tends to come from the value of its contribution to a discourse of social science. Peter York nominated him ‘the first Pop anthropologist.’3 Yet, as John McLeod points out in Postcolonial London, rather than documentary realism, ‘MacInnes’s novels are much more subjective and artful than is often assumed, and engender an important third dimension unavailable in his non-fiction.’4 This chapter will argue that it is precisely the liminal status of MacInnes’s work, moving as it does between, in McLeod’s term, ‘facticity’ and literary creativity, that allows it to be reread as revealingly participatory, both in contemporaneous debates in anthropology and some current

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  109 tensions in postcolonial thinking.5 Popular anthropology is uneasy territory within a postcolonial critical orthodoxy, reminiscent as it can be of middlebrow, imperialist travellers’ tales: seductive, politically insidious and irreparably sensationalist. Even broadsheet journalism is wary of these wiles; John Ryle criticises MacInnes, the ‘chronicler of exotic cultures,’ for falling ‘into the anthropologist’s error, investing a culture with character and falling in love.’6 In MacInnes’s mid-twentieth-century Britain, a long-sustained cultural moment of popular anthropology was on the wane. Jeremy MacClancy traces the beginning of this interest to the (notorious) success of Bronislaw Malinowski’s efforts to popularise his fieldwork-based form of the discipline in groundbreaking texts such as Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922). These ensured that anthropology became ‘part of the assumed cultural knowledge of educated Britons.’7 Malinowski’s popularity meant that Q.D. Leavis was able to brand her method of investigation in Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) as ‘anthropological’ without fear of misunderstanding by that reading public.8 The social research organisation Mass Observation was formed five years later, in 1937, to assemble an archive of material about everyday life in Britain. Co-founder Tom Harrisson announced the group’s aim as the creation of ‘an anthropology of ourselves.’9 By then, the phrase was domesticated enough to allow him shamelessly to dramatise the project as an exotic adventure, based upon an assumption that ‘the wilds of Lancashire or the mysteries of the East End were as little explored as the cannibal interior of the New Hebrides, or the head-hunter hinterland of Borneo.’10 This adventure was to involve home-grown and trained volunteers in observing and recording their own lives as part of a democratising, potentially radical attempt to popularise the discipline and empower the populace. More orthodox academics strongly disapproved. E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Professor of Social Anthropology at Oxford University, deemed Mass Observation ‘bilge.’11 After the Second World War, when the field of anthropology was more established within the academy, the need to be attractive to a non-academic audience (producing work that was both instantly readable and relevant to contemporary social concerns) was less pressing than it had been for its pioneers. MacClancy notes, [As] the gap between the scholastic and the popular grew ever greater, writing a book for the extra-academic market was no longer a matter of choosing the appropriate literary style but had become a testing exercise in translation from one discourse into another. And most anthropologists were not interested in the job, or not up to it.12 We can understand this academic withdrawal from the popular as part of a wider institutional renegotiation of both ideological and economic influences at the end of Empire. MacInnes, working as he did for the

110  Alice Ferrebe British Council throughout the 1950s, would have been keenly aware of such post-imperial adjustments as well as their potentially violent consequences. In 1955 he was sent on a lecture tour to East and Central Africa, during which he spent seven weeks travelling through Uganda, Kenya (where the Mau-Mau struggle for independence was still in progress, and the black population was subject to curfew), Tanganyika, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Less than a decade later, all of these territories had gained independence from British rule. In the midst of such seismic geopolitical reorganisation, the status of anthropology as a populist, amateur pursuit was under question. In 1949, Harrisson relinquished control of Mass Observation (MO), and thereafter, its research was undertaken increasingly by market research and polling companies. Yet British journalism (both print and broadcast) retained something of MO’s anthropological mission. A regular feature of social commentary in the post-war period is the adoption of an anthropological viewpoint, with a pronounced air of fieldwork discernible in the forays undertaken by journalists into society’s newly emerging habitats. In MacInnes’s City of Spades (1957), Theodora Pace of the BBC commissions items of an exclusively anthropological bent. As well as the research for a ‘colonial programme’ which compels her to follow her neighbour Montgomery Pew into the eponymous immigrant community, she is also working on ‘a projected series of talks to be called, provisionally, “The Misfit and the Body Corporate: a survey of contemporary un-integrated types.”’13 Both Pew (himself beginning a job at the Colonial Office) and Pace commit Ryle’s so-called ‘anthropologist’s error’ and fall in love, he with ‘Spades’ in general and she with Johnny Fortune, newly arrived from Nigeria, in particular (Pew’s predilection for Johnny himself is also suggested as the novel progresses). In his history of British social anthropology, George W. Stocking Jnr has noted how ‘virtually all ethnographic relationships,’ taking place as they inevitably do ‘across barriers of power and ­culture,’ are ‘inherently ambiguous and asymmetrical.’14 Such ­tensions – the influence of the observer, the extent of his or her participation, and the desirable relationship between particular and general in any writing produced – have bedevilled anthropology, both scholarly and popular, since its inception. I want to suggest that MacInnes’s negotiation of racial difference in City of Spades, often problematic from a postcolonial perspective, is best contextualised within the discipline of post-war British anthropology. His work shares the field’s fundamental methodological questions over how best to ‘do’ ethnography ethically on behalf of a widening popular audience and an increasingly multicultural society. In an undated article on Music Hall in the 1950s, MacInnes classified himself as a ‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist bore,’ the category suggesting an allegiance split between fiction and fact.15 The ‘failings’ of MacInnes’s

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  111 fiction have drawn accusations of aestheticisation, middlebrow appropriation, imperial nostalgia and a corruptive desire. In the following sections, I will consider instead their potential as committed and instructive interventions in a wider anthropological debate.

Adventures in Anthropology Susan Sontag famously identified in Claude Levi-Strauss’s professional practice the role of ‘the anthropologist as hero,’ casting him as an adventurer into foreign territory.16 MacInnes’s biographer rewrites this trope within a London setting, portraying his subject as a man on a series of odysseys: ‘Like Orwell […] he “went slumming,” making forays into the nether regions while retaining a base above ground.’17 MacInnes himself, however, assigned an unqualifiedly heroic role elsewhere, claiming in a 1957 radio discussion about immigration that: [T]here’s something heroic about the quality of West Indian immigration here [...] Nowadays, of course, we in the UK still emigrate as well, but one might say that we emigrate to safety: often to an assured job, and with an assisted passage. But the West Indian sets out for the unknown with only his strength and brains and courage.18 Yet the role of post-war immigrant, at least as it was conceived in the newly emergent ‘Commonwealth Literature’ (though this term came later), demanded advanced anthropological skills alongside derring-do. The narrative voices of George Lamming’s The Emigrants (1954), for example, repeatedly emphasised that the British social norms into which West Indians were expected to assimilate were as culturally specific as those of any other tribe. In recognition of this process of cross-racial mutual scrutiny, City of Spades splits its first-person narration between Pew and Fortune, each offering observations on the other’s social tendencies and community. The narrative also regularly incorporates the pronouncements of Sierra Leonean Mr Karl Marx Bo, profound thinker and Pan-Africanist, and MacInnes’s play on Nkrumah, leader of Ghana throughout its liberation, who ‘saw himself quite consciously as an ­A frican Lenin.’19 Bo offers his analysis of a peculiarly English colour bar: ‘Universal politeness, and universal coldness. Few love us, few hate us, but everybody wish we are not here, and shows this to us by the ­correct, stand-away behavior that is your great English secret of ­public action.’20 Following a characteristic practice of blending fact and fiction, MacInnes had already tested Bo’s sketch in journalistic form. In the essay ‘A Short Guide for Jumbles’ (1956) MacInnes claimed of ­A frican and West Indian immigrants that the ‘colour of the English bar, they say, is grey.’21

112  Alice Ferrebe Martin Green has written of what he calls ‘adventure anthropology,’ claiming that ‘to see social types in their colorfulness and contrastiveness, as picturesque castes rather than economic classes, in an aesthetic panorama, is to see them in adventure terms.’22 Rather than being grey, City of Spades is about colour, and offers its readers plenty of heady, sensual representations of unfamiliar territories. This is true, indeed, of the ­London trilogy as a whole throughout its changing points of ­ethnographic focus. Richard Wollheim notes the ‘highly aesthetic […] attitude that M ­ acInnes adopts towards the London scene,’ aligning this technique with the habits of the trilogy’s most fêted inhabitant, the Teenager, who has [R]ejected the conception of the city as a solid three-dimensional environment that shapes and enfolds his life, and instead regards it as a kind of highly coloured backcloth against which he acts out, and upon which he projects, his fantasies. 23 MacInnes’s 1961 account of his own fictional practice pointedly acknowledges this aestheticisation as a necessary facet of the authentic communication of subcultural experience: I would […] describe City of Spades or Absolute Beginners – no doubt flatteringly – as poetic evocations of a human situation, with undertones of social criticism of it: wildly romantic in mood, and as rigorously analytic as I can be, by implication. To convey this to the reader I chose a language for ‘coloured people,’ or for teenagers, that was almost entirely an invented one: though true, so far as I could make it, to the minds and spirits of the characters I was describing. 24 Engaged in capturing the spirit of his characters, then, MacInnes aligns himself with a post-war journalistic zeitgeist identified by Christopher Booker: A mechanically make-believe use of language, indiscriminately transforming the commonplace into a preconceived image of the remarkable, was, particularly in the Observer, the Sunday Times and their respective colour supplements, to become the most distinctive journalistic reflection of the spirit of the age. 25 MacInnes’s invented languages are not, and do not claim to be, an empirically accurate reproduction of authentic cultures. However, his aetheticisations do maintain the ideological function of subcultural style. In Dick Hebdige’s terms, ‘[t]he communication of a significant difference, then (and the parallel communication of a group identity), is the “point” behind the style of all spectacular subcultures.’26 And in so doing, they also reinforce claims of ‘the irreducibly literary nature of ethnography.’27

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  113 If the language of journalistic anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s was characteristically exoticising, we might anticipate a clash with the (social) scientific standards of the Academy. Malinowksi, the Polish-born British anthropologist (and so himself, in Gould’s terms, an ‘Inside Outsider’) died in 1942, yet his influence was still strongly felt in post-war anthropology within the universities. He had written to J.G. Frazer in 1917 that it was ‘through the study of your works mainly I have come to realise the paramount importance of vividness and colour in descriptions of native life.’28 Malinowksi promised his mentor that he would always attempt ‘to give the local colour,’ and his followers emulated him in turn. 29 As Stocking suggests, Malinowski realised that ‘his own experience of the native’s experience must become the reader’s experience as well. And that was a task that scientific analysis yielded up to literary art.’30 In a 1918 letter, Malinowski wrote of his ultimate anthropological ambition: ‘Rivers is the Rider Haggard of anthropology; I shall be the Conrad.’31 His suggested binary – middle/lowbrow Haggard versus high modernist Conrad – perpetuates a well-established popular/high cultural split. As Martin Green claims, ‘[a]dventure is always in some degree aesthetic because it is linked to pleasure and excitement rather than to moral argument.’32 Whilst Haggard was notoriously hedonistic in his evocations of the exotic, Conrad’s concern was political: to harness literature’s empathetic power to bridge experiential gaps between different peoples. The demand to balance ethics and aesthetics is both daunting and uncomfortably familiar to postcolonial artists and critics. McLeod notes a critical strain, exemplified in the work of Graham Huggan, that warns how ‘the postcolonial may well function to repackage and fetishize the seemingly disruptive energies of cultural difference within the familiar and manageable category of the exotic.’33 MacInnes’s ethnographic project is often suspected of a lustful exoticisation that supersedes and undermines its moral intention to advance race relations. Certainly the byways of MacInnes’s London are imbricated with desire. Johnny ­Fortune, afloat on a Thames pleasure cruise with his girlfriend, Muriel, asks, ‘You think our ugly faces are so beautiful?’ to which she replies, ‘Not just your faces – it’s the way you move. When you walk, you walk from the top of your head right down to the very tip of your toes. You step out as if you owned the world.’34 The Captain’s son is similarly entranced by Fortune’s physicality: ‘“You coloured boys,” he said, “are wonderful fighters. You’re the tops.” The blue eyes in his pimply face gazed at Johnny’s own with rapture.’35 After Pew’s first meeting in his capacity as Welfare Officer at the Colonial Office, he longingly watches Fortune’s progress along the street: In the sunlight, his nylon shirt shone all the whiter against the smooth brown of his skin […]. His buttocks sprang optimistically

114  Alice Ferrebe high up from the small of his back, and his long legs – a little bandy and with something of a backward curve – were supported by two very effective splayed-out feet. 36 ‘I think I’m in danger,’ Pew tells Theodora, ‘of becoming what Americans call a nigger-lover.’ ‘“Negro-worshipper” is the polite phrase, I believe,’ she swiftly rejoins, well-versed in BBC terminology.37 Still more polite, or rarefied, a phrase is ‘nostalgie de la boue,’ and Theodora ­accuses Pew of this later in the novel: ‘it’s the crude animal type that attracts you most of all.’38 Theodora’s dedicated self-schooling in such matters may well have included the cautionary tale of patrons of the Harlem Renaissance like Carl Van Vechten, author of the intensely nostalgic and incendiary novel Nigger Heaven (1926). It is easy to read Pew’s desire as an illicit (and, at the time, illegal) ­projection of MacInnes’s own. His biographer quotes Monty Haltrect’s portrait of MacInnes as ‘always patting blacks on the shoulder and saying, “Look at those wicked eyes.” He would go to Cable Street, which was then the place to pick up black boys.’39 Moving beyond Gould’s habitual sanctimony, MacInnes’s personal investment in the eroticisation of the exotic is routinely judged to be morally problematic. McLeod notes with some reluctance that ‘MacInnes’s cosmopolitan visions in City of Spades frequently rest upon some highly questionable assumptions about cultural difference.’40 ‘The MacInnes focus,’ Simon Goulding claims less charitably, ‘is a combination of romanticisation and guilty white liberal revisionism. He would visit and watch but like Orwell, and unlike Genet, these were exercises in observation, voyeurism and journalism. Cognitive understanding cannot be gained from observation alone.’41 The presiding tension in Goulding’s account of the deficit in MacInnes’s treatment of race is familiar in anthropology and gathers around the figure of the ‘participant observer.’ In 1956, anthropologist Audrey Richards published Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony Among the Bemba of Zambia. Richard’s stylistic approach was notably innovative. Eschewing the adventure-­ discourse that had served her mentor Malinowski so well, she fashioned instead a self-reflexive, and occasionally self-deprecating, approach that drew repeated attention to the presence of the ethnographer and the influence it had on the lives and rituals under observation. 1956 also saw the British publication of Return to Laughter, which had been subtitled ‘An Anthropological Novel’ in its original United States publication two years earlier. This account of a fictionalised fieldtrip by American anthropologist Laura Bohannan, writing under the pseudonym Elenore Smith Bowen, remains one of the bestselling descriptions of fieldwork ever written – and yet it is a novel. As a bildungsroman, it sets out not just to document a particular African culture (based loosely on that of the Tiv people of Nigeria) but to examine ‘the sea change in one’s self

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  115 that comes from immersion in another and alien world.’42 At the end of the account, Bowen claims that: Whatever the merits of anthropology to the world or of my work to anthropology, this experience had wrought many changes in me as a human keing [sic] – and I had thought that what wasn’t grist for my notebooks would be an adventure.43 Once again, adventure and morality (or at least a morally instructive self-knowledge) are assumed to be antithetical. It was not until his 1969 novel Westwards to Laughter that MacInnes made explicit his engagement with Return to Laughter and Smith Bowen’s literary acknowledgement of the participation – and participatory self-interest – of the observer. A parody of eighteenth-century adventure fiction, Westwards to Laughter is not an entirely successful work, but it does represent an open acknowledgement of the sexual dynamics of slavery and their potential for the enduring bedevilment of race relations. To make the gambit still more complex, MacInnes adopts a technique of distinctly Firbankian aestheticisation, in which the queering of morality risks constant compromise by a nostalgic indulgence in late Victorian camp. Pew’s desire in City of Spades is certainly prone to expression in terms that are similarly problematic from a postcolonial perspective. Yet it can still be valued as prescient acknowledgement of the erotics inherent in imperialism and how these are at play in the post-war period amidst competing currents of nostalgia and of guilt.

Inside-Outsider: Anthropology, Aestheticisation and Desire In 1931, the 16-year-old Colin MacInnes landed at Tilbury Docks in Essex, having left England in 1918 to emigrate to Australia with his mother and stepfather. Writing in 1962, he claimed that the ambiguity of his relationship with his home had endured: ‘Born in London, but not reared there for so many vital years, my feeling for the city has perforce become that of an inside-outsider: everything in London is familiar; yet everything in it seems to me as strange.’44 MacInnes declared himself ‘an “English” London-born, Australian-reared Scot’ in the Jewish Chronicle in 1960.45 His homosexuality also functioned to reinforce what ­Stephen Connor calls his ‘outsider’s off-centred perspective.’46 This kind of liminal status has frequently been accepted as productive in terms of art: from the late 1950s onwards, in the United States, it had also been vociferously claimed as Hip (then the coolest brand of the popular). ‘[T]he source of Hip is the Negro,’ stated Norman Mailer in 1957, simultaneously staking claim to a status he dubbed ‘The White Negro.’47 ‘So there was a new breed of adventurers,’ he explained in Dissent magazine,

116  Alice Ferrebe ‘urban adventurers who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man’s code to fit their facts. The hipster had absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro.’48 The absurdity of Mailer’s claims towards empathy with black American experience needs no elaboration: James Baldwin’s response to his friend’s conceit in ‘The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy’ (1961) remains a model of the polemical efficacy and elegance of restrained anger. For ‘inside-outsider’ MacInnes, his self-­ reflexivity heightened by making the best part of a living in his forties by selling an insider’s intelligence on youth culture, Mailer’s untroubled appropriation of blackness as a presumed source of authenticity must have seemed laughably naïve. ‘The writer of one group who aspires to describe another in fiction,’ MacInnes was later to remark, ‘has thus to assimilate himself somehow to it by hazard or, more perilously, intention.’49 MacInnes’s fiction, like his journalism, maintains that the h ­ azards of authenticity in the representation of foreign cultures are the same if one is focussed upon domestic teenagers, and that these problems are essentially anthropological: they are the contradictions inherent in that figure of the ‘participant observer.’ You may feel native to a particular community in which you have settled, but whipping out a pen or a camera alters the dynamics of power and reintroduces the distance you have just broached. In Absolute Beginners, published in 1959, an epiphany comes as the teenage narrator is bearing witness to the London race riots: he tells us, ‘I took up my Rolliflex, but put it down again, because it didn’t seem useful any longer.’50 Edmund R. Leach has traced the intricate kinship relations of British social anthropology before and after the Second World War. He notes how Malinowski and, [T]he other ‘foreigners’ who were mainly responsible for the high prestige that was attributed to ‘British’ social anthropology in the 1950s and 1960s (at least in the assessments made by anthropologists from other parts of the world) eventually assimilated themselves into the life style and cultural conventions of Oxbridge academics, but they remained ‘outsiders’ with a highly ambivalent attitude toward the values of their adopted academic milieu. 51 It is unsurprising, then, that the role of ‘participant observer’ (which we can think of as an ‘inside-outsider’) generated so much debate within anthropology in the immediate post-war period. In his 1926 Frazer lecture, Malinowski had sounded the call for the anthropologist to ‘relinquish his comfortable position in the long chair on the veranda of the missionary compound, Government station, or planter’s bungalow’ and go into the village, where information would flow ‘full-flavoured from his own observations of native life, and not be squeezed out of reluctant informants as a trickle of talk.’52

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  117 Malinowski’s mentee Audrey Richards wrote that, because those in her discipline spend more time with indigenous peoples than colonial administrators: [I]t is inevitable that the anthropologist should quickly acquire the reputation of a ‘wild man of the woods,’ and should be constantly accused of ‘going native.’ There can be few who have not been described at one time or another as ‘dancing round a tom-tom in a loin cloth.’53 It is this accusation that leads to Pew’s dismissal from the Colonial Office in City of Spades. His supervisor tells him he has been: [A] little too familiar with the coloured races. Oh, don’t interrupt, I know we’re the Welfare Office, and we’re in duty bound to help these people in their hour of need. But remote control’s the best, we’ve found. Not matiness. Not going native, if I may so express myself. 54 Yet, as Pew’s forays into the black immigrant community become more and more culturally immersive, MacInnes uses his relationship with Johnny, and that community more widely, to underline the ambiguity and asymmetry of the ethnographic relationship itself. 55 In Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Malinowski pioneered what Stocking calls a ‘narrative technology of “I-witnessing.”’56 This necessarily acknowledges the subjectivity of the anthropological observer but also demands the reader’s participation through a combination of open invitation and intensely sensual description. The shared experience elicited by descriptions thick with adjectives of colour and scent works to bolster the objectivity of the adopted viewpoint. ‘Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village,’ Malinowski begins. ‘Imagine yourself then, making your first entry into the village, alone or in company with your white cicerone. Some natives flock round you, especially if they smell tobacco. Others, the more dignified and elderly, remain seated where they are.’57 In City of Spades, MacInnes works democratically to rewire this narrative technology by alternating Pew’s first-person account with that of Fortune. Pew (like MacInnes, whilst working for the BBC or the British Council) has a professional need to speak the language of ‘correct’ anthropology. When alone, he examines Johnny’s room in the Colonial Department’s hostel, a building with an ‘aura of pared Welfare budgets, of tact restraining antipathies, and of a late attempt to right centuries of still unadmitted wrongs.’58 Here, MacInnes parodies the desire to ‘read’ (as well as write) the black man by providing a collection of ethnographic objects that both sustain and subvert colonial expectations. Pew sees:

118  Alice Ferrebe Valises up-ended disgorging the bright clothes one would so wish to wear, shirts, ties and socks predominating – none of them fit for an English afternoon. Bundles of coconuts. A thick stick of bananas. Bottles, half empty. Rather surprising – a pile of biographies and novels. And pinned on the walls photographs of black grinning faces, all teeth, the eyes screwed closed to the glare of a sudden magnesium flare.59 Pew’s narration is far more revealing of himself than of Johnny in this moment. The piles of imported fruit seem implausible and clichéd. The bottles are half empty, not half full. Pew is ‘rather’ surprised at evidence of Johnny’s literacy. He himself would never dare to wear such bright clothes. The family groups, their eyes tightly shut, remain inscrutable and exclusionary. Pew turns from this illegible tableau to an unfinished letter from Johnny to his sister, describing ‘the young Mr Pew who interviewed me, preaching and pointing his hands at me as if I was to him a menacing infant[...].’ ‘Ah!’ is Pew’s only response to this accurate sketch of his social, and racial, anxieties. 60 Tellingly, as his infatuation with immigrant culture increases, Pew’s ability to interpret its participants’ motivations seems proportionately to decrease: by the end of the novel, he notes gloomily that Johnny has ‘a heightened air of inwardness, of “African-ness” about him.’61 Though this verdict is allowed to stand (the last two chapters of the novel, frustratingly, are narrated by Pew), the ultimate authority of his objectivity is constantly undermined by his own failures of self-knowledge. As Gail Low puts it, ‘just as Montgomery’s homosexuality is plain for all to see, he himself remains an oddly chaste observer of his own desires.’62 Rather than its immigrants, MacInnes makes Pew the novel’s archetypal ‘inside-outsider.’

‘Tetchy generalisations’ Other writers in post-war British culture found the reading and writing of (other) races considerably less fraught with ethical and aesthetic challenges than MacInnes. Elspeth Huxley’s ‘Settlers in Britain’ series appeared in Punch early in 1964, and the speed with which it became a book, Back Streets, New Worlds: A Look at Immigrants in Britain, suggests its publisher’s belief in the enduring popularity of anthropology amongst the reading public. Huxley’s introduction to the collection certainly promises a populist approach, noting how, regarding immigration, no attempt has yet been made to ‘look at the subject as a whole and from a strictly non-academic point of view – the angle of that mythical creature, the man in the street.’63 Low has written searingly of Huxley’s ‘imperial apologetics,’ and of her method of normalising

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  119 these imperial expectations as both cultural and racial, the lore of ‘an organic, long-standing and essentially private community that has had to bear the consequences of alien settlement.’64 In the article ‘Blacks Next Door,’ Huxley asserts that: Most West Indians – especially Jamaicans, it seems, Barbadians tend to be more circumspect – like loud music, noise in general, conviviality, visiting each other, keeping late hours at weekends, dancing and jiving, eating savoury stews and things like yams and cho-cho, frying fish in coconut oil, drinking rum if they can afford it, and generally having a high old time. Most English prefer to keep themselves to themselves and guard their privacy. Ours is a land of the wall, the high fence, the privet hedge – all descendants of the moated grange.65 Huxley clearly maintains the anthropological dialectical subject in her division of Them and Us, yet, adopting a trope from Mass Observation, it is that which is ‘Ours’ that she casts as exotic, while their (the immigrants’) everyday practices are listed in a matter-of-fact way. Perhaps surprisingly, MacInnes and Huxley enjoyed a prolonged and warm correspondence initiated by a letter from MacInnes in response to one of her articles. In ‘What Future for Africa?’ written for the June 1961 edition of Encounter, Huxley mocked liberal, anti-colonialist attitudes for what she saw as their inevitable allegiance to a utopian vision of African culture: ‘Rousseau’s fantasies, in short, go marching on.’66 ­MacInnes praised the ‘power and passion’ of her essay but challenged some of her assumptions. They agreed, eventually, to differ, with Huxley able to envy, if not endorse, what she called MacInnes’s ‘Miranda vision’ of Africa.67 Cultural relativism, axiomatic in the discipline of anthropology after Frank Boas, provides a potential corrective to the idealism both of the anti-colonial ‘Miranda vision,’ and to imperial superiority. MacInnes certainly recognised its subversive potential for journalistic writing. In his 1958 piece, ‘Pop Songs and Teenagers,’ he asked, ‘Could it be there’s something tribal in the teenage ideology?’ then follows a description of a Ted couple with the claim ‘I’ve seen an identical sight among the ­K ikuyu.’68 Likening English kids, however transgressive, to the Kikuyu is a striking rhetorical gambit in the end stages of the Mau Mau Uprising (which MacInnes had witnessed first-hand on his British Council lecture tour). Genially apologising to the Kikuyu for denigrating them by the comparison, as MacInnes does in a footnote, is still more radical. These deceptively casual asides stand as a deliberate affront to the contemporary strain of aggressively imperialist propaganda in the ­British media. MacInnes proves less sure, however, when tackling moral relativism.

120  Alice Ferrebe Giving as his caveat the shortness of the essay in relation to such a complex topic, MacInnes nonetheless suggests in ‘A Short Guide for Jumbles’ (1956), that: [I]f coloured men and women seem, to our eyes, more happily amoral, we should perhaps remember that the Christian conceptions are still incredibly novel to them […] and also that their spiritual ties, which do undoubtedly exist, are very different from our own. They have, for example, sacred tribal loyalties of a kind quite unknown to us.69 In another footnote, added for the collection of his essays in 1961, he admits candidly that ‘in this paragraph, I get badly out of my depth.’ 70 Relativism, we can recognise, revolts against a profound Western cultural need in the wake of the Second World War for moral certainties that encompass more than just an individual subjectivity yet which mitigate against the crimes of the collective-thinking of fascism and, at least after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Communism. In City of Spades, Pew, exasperated, begs the resolutely liberal Theodora, ‘Can’t we move, just for a second, from the particular to the general?’ 71 Within the discipline of anthropology, this movement is perpetually difficult, involving as it does a leap between the vagaries of subjective experience and ideas of essence. Stocking claims of Malinowski that ‘[h]is ethnographic goal, like that of many of his anthropological contemporaries, was to get behind the experience of recent contact, to reveal the essential ethnic characters of the group he had studied.’ 72 The American ­Margaret Mead, a key figure in both academic and popular anthropology in the post-war period, had been a pupil of Boas and as such was steeped in cultural relativism; nonetheless, her ‘war work’ consisted of the production of a series of ‘rapid diagnostic studies’ of national characters. In a recent biography, Peter Mandler defends Mead’s dabbling in these essentialist practices: ‘the unprecedented jumble of cultures facing Westerners did create a demand for navigation tools.’ 73 City of Spades bears this out: Johnny Fortune calls Pew a ‘Jumble,’ spelt ‘J-o-h-n-b-u-l-l.’ Says Pew, ‘It struck me the ancient symbol, thus distorted, was strangely appropriate to the confusion of my mind.’ 74 MacInnes’s friend, the writer Francis Wyndham, said of him that: He believed in heredity, not in a snobbish way, though. He hated that. But as with Africans and West Indians, he had a sort of anthropological interest in origins. It was part of the way he looked at people, not individualistically, but as representative of this or that.75 MacInnes’s travel essay ‘Welcome, Beauty Walk,’ published in Encounter in October 1960 to coincide with Nigerian independence, simultaneously relies upon and critiques that technique of ‘rapid diagnostic

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  121 studies,’ and upholds this claim of an interest in origins. Arriving in the Eastern Region of Nigeria, MacInnes admits that: Before I came there, I knew little of the Ibo and was told that they are, so to speak, the Lowland Scots of Nigeria – go-getters lacking graces, with a passion for commerce and for education. If this is as true as any racial cliché, one must surely allow that the Ibo virtues are vital ones for modern Africa.76 Progressing into a summary of the Ibo’s approach to money, he concludes by saying he ‘must also make haste to add that these tetchy generalisations by no means apply exclusively to the Ibo people.’ 77 In City of Spades, MacInnes even-handedly demonstrates how all nationalities navigate to an extent by way of racial stereotyping, leaping from the particular to the general without a qualm. A Trinidadian in the Colonial Hostel tells Pew that Africans ‘have their own tribal customs, mister, but it was because of their primitive barbarity that our ancestors fled from that country some centuries ago.’78 The mixed-race American ballet master of the Cornwallis Company complains to him ‘These niggers! … So hopeless, so dreadful! There’s always this confusion when they’re around. Man, they can’t even work!’79 Pew himself, watching the G.I.s coming into the Moonbeam club notes they are ‘all gracefully dressed like chorus boys in a coloured revue. They moved slowly, but persistently, as men of a race which knows that, come what may, it will go on forever.’80 Despite this aura of manifest destiny (and contrary to Mailer’s romanticism), black Americans are consistently associated with performance in the novel: the Cornwallis dancers, for example, set out to seduce white London with their carefully choreographed atavism. If, as Pew expounds to the West Indian Mr Tamberlaine, the root of ­Caribbean insecurities lies in the fact that Africans ‘belong much more deeply to Africa than you do to the Caribbean,’ then black Americans are another step still from racial authenticity.81 Postmodernist popular culture assumes the irrelevance (or inaccessibility) of origins. In a bracingly positive 2006 reappraisal of MacInnes’s work, Devin McKinney notes that Absolute Beginners has a ‘nourishing tension: MacInnes is wild about pop culture, its novelty and irreverence and raunch, but he deplores its other reality as a buffoon’s buffet of plastic commodities – not to mention a recruiting field for racists.’ This is part, McKinney suggests provocatively, of the ‘thanatology of pop.’82 Once again in Absolute Beginners, MacInnes uses the fictional form to critique his own political and personal investments – his method of participant observation. As McLeod puts it, the novel’s teenage narrator is used: [T]o explore critically the political shortcomings of new forms of popular culture nurtured by young people at the time, but

122  Alice Ferrebe also to examine at arm’s length his [MacInnes’s] idealistic and problematic visions of London which the riots had dramatically threatened.83 There is a great deal at stake in this self-reflexive process: both for ­MacInnes and for his nation. We can attribute his determined fictional and journalistic attempts to intertwine representations of race with those of youth to his belief that the future, or rather, the future possibility of a harmoniously multiracial Britain, lies with the young. He ends the essay ‘Pop Songs and Teenagers’ on an anxious note, admitting a potential darker side to the teenagers’ ‘underground of joy’: ‘it would be equally possible to see, in the teenage neutralism and indifference to politics, and self-sufficiency, an instinct for enjoyment – in short, in their kind of happy mindlessness – the raw material for crypto-fascisms of the worst kind.’84 A footnote written after the ‘Notting Vale riots’ of 1958 claims, [T]he worst offenders – initially, at any rate, before the big strong men joined in – were boys who were technically (if not ‘ideologically’) teenagers […] After the Kelso Cochrane alert of 1959, real teenagers (that is, not just teenage Teds) were more, and more disastrously, in evidence.85 Writing in 1961, MacInnes claimed that ‘now [...] the “activists” of the teenage population’ may be ‘poised between social choices leading to life or death; and the attitudes of the ex-teenagers (young adults now, kids in the 1950s) may be the decisive factor in the new decade.’86 City of Spades ends with Fortune and Pew parting, their friendship over, as Johnny’s trip to the ‘Mother Country’ ends ignominiously. The only clear message of hope for a British culture of racial equality comes from the novel’s most ambiguous character, Alfy Bongo, young, white (though with a conflictingly racialised name), queer, nefarious: ‘That race crap’s changing fast, believe me, Johnny. [...] In ten years’ time, or so, they’ll wonder what it was all about.’87 Absolute Beginners concludes with its I-witness teen narrator deciding not to abandon the nation that has so disgusted him by its race riots. Dancing in the rain, he welcomes a plane of new arrivals from Africa: ‘Welcome to London! Greetings from England! Meet your first teenager! We’re all going up to Napoli to have a ball!’88 The immigrants laugh, probably nervously, as meanwhile, somewhere back in the city, the narrator’s former friend Wizard is pumping his fists in the air, screaming ‘Keep England white!,’ surrounded by a sympatico crowd of young people. 89 MacInnes leaves the future of (increasingly) postcolonial Britain precariously in youthful hands.

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  123

Old Nation, New Currents E.B. Tylor, holder of the first British university post in anthropology in 1884, called his discipline the ‘reformer’s science,’ which would allow the ‘great modern nations to understand themselves, to weigh in a just balance their own merits and defects, and even in some measure to forecast [...] the possibilities of the future.’90 As Henrika Kuklick puts it in The Savage Within, anthropology has ‘nearly always constituted a vehicle for liberal political thought.’91 From a postcolonial critical perspective, anthropology has routinely been castigated for its ideological mistakes within this presidingly liberal, reformist agenda. Born of the colonial situation and largely funded by it until the Second World War, it has been accused of attempts to justify and extend that situation. Like MacClancy, Kuklick identifies a significant shift after 1945, when ­British anthropology finally had sufficient funding to pursue its own academic agenda and no longer had to pay lip service to civil service and the practical a­ pplication and popular dissemination of its research. ­Malinowski’s Argonauts, designed to elicit engagement from the general as well as the specialist reader, could therefore be summarily dismissed as ‘journalistic’ from a secure chair in post-war Oxbridge.92 Fittingly then, from the perspective of the academy, post-war British journalism took up the task of maintaining anthropology as a popular practice, with M ­ acInnes as one of the most determined exponents. Rather than condemning him for committing the so-called ‘anthropologist’s error’ in City of Spades and A ­ bsolute ­Beginners, we should consider how ­MacInnes uses his literary works of the period to conduct an imaginative exploration of those ‘inherently ambiguous and asymmetrical’ ethnographic relationships within post-war, and, increasingly, post-imperial, Britain.93 Exploring his frustrations with the conduct of his friend ­Norman Mailer, James Baldwin noted that: The really ghastly thing about trying to convey to a white man the reality of the negro experience has nothing whatever to do with the fact of color, but has to do with this man’s relationship to his own life. He will face in your life only what he is willing to face in his.94 An ‘inside-outsider’ in relation to both national belonging and his sexuality, MacInnes acknowledges and mobilises the tensions inherent in anthropology as a discipline, forging a distinctive style for his fiction that is literary and journalistic, participatory and observational, fantastic and documentary, aestheticised and moralistic. As a senescent nation saw in these new arrivals (youth and immigrants) the potential for both rejuvenation and destruction, this mode of writing allows him to move beyond simplistic portraits of the young and the black as primitives.95 At times, MacInnes apes atavistic tendencies, and at others, certainly, he indulges

124  Alice Ferrebe their potential to create the romance of adventure. We should appreciate, perhaps, that early (and perhaps all) attempts to address what Pew calls ‘centuries of still unadmitted wrongs’ by those implicated in wrong-­ doing are inevitably messy.96 Ever cognisant of the play of personal guilt, nostalgia and desire (both aesthetic and sexual) in his ethnography, MacInnes’s writing provides us with an invaluable insight into the conflict of liberal white British attitudes to race at the collapse of Empire. As he put it in ‘Welcome Beauty Walk,’ My own obsession (since one is oneself) happens to be to try, in so far as a writer can at all hope to do so, to stick to the lurching European ship and help it by self-awareness to find courses that may keep it off the reefs among fresh trade winds and new currents; and not to wave it a censorious farewell from the refuge of any enchanted isle.97 Mobilising allusions to literary predecessors – Shakespeare (that ‘Miranda vision’ again) and Rousseau – MacInnes refuses to abandon the West to a Spenglerian decline.98 Though his intermittent indulgence in the lure of the exotic offends contemporary critical sensibilities, we can recognise in his manifesto an allegiance with what McLeod has identified as a ‘faith in the possibility of postcolonial transformation while remaining alert to the continuing unequal relations of power – social, cultural, economic – with which the postcolonial is inevitably bound up.’99 MacInnes’s fiction should be valued for its insight into the formation of that (enduringly fraught) strain of critical thought we can name, adventurously, as postcolonial and, on occasion, popular.

Notes 1 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades (London: Ace Books, 1959). 2 John Ryle, ‘Queen of Spades,’ Sunday Times, 11th September, 1983, 46. 3 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993), 7. 4 John McLeod, Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 44. 5 John McLeod, Postcolonial London, 7. 6 John Ryle, ‘Queen of Spades,’ 46. 7 Jeremy MacClancy, ‘Popularizing Anthropology,’ in Popularizing Anthropology, eds. Jeremy MacClancy and Chris McDonaugh (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 13. 8 Q.D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (London: Chatto and Windus, 1978), xv. 9 Ben Highmore, Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction ­(London: Routledge, 2000), 79. 10 Ben Highmore, Everyday Life, 79.

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  125 11 Jack Goody, The Expansive Moment: Anthropology in Britain and Africa 1918–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 74. 12 Jeremy MacClancy, ‘Popularizing Anthropology,’ 14–15. 13 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades (London: Allison and Busby, 1984), 186. 14 George W. Stocking, Jr., After Tylor: British Social Anthropology ­1888–1951 (London: The Athlone Press, 1999), 260. 15 Tony Gould, Inside Outsider: The Life and Times of Colin MacInnes (­London: Chatto and Windus, The Hogarth Press, 1983), 117. 16 Susan Sontag, ‘The Anthropologist as Hero.’ Against Interpretation. ­London: Vintage, 1994: 69–81. 17 Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 108. 18 Colin MacInnes, ‘Expectation and Realisation,’ BBC Home Service, 20th March, 1957. 19 Ali A. Mazrui, ‘Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar,’ in Transition 26 (1966). Reprinted in K. Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Michael Colin Vazquez eds. Transition, The Anniversary Issues: Selections From Transition 1961–1976, No. 75/76 (1997), 106. 20 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 79. 21 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 20. 22 Martin Green, The Adventurous Male: Chapters in the History of the White Male Mind (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), 2. 23 Richard Wollheim, ‘Babylon, Babylone,’ Encounter (1962), 30. 24 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 147. 25 Christopher Booker, The Neophiliacs: Revolution in English Life in the ­Fifties and Sixties (London: Collins, 1969), 151. 26 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London and New York: Routledge, 1979), 102. 27 Jeremy MacClancy, ‘Popularizing Anthropology,’ 2. 28 R.A. Ackerman, J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 266. 29 R.A. Ackerman, J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work, 267. 30 George W. Stocking, After Tylor, 270. 31 George W. Stocking, After Tylor, 268. 32 Martin Green, The Adventurous Male, 2. 33 John McLeod, Postcolonial London, 12. 34 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 104. 35 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 105. 36 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 20. 37 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 66. 38 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 174. 39 Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 173. 40 John McLeod, Postcolonial London, 46. 41 Simon Goulding, ‘“Neighbours Are the Worst People to Live Beside”: The 1958 Notting Hill Riots as Dramatic Spectacle,’ Literary London, March 2010, paragraph 5. www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/march2010/goulding. html [accessed 1st February, 2016]. 42 Elenore Smith Bowen. Return to Laughter: An Anthropological Novel (New York: Harper and Bros, 1954), 5. 43 Elenore Smith Bowen. Return to Laughter, 250. 4 4 Colin MacInnes. London, City of any Dream, photographs by Erwin Fieger (London: Thames and Hudson, 1962), xiii. 45 Quoted Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 138.

126  Alice Ferrebe 46 Stephen Connor, The English Novel in History 1950–1995 (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 91. 47 Norman Mailer, ‘The White Negro,’ Dissent (Fall 1957), npag. www.­ dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-white-negro-fall-1957 [accessed 8th February, 2016]. 48 Norman Mailer, ‘The White Negro,’ npag. 49 Colin MacInnes, Out of the Way: Later Essays (London: Martin Brian and O’Keefe, 1979), 226. 50 Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (London: Allison and Busby, 1984), 189. 51 Edmund R. Leach, ‘Glimpses of the Unmentionable in the History of British Social Anthropology,’ Annual Review of Anthropology, 13.1 (1984): 11. 52 Bronislaw Malinowski, ‘Myth in Primitive Psychology,’ Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1948), 146–7. 53 A. I. Richards, ‘Practical Anthropology in the Lifetime of the International African Institute,’ Africa (1944): 293–4. 54 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 109. 55 George W. Stocking, After Tylor, 260. 56 Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea (London: Routledge, 2013), 271. 57 Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 4. 58 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 37. 59 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 38–9. 60 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 39. 61 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 240. 62 Gail Low, ‘Streets, Rooms and Residents: The Urban Uncanny and the Poetics of Space in Harold Pinter, Sam Selvon, Colin MacInnes and George Lamming,’ in Landscape and Empire, 1770–2000, ed. Glenn Hooper ­(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 166. 63 Elspeth Huxley, Back Streets, New Worlds: A Look at Immigrants in B ­ ritain (London: Chatto and Windus/Punch, 1964), 7. 64 Gail Low, ‘Streets, Rooms and Residents,’ 164–5. 65 Elspeth Huxley, Back Streets, 46–7. 66 Elspeth Huxley, ‘What Future for Africa?’ Encounter (1961): 9. 67 Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 155–6. 68 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 53. 69 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 26. 70 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 26. 71 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 175. 72 George W. Stocking, After Tylor, 276. 73 Peter Mandler, Return from the Natives: How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 203. 74 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 18. 75 Quoted Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 116. 76 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 96. 77 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 97. 78 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 37. 79 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 143–4. 80 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 74. 81 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 157.

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  127 82 Devin McKinney, ‘The Flesh Failures,’ The Believer (March 2006), npag. www.believermag.com/issues/200603/?read=article_mckinney [accessed 14th August, 2014]. 83 John McLeod, Postcolonial London, 50. 84 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 59. 85 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 59. The ‘alert’ was actually a ­murder – of an Antiguan immigrant by a gang of white youths. 86 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 59. Author’s emphasis. 87 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 239. 88 Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners, 203. 89 Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners, 191. 90 E.B. Tylor, ‘Introduction,’ in The History of Mankind, ed. Friedrich Ratzel (London: Macmillan and Co., 1896), v. 91 Henrika Kuklick, The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 25. 92 E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Social Anthropology (London: Cohen and West, 1951), 91. 93 John Ryle, ‘Queen of Spades,’ 46; Stocking, After Tylor, 260. 94 James Baldwin, ‘The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy,’ in Collected Essays Volume 2 (New York: Library of America, 1998), 272. 95 This is a mode of writing MacInnes parodies mercilessly in Absolute Beginners by means of the ‘Amberley Drove’ comment piece, 168–74. 96 Colin MacInnes, City of Spades, 37. 97 Colin MacInnes, England, Half English, 89. 98 Tony Gould, Inside Outsider, 155–6. 99 John McLeod, Postcolonial London, 13–4.

Bibliography Ackerman, R.A. J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Appiah, Anthony K., Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Michael Colin Vazquez, eds. Transition, the Anniversary Issues: Selections From Transition 1961–1976, 1997 75/75: 106–26. Baldwin, James. ‘The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy.’ In Collected Essays Volume 2, edited by Toni Morrison, 269–90. New York: Library of America, 1998. Booker, Christopher. The Neophiliacs: Revolution in English Life in the Fifties and Sixties. London: Collins, 1969. Connor, Stephen. The English Novel in History 1950–1995. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Social Anthropology. London: Cohen and West, 1951. Goody, Jack. The Expansive Moment: Anthropology in Britain and Africa 1918–1970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Gould, Tony. Inside Outsider: The Life and Times of Colin MacInnes. London: Chatto and Windus, The Hogarth Press, 1983. Goulding, Simon. ‘“Neighbours Are the Worst People to Live Beside”: The 1958 Notting Hill riots as Dramatic Spectacle.’ Literary London (March 2010), paragraph 5. Accessed 1st February 2016. www.literarylondon.org/ london-journal/march2010/goulding.html.

128  Alice Ferrebe Green, Martin. The Adventurous Male: Chapters in the History of the White Male Mind. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993. Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London and New York: Routledge, 1979. Highmore, Ben. Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2000. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Huxley, Elspeth. ‘What Future for Africa?’ Encounter, June (1961): 8–20. ———. ‘What Future for Africa?’ Encounter, June (1961): 8–20. ———. Back Streets, New Worlds: A Look at Immigrants in Britain. London: Chatto and Windus/Punch, 1964. Kuklick, Henrika. The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Leach, Edmund R. ‘Glimpses of the Unmentionable in the History of British Social Anthropology.’ Annual Review of Anthropology 13.1 (1984): 1–24. Leavis, Q.D. Fiction and the Reading Public. London: Chatto and Windus, 1978. Low, Gail. ‘Streets, Rooms and Residents: The Urban Uncanny and the Poetics of Space in Harold Pinter, Sam Selvon, Colin MacInnes and George Lamming.’ In Landscape and Empire, 1770–2000, edited by Glenn Hooper, 159–76. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. MacClancy, Jeremy. ‘Popularizing Anthropology.’ In Popularizing Anthropology, edited by MacClancy, Jeremy and Chris McDonaugh, 1–57. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. MacInnes, Colin. ‘Expectation and Realisation.’ BBC Home Service, 20th March, 1957. ———. City of Spades. London: Ace Books, 1959. ———. London, City of Any Dream, Photographs by Erwin Fieger. London: Thames and Hudson, 1962. ———. Westward to Laughter. London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1969. ———. Out of the Way: Later Essays. London: Martin Brian and O’Keefe, 1979. ———. Absolute Beginners. London: Allison and Busby, 1984. ———. City of Spades. London: Allison and Busby, 1984. ———. England, Half English. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993. Mailer, Norman. ‘The White Negro.’ Dissent (Fall 1957). Accessed 8th February 2016. www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-white-negro-fall-1957. Malinowski, Bronislaw. ‘Myth in Primitive Psychology.’ In Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays, 93–148. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1948. ———. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge, 2013. Mandler, Peter. Return from the Natives: How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2013. Mazrui, Ali A. ‘Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar.’ Transition 26 (1966). Reprinted in K. Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Michael Colin  Vazquez

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’  129 eds. Transition, The Anniversary Issues: Selections From Transition ­1961–1976, No. 75/76 (1997). McKinney, Devin. ‘The Flesh Failures.’ The Believer (March 2006): npag. Accessed 14th August 2014. www.believermag.com/issues/200603/?read= article_mckinney. McLeod, John. Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Richards, A. I. ‘Practical Anthropology in the Lifetime of the International ­A frican Institute.’ Africa 6 (1944): 293–4. Richards, Audrey. Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005 [1956]. Ryle, John. ‘Queen of Spades.’ Sunday Times, 11th September, 1983, 46. Smith, Bowen. Elenore. Return to Laughter: An Anthropological Novel. New York: Harper and Bros, 1954. ———. Return to Laughter. London: Readers Union/Victor Gollancz, 1956. Sontag, Susan. ‘The Anthropologist as Hero.’ In Against Interpretation, 69–81. London: Vintage, 1994. Stocking, George W., Jr. After Tylor: British Social Anthropology 1888–1951. London: The Athlone Press, 1999. Tylor, E.B. ‘Introduction.’ In The History of Mankind, edited by Friedrich ­Ratzel, i–ix. London: Macmillan and Co., 1896. Van Vechten, Carl. Nigger Heaven. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000. Wollheim, Richard. ‘Babylon, Babylone,’ Encounter May (1962): 25–36.

6 Tarzan the Ape Man Screening ‘The Subordination of Women, Nature and Colonies’ in the 1930s Chris Campbell At the heart of Black Skin, White Masks (1952), Frantz Fanon turns his attention to the role that culture performs in constituting colonial ideology. In the chapter titled ‘The Negro and Pyschopathology,’ he offers a now famously instructive reading of the dynamics that come into play in the viewing of a popular childhood film in two different locales: In the Antilles, the young Negro identifies himself de facto with Tarzan against the Negroes. This is much more difficult for him in a European theater, for the rest of the audience, which is white, automatically identifies him with the savages on the screen. It is a conclusive experience. The Negro learns that one is not black without problems. A documentary film in Africa produces similar reactions when it is shown in a French city and in Fort-de-France. I will go farther and say that Bushmen and Zulus arouse even more laughter among the young Antilleans. It would be interesting to show how in this instance the reactional exaggeration betrays a hint of recognition. In France a Negro who sees this documentary is virtually petrified. There he has no more hope of flight: He is at once Antillean, Bushman, and Zulu.1 Here then, Fanon draws out how the circumstances of reception, in the metropole or the periphery, shape differently the Antillean viewing subject’s relational understanding of race and of colonial power. In this moment, the identification with or distance from the figure of Tarzan on the screen is crucial. In a pitch-perfect demonstration of how dominant cultural practices in the colonial Martinique of the 1930s worked through categories of race, Fanon’s encounter with Tarzan lays bare the paradox of the tale of the white man as ‘lord of the jungle’: films such as this served to elaborate and enforce a deep sense of the somatic and psychic distance, the historical gulf, between New World experience and the continent of Africa.

Tarzan the Ape Man   131 For Fanon, colonial culture comprised a: [C]onstellation of postulates, a series of propositions that slowly and subtly – with the help of books, newspapers, schools and their texts, advertisements, films, radio – work their way into one’s mind and shape one’s view of the world of the group to which one belongs. 2 In the case of the six Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Tarzan films starring Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller, released between 1932 and 1942 (which as his biographer relates, Fanon snuck in to see without paying), this inversion of identification not only sets up the axis around which Fanon’s text turns but also evidences the specific ways in which popular and middlebrow cultural forms were mobilised to constitute and to police racial orders on the island: ‘[f]ilms like this served to teach children what nègres really were, and to instil in them the idea that they were not nègres.’3 In this way, the MGM films are made to bear the weight of colonial discourse: propagating a sense division with the singular black subject and, furthermore, attempting to drive an ontological wedge between peoples of the African diaspora. However, it is equally apparent that the reception of films such as these has provided a platform from which the replication of stereotypes in the service of colonial ‘divide and rule’ might be challenged. Frantz Fanon’s cinematic anecdote, exposing and interrogating the experience of witnessing the dramatisation on screen of a process that split the Antillean subject from itself through the wholesale denigration of Africa and Africanness, finds its echo in the Harlem theatres of Harry Belafonte’s youth. Belafonte, born to parents from the Caribbean, also articulates the way in which the same Tarzan films had, in the 1930s, worked to reinforce an epidermal schema that served to further notions of the superiority of racial whiteness: 1935, at the age of eight, sitting in a Harlem theater, I watched with awe and wonder incredible feats of the white superhero, Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan was a sight to see. This porcelain Adonis, this white liberator, who could speak no language, swinging from tree to tree, saving Africa from the tragedy of destruction by a black indigenous population of inept, ignorant, void-of-any-skills population, governed by ancient superstitions with no heart for Christian charity. Through this film the virus of racial inferiority – of never wanting to be identified with anything African – swept into the psyche of its youthful observers.4 Belafonte’s recollection then shifts to consider the redemptive and radicalising possibilities that his viewing of the film paradoxically threw up:

132  Chris Campbell And for the years that followed, Hollywood brought abundant op­ arzan portunity for black children in their Harlem theaters to cheer T and boo Africans. […] But these encounters set other things in motion. It was an early stimulus to the beginning of my rebellion: rebellion against injustice and human distortion and hate. How fortunate for me that the performing arts became the catalyst that fuelled my desire for social change.5 Belafonte and Fanon understand the 1930s Weissmuller Tarzan as a fundamental constituent of the concentration of racialised cultural power in Harlem and Martinique, respectively, and, each has offered, in his cultural and political work, powerful resistive readings against it. Furthermore, the case of the MGM films is illustrative as not only does the reception of Tarzan provide the basis for reading middlebrow cultural forms against the grain, but also the figure of the ‘lord of the jungle’ himself provides further fertile ground for critique. This can most readily be seen in the burgeoning of rewritings in print form of the hero of the screen. Indeed, even a cursory glance across a range of texts by ­t wentieth-century Anglophone Caribbean writers similarly demonstrates the figure of Tarzan as a site of interest, contestation, accusation and irony. We might think of such diverse examples as Derek Walcott’s play ‘Malcochon’ (1966); the racially and sexually exploitative dynamic that drives Naipaul’s novel Guerrillas (1975); Kamau Brathwaite’s meditation on imperial experience across the world-system in his poem ‘Soweto’ (1979); Earl Lovelace’s calypsonian Philo and his sell-out success ‘Tarzan’ (alongside, of course the author’s satirical swipe at academics who study it) in The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979); and, more recently, as the nickname of one of the hyper-masculinised figures in Oonya Kempadoo’s novel charting the unequal exchanges of sex and tourism, Tide Running (2001).6 In the introduction to their 2011 special issue of Continuum, Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice have argued, following Stuart Hall, that popular cultural forms are significant for postcolonial studies precisely because they constitute ‘a battleground in which dominant power and resistances to it are played out, locating [them] in a complex web of social forces and power relations.’ 7 Making apposite use of Hall’s oftquoted line that beyond its potential as a space for the constitution of socialism, he doesn’t ‘give a damn’ about popular culture, Devadas and Prentice emphasise the ‘unsettled’ position of a popular culture ‘marked by the logic of struggle,’ one in which the resistive capacity of aesthetic practice has the potential to stand against the tide of hegemonic power.8 In the case of Caribbean textual recastings of the middlebrow figure of Tarzan, as well as the formative experiential meditations of Fanon and Belafonte, what Hall has identified as the ‘continuous and necessarily uneven and unequal struggle, by the dominant

Tarzan the Ape Man   133 culture, constantly to disorganise and reorganise popular culture’ can be readily apprehended.9 The preoccupation with reworkings of Tarzan has, in these Caribbean literary cases, at least as much to do with the success of the MGM Studio’s cinematic versions of the tales as it does with Edgar Rice ­Burroughs’s source texts, and the brief survey of the Caribbean case serves as an exemplar for literary responses to films which had a huge reach, encompassing cinemagoing publics across the globe.10 Between 1933 and 1958, producer Sol Lesser estimated that roughly three-quarters of the films’ grosses came from overseas releases.11 In this way, the O’Sullivan and Weissmuller Tarzans provide a powerful cultural example of the rise of the United States as a hegemonic world force and, indeed, the very visibility of ‘the American century’ itself. As Alex Vernon puts it, [I]f Hollywood led the charge, Tarzan was its point man […]. The brilliance of these films lies in the ruse of the isolationist message in an imperialist context. Not only do we have a white man ruling the jungle, animals and natives alike […] but the films themselves participate in U.S. cultural colonization of the rest of the globe as the nation exerted its worldwide influence as never before.12 We can usefully push Vernon’s illuminating analysis further still by suggesting that the MGM sequence of pictures acutely registers the processes of primitive accumulation of capital across the world-system at this conjuncture. The films, both in the fictive worlds they project and in the circumstances of their production, symbolise what Giovanni Arrighi has defined as the transferal of global power from one ‘hegemony of historical capitalism’ to another. As Arrighi explains in The Long Twentieth Century, ‘the capacity of the United Kingdom to hold the center of the capitalist world-economy was being undermined by the emergence of a new national economy of greater wealth, size, and resources than its own. This was the United States.’13 The first of the MGM pictures, Tarzan the Ape Man, directed by W.S Van Dyke, signals this transition from one systemic cycle of accumulation in the capitalist world-­economy to another. Indeed the film straddles the crucial dates in Arrighi’s model of the demise of the British regime. For Arrighi, Britain has its ‘signal crisis’ occurring in the 1870s, and this results in the full-blown terminal crisis of its nineteenth-century world-order by the early 1930s, giving way to the rise of the United States’ regime over the same period.14 On the one hand, the film dramatises in its plot the plunder and expropriation of the twilight of the British regime as it enters its phase of crisis, whilst, on the other hand, and as a cultural product released in 1932, it serves to mediate the consolidation of American global capitalism, operating as ‘point man’ for uneven and unequal cultural, political and economic exchange.

134  Chris Campbell I want to consider more fully how one specific film, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), offers a popular cultural registration of the violence of accumulation by reading it through the lens of theoretical understandings of the development of capital on a world scale. That is to suggest that the film emphasises the fact that violence as an economic force has been universalised and intensified under capitalism, and, as Silvia Federici argues in her introduction to Maria Mies’s study Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, ‘development at one pole has always been underdevelopment at the other’ so that ‘“primitive accumulation” cannot merely be confined to the origins of capitalist society for it has been an essential ­aspect of every phase of capitalist development and has now become a permanent process.’15 Indeed, Maria Mies’s formulation that historically, capitalism has always relied on the forcible ‘subordination of women, nature and colonies’ will serve as the organising principle for my analysis of Van Dyke’s film. It works, I contend, as a fitting example of the ways in which Hall describes dominant culture constantly working to disorganise and reorganise popular culture, in this case by offering a vision of an imperial core ‘disorganising and reorganising’ human and extra-human natures in the service of capital accumulation. We can read the film, thus, in two simultaneous ways: as staging the processes of colonial violence inherent in the subordination of women, nature and colonies within the story-world of the African ‘jungle’ in the film itself and, equally, as an enactment of the process of epistemological violence that works to create racial, gendered and ecological orders under patriarchal capitalist imperialism. In this way, the film both documents the long history of imperialist dispossession of the peripheries and, in its screenings, as Fanon and Belafonte confirm, becomes the site of cultural ­struggle. Seen from this perspective, the a­ nti-colonial response to middlebrow cultural production can, following Hall’s reading of the popular, reveal a site where the ‘struggle for and against a culture of the powerful is engaged […] one of the places where socialism might be constituted.’16

The Marginalisation of African Women and the ‘Housewifization’ of Jane Parker In the opening shots of the film, Jane Parker arrives at a nonspecific colonial outpost in West Africa, stepping off the boat to find her father’s trading store. She is clad in what might be termed European urban chic clothing and brings with her all the baggage (literal and symbolic) of the imperial core. In this scene, all the trappings of Jane’s subsequent journey throughout the film are set out for the audience to witness: her removal from ‘civilised’ society to the wild periphery is staged via props as she acclimatises, divests herself of the material trappings she has brought with her – ‘the necessaries of life’ – and clothes herself instead in the imperial moral imperatives of work ethic and domestic enterprise, topped

Tarzan the Ape Man   135 off symbolically, of course, by the ubiquitous white pith helmet.17 It is with Jane’s arrival in the jungle that the audience first gains access to the landscape of the interior itself, and she becomes the principle focal point throughout the film, dominating the narrative arc. We therefore track her development throughout the film as she is ‘the protagonist with the majority of the screen time,’ leaving Tarzan playing second fiddle.18 O’Sullivan’s Jane is positioned, then, as a key protagonist whose agency shapes the direction of the story and who is able to embody both the processes of primitive accumulation in the peripheries and the colonial discourse which sought to mask it. Furthermore, and at the same time, in front of the camera lens, Jane also becomes the embodiment of the unacknowledged reproductive labour that is the very precondition of productivity and colonial enterprise. The story of Tarzan the Ape Man might thus be succinctly glossed in these terms: white woman arrives at a colonial outpost having left behind the domestic sphere in Europe; she shines as the beacon of enlightenment and exploratory zeal; she ‘wilds’ herself through participation in the accumulative ‘adventures’ of capitalist imperialism; and then she is ultimately tamed, re-domesticated by the white lord of the jungle and co-opted to continue the exploitation of resources and expropriation of lands for the imperial centre. If Jane is the primary way in which we experience the narrative of the film, it is also predominantly through her that we see borne out Mies’s articulation of the interconnected subordination of women, nature and colony. Through Jane’s eyes we first encounter the ‘natives’ of the area as she, her father and his friend Harry Holt (who is attracted to Jane) emerge to view the arrival of African men and women at the trading store. The scene occurs with the actors speaking dialogue superimposed over documentary ethnographic film footage of African people clearly not shot by the film’s crew as part of the picture.19 After discussing with her father his economic success as a trader, Jane observes the women present: Looks like their shopping has been successful anyhow. Ooh. How women suffer to be beautiful… [Cut to close up of two women] Harry Holt: Well, I see you’re breaking into society. These are our very best people. Jane Parker: Yes I know I feel quite out of fashion. 20 Jane Parker:

This brief moment of objectification marks the last appearance of ­A frican women in the film as they are written out of view in the course of the plot that follows. It would be a mistake, however, to see the film’s positioning of Jane as disarticulated from this cinematic marginalisation. In this brief scene, I suggest, we can see Jane’s story as being inextricably linked to the process enacted on screen whereby the women are

136  Chris Campbell ­ eployment defined back into nature and subsequently dismissed by the d of ­documentary footage. The ironic discussion of Jane’s entry into ‘high society’ at this point in the picture – she has already declared that she’s through with civilisation and intends to ‘be a savage’ – serves to ­underwrite what Mies identifies as the hypocritical nature of the gender violence of ­European colonisation. 21 In her analysis, Mies follows and extends Walter Rodney’s thesis of the underdevelopment of Africa by Europe, arguing that the naturalisation of colonised women serves as counterpart to the ‘civilising’ of European women. They are inextricably intertwined parts of the same process: While African women were treated as ‘savages’, the women of white colonizers […] ‘rose’ to the status of ‘ladies.’ These two processes did not happen side by side, are not simply historical parallels, but are intrinsically and causally linked within [the] patriarchal-capitalist mode of production. This creation of ‘savage’ and ‘civilized’ women, and the polarization between the two was, and still is, the organizing structural principle […] of the world subjected by capitalist colonialism.22 In this way, the film reinforces the paradoxical position of Jane Parker as encompassing both the gendered representation of the beacon of white civilisational values in the wild periphery and her ability to act as an exploratory colonialist in her own right. Arguably, having eliminated the native women from its vision of the division of labour, (and in so doing disavowing the notion of a basis for social relations that predate the colonial arrival and thereby ensuring the male Africans to fulfil their roles as expendable retainers or threatening enemy), the film then turns on the position of Jane herself as we chart the process of her ‘housewifization’ by Tarzan. In her first encounters with Tarzan, once he has abducted her from her father’s party and forcibly removed her to the jungle household, Jane is, ironically, re-domesticated, being compelled to take up the burden of unacknowledged ‘subsistence’ or reproductive labour which has typically fallen to women under historical capitalism. 23 She takes up the role of caregiver almost immediately, acting as nurse maid to Tarzan after his fight with a lion and simultaneously offering comfort – even being cast as surrogate mother – to the chimp, Cheeta. 24 It is telling that the film casts all such labour, construed as the duties of the household, as subordinated under mechanisms of patriarchal control. The threat of sexual violence or coercion is ever-present for Jane and is manifested in varied ways: she must successfully resist Tarzan’s initial assault; the bandages she uses must be ripped from her own clothing as her nursing becomes effectively a sort of striptease; and she is then finally subdued by repeated dunking in the river. This sequence of short scenes ends with an echo of marital style and custom as Tarzan carries Jane over the threshold of his arboreal dwelling.

Tarzan the Ape Man   137 Throughout these struggles, Jane expresses a repeated wish to educate and enlighten Tarzan. In keeping with the dictates of cultural production that works to shape and reinforce patriarchal control, the film thus enacts a kind of gendered double-think. Jane’s distress and protestations of ‘please let me go’ soon turn to acquiescence, at which point, the whole narrative of what has been her pacification can be inverted. 25 It then becomes instead, a particular fantasy of ‘housewifely’ ability, imbricated with the colonial imperative, which has the capacity to ‘civilise’ and discipline Tarzan, the epitome of a wild and brutish masculinity. Both ­Tarzan and Jane, therefore, shore up the gendered and racial imperatives essential to their respective forms of subjugation. Van Dyke’s direction and editorial decisions here prove suggestive. The ‘housewifization’ of Jane that has taken place over the past few minutes is followed directly by a sequence that details the inherent violence of forced labour. Exhausted black servants are whipped by both the overseer Riano and Jane’s earlier suitor, Holt, in a spectacle of black bodies being disciplined into productivity by the moral fibre of white colonial rule. What follows in the structure of the film is the interlacing of scenes depicting the domestic bliss of Tarzan and Jane with those focussed on the racialised discipline of colonial order. On the one hand, it is likely that such an interlacing is intended to emphasise the progress of Tarzan’s own journey to civilisation under Jane’s tutelage in contradistinction to the ‘savage’ harshness of Jane’s alternate white suitor. However, equally, it can also be read as a cinematic registration of the interlinked violence of the process of patriarchal capital accumulation, which domesticates and disciplines both female and colonial labour. Mies’s contention that ‘colonization and housewifization are closely and causally interlinked’ allows new light to be shed on the representation of gendered, social and racial relations in Tarzan the Ape Man. The film, moreover, bears out Mies’s thesis by offering a fictive world where ‘establishment of the “internal colony”’ – that is, the nuclear family, with the woman ‘provided for by a male breadwinner’ – simply would not have been possible without ‘the ongoing exploitation of external colonies.’26 Viewed in this way, the film serves as both emblem and active agent of American hegemony in the world-economy. On the one hand, the domestication of Jane Parker presented can be understood as registering the expansion of American global capital which depended on the necessary labour of women going unvalued and unacknowledged. On the other, the film must be grasped as speaking to and for a political retrenchment of traditional gender roles that was resurgent in the ­Depression-era United States. For Alex Vernon, it is Jane’s ostensible ‘rejection of the materialism’ which, in actuality, involves her creating a ‘jerry-rigged’ version of the ‘bourgeois lifestyle ideal’ in the jungle. 27 The ‘Yankee ingenuity’ of the on-screen Jane provides a telling example,

138  Chris Campbell he argues, of how popular cultural forms can work to diffuse class antagonisms and maintain the status quo. 28 This reading of the film as presenting an illusory escapism from the inequalities of the sexual division of labour, one that actually serves to reinforce that inequality, can be taken even further. If the middlebrow has tended to be associated with engaging a female demographic and, if a primary locus for the representation of the domination of American capitalist development is the portrayal on-screen of the household unit, then Tarzan the Ape Man rather neatly captures in cinematic form the struggle over the status of domestic labour under capital by articulating it as a sphere of female influence which must, ultimately, be seen to be subordinated to Tarzan’s wider control.29 In doing this, the film is complicit in cultural attempts to undo what historian Dolores Hayden has termed ‘the grand domestic revolution’: the longer history of radical feminist struggle over the reorganisation of reproductive work, a struggle that was indivisible from the reorganisation of both private and public space.30 Over the course of the subsequent Weissmuller and O’Sullivan films, the consolidation of gender roles and the pacification of Jane intensifies to the point of her violent removal from view altogether: ‘Tarzan of the movies dealt with the Jane problem exactly as Burroughs had. MGM killed Jane in the first draft of Tarzan Finds a Son! […] but fan outcry in response to a news release forced the production team to shoot a new ending. Now she impossibly survives the spear plunged in her back.’31 If the studio had, in the final reckoning, to row back from murdering O’Sullivan’s Jane in order to ‘release’ Tarzan into the freedom of renewed bachelorhood, its aesthetic intention nonetheless signalled a form of increasing subordination. The escalation from ‘housewifization’ to femicide takes the patriarchal violence which is shot though those early scenes of the film to a brutal conclusion.32

Merchants and Ivory: Racism and the Plunder of Natural Resources I want to suggest, then, that the story arc of Tarzan the Ape Man is driven forward by the combination of the pacification of Jane (the retrenchment of the sexual division of labour) and the pacification of the colonised (the core-peripheral axial division of labour), a combination which crystallises in the way in which the film is able to disregard and render unspoken the labour of black African women and similarly works to both domesticate Jane and to dehumanise the black expedition attendants. Following Fanon and Belafonte’s theorisation of the process of viewing Tarzan films, I want to turn briefly now to consider how this particular film demonstrates the way in which popular and middlebrow cultural forms can be enlisted in not just the representation but also the creating and sustaining of racialised orders.

Tarzan the Ape Man   139 From the very outset, Tarzan the Ape Man plays out many of the tropes associated with earlier narrative accounts of imperial exploration and ‘discovery.’ Whether it is the camera that slowly pans over a ­flattened-out map showing a virtually featureless expanse of West African space with ‘unknown’ scrawled repeatedly on its surface or the predominance of the sheer escarpment which must be overcome in order to access the ‘lost world’ that lies behind it, the film offers a cinematic recasting of colonial travelogues and the fictions of imperial adventure which drew upon them. 33 Moreover, such a narrative of imperial ­expansion comes complete with a de-historicised representation of African subjectivity: people divided into categories of ‘good’ natives or ‘savages.’ Regardless of such designations, all ‘native’ activity is ­rendered as a combination of spectacle and threat before the camera lens: from the arrival of the traders at the outpost to the bizarre dwarfs – actors in blackface – who seize the Parkers and ultimately bear the brunt of, what has been termed by Cedric J. Robinson, Tarzan’s ‘eugenic violence.’34 In its portrayal of racialised aggression towards black subjects the film also, of course, enacts a form of symbolic cultural violence: as Susan ­Gubar notes – and Fanon and Belafonte testify – its popularity undoubtedly contributed ‘to racist stereotypes that placed Africans as well as African Americans outside the bounds of culture by associating blackness with ineptitude, passivity, or savagery.’35 Indeed, the film reveals how cultural forms can be employed to invert historical reality through such distortion. The campfire scene plays heavily on a sense of white fear as the expedition is surrounded on all sides – abstracted black faces in close-up, emerge from the bush and stand in contrast to the studied cool of Holt puffing on his pipe, all as the sound of drumming growing steadily louder.36 In this way, Tarzan the Ape Man provides a form of aesthetic counterfactualism in which an invading force can be reimagined as a threatened, embattled minority. This heightened depiction of threat recalls the young Frantz Fanon on the streets of Lyon, fixed into a parody of the images he had viewed in the picture house in Fort-de-France: I subjected myself to an objective examination, I discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics; and I was battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetichism [sic], radical defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above all: ‘Sho’ good eatin. 37 The film, insofar as it works to instil a form of psychic racial subordination, and as it decontextualises and de-historicises any comprehension of African anti-colonial resistance, clearly takes its place as a site over which dominant political forces work to ‘disorganise and reorganise’ the terrain of popular cultural production in the service of a disavowal of histories of violent colonisation. 38

140  Chris Campbell It is also necessary to consider, moreover, how, in this egregious portrayal of race (easily viewed as ‘a direct endorsement of colonialism with overtones of fascism’), the film acutely registers as essential the inextricability of racism from the process of capital accumulation in the peripheral zones of the world-system. 39 To push this reading further still, it is possible to argue that Tarzan the Ape Man moves beyond a mere registration of the causal connection between the development of racism and capitalist imperialism.40 Rather, it articulates the dialectical relationship between the philosophic and the economic roots of modern racism identified by Helen Scott: the ideology of possessive individualism and the process of ‘primitive accumulation of capital.’41 Scott’s thesis develops out of a reading of early modern colonial history, and yet it is possible to see Tarzan the Ape Man as an example of how a middlebrow cultural form in the 1930s was able to repackage this dialectic of philosophical individualism and resource plunder, to both symbolically document and to drive processes of dispossession through primitive accumulation. Having made the case for the film’s enactment of the subordination of women and the colonies to the dictates and depredations of patriarchal capital (the exploitation of gendered and racialised labour), it is necessary now, in order to more fully grasp how it also works to offer a vision of a subordinated ‘nature’ as part of this historical process, to turn to the genre conventions and formal qualities of the Tarzan the Ape Man. In its foregrounding of the exploratory zeal that typifies the genre of imperial travelogue and narrative adventure fiction, the film sets itself up as self-consciously an imperial quest epic in line with Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912). The search for riches undertaken by the Parker expedition provides the film with narrative impetus. Although a storyline which may be subsumed under the narrative of Tarzan’s emergence for much of the course of the film, it nonetheless structures the plot from beginning to end. In deploying tropes and aesthetic styles deeply embedded in the imperial imaginary, as well as being ordered around the quest for natural resources, the film mediates the plunder of ‘nature’s free gifts’ acquired in the service of imperial capital accumulation. Indeed, the film can be understood as something of a peripheral ­‘resource fiction,’ which registers the historical transformations bound up with the ivory trade in West Africa. Ivory as a commodity occupies a position of symbolic significance – equal to that of gold – in the historical account of the European colonisation of the African continent as the first two English voyages to West Africa returned with cargoes of ivory. First, that of William Hawkins returning in 1530 and, a decade later, that of John Landye, which was recorded as carrying ‘one dozen elephants’ teeth weighing one cwt.’42 However, the significance of this particular trade is more than merely symbolic. As Walter Rodney explains, ivory is a key illustrative example of how the exploitation of

Tarzan the Ape Man   141 Africa was, for centuries, a source of accumulation of capital in ­Western Europe: ‘there was the export of ivory from Africa, enriching many merchants in London’s Mincing Lane, and providing the raw material for industries in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and North America – ­producing items ranging from knife handles to piano keys.’43 The extraction and trade in ivory – with its commodification both signalling and creating wealth for the European bourgeoisie – becomes then for Rodney an important exemplar of his underdevelopment thesis. As an activity that was purely extractive, the acquisition and removal of ivory and the logic of the trade, did not meet either local needs or local production. It did not depend on either the introduction of new technology (other than firearms) or skills to be taught, and as the often highly localised sources of ivory were rapidly exhausted the search for new resources engendered levels of violence comparable to that ‘which accompanied the search for human captives.’44 Any society’s success in the ivory trade necessitated a complete restructuring of its internal economy, which, in turn, made it even more vulnerable to fluctuations in the world-economy and stunted its capacity for economic independence and ‘self-sustaining social progress.’45 Tarzan the Ape Man is framed by the workings of the trade that ­Rodney interrogates. It dramatises the violence of forced labour and the disorganisation of societies that typified centuries of unequal exchange and uneven development on the African continent. The very opening shot of the film is footage of a line of African labourers carrying ivory tusks to Parker’s trading post, and it soon emerges that Parker’s real ambition is not the day-to-day exploitation of mercantile trade but the expropriation of vast stocks of ivory hidden in the legendary elephant’s graveyard: in Parker’s words ‘enough ivory to supply the world.’46 At the climax of the film, when the expedition has been captured by its dwarf antagonists, it is, paradoxically, the elephant herd serving as allies to Tarzan that is able to rescue the group. That they do so by employing that staple of Hollywood manoeuvres, the cavalry charge is fitting – the militaristic echo chiming in with a film that mobilises a new sense of expansionist influence. Under Tarzan’s guidance, it appears the elephants are willing to give up the secret of their burial place without much fuss and, with it, the hoard of ivory. This enables the film to script a vision of white stewardship over nature that seems to have a preordained and ‘naturalised’ right to the resources of the land. That the wealth of ivory from the graveyard seems freely given also nicely obfuscates the anthropogenic violence at the heart of the reality of the hunt for and commodification of ivory. The sanitised rendering of the scramble for natural resources on the African continent calls to mind, if only through contradistinction, the oft-cited words of Conrad (author of the seminal ivory-resource-­ exploitation fiction): ‘the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration.’47

142  Chris Campbell The resolution of Tarzan the Ape Man works to efface Conrad’s sharp observation of the workings of imperial capital. In its stead, it presents as its closing sequence, a complete picture of the smooth triumph for the processes of primitive accumulation driven by the ideology of possessive individualism: the ultimate securing of viable and enriching trade routes for the core territories. As Holt prepares to leave, his final exchange with Jane is telling: Holt: I can’t bear to say goodbye like this Jane: Goodbye? You’ll be coming back Harry.

I can see a huge safari with you at the head, bearing ivory down to the coast. Only this time there’ll be no danger because we’ll be there to protect you, every step of the way…48

This verbal exchange stands out as paean to the capacity of capitalist imperialism to succeed economically by appropriating a continual supply of accessible and exploitable resources. As environmental historian Jason W. Moore has argued, The world-historical genius of capitalism, in contrast to all previous world-ecologies, has been its capacity to maximize labour productivity by drawing in massive flows of nature’s “free gifts.” This is a term that Marx used to refer to capitalism’s appropriation of sources of wealth that it did not produce – the difference, for example, between an old growth forest and a tree plantation. These gifts included natural resources like timber and coal, but also included human nature in the form of labour – and I would also include the reproduction of labour power.49 As we might expect, however, Van Dyke’s film doesn’t close with an acknowledgement of the rapacious appetite of endless accumulation but, instead, by setting up a domestic vignette, in keeping with the film’s project of domestication. The very final image in the closing shot is of Tarzan, Jane and Cheeta embracing as they wave Holt off into the distance. Standing on a rocky outcrop, they form an oddly refashioned household unit, a stand-in for the normative American nuclear family. There is a chiastic elegance to the plot in the way this ending has been brought about: the imperial trade route is secured by the guardianship of the domesticated family unit; and the family unit is created and held together by the establishment of the ivory trade. What is masked here, though, is of course those three ‘gifts’ (reproductive labour, natural resources and labour power or ‘women, nature and colonies,’ as Mies would have it) that have had to be subjugated to ensure Harry Holt’s heroic victory. 50

Tarzan the Ape Man   143 MGM’s middlebrow fantasy Tarzan the Ape Man is perfectly positioned to project cultures of dominance. Situated at the crossroads of Arrighi’s systemic cycles of accumulation, it looks both ways. It is able to speak to the era of British dominance and to those still under the yoke of ­European colonial powers. At one and the same time, in heralding the new age of global American ascendancy which is rooted in a fantasy of patriarchal domestic stability, it is equally able to speak to its ­Depression-era United States audience. It is in the reception of its projected fantasies of domination, however, that we can witness the struggles over popular culture being staged most fiercely. The case of Tarzan the Ape Man offers the possibility that the potential of middlebrow forms to resist a culture of the powerful imposed at the expense of the powerless can best be demonstrated in their legacies. This film had the capacity and potential, despite its intentions, to foment resistance among those it denigrated or disavowed. For Harry Belafonte, it became the source of his rebellion against ‘injustice and human distortion and hate,’ and Frantz Fanon’s experience of the film had at least some small part to play in the philosophies and practice of anti-colonial struggle, which in the decades that followed the 1930s would proliferate across a decolonising world. 51

Notes 1 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London: Pluto, 1986), 152–3. 2 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 152. 3 The films were: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan and His Mate (1934), Tarzan Escapes (1936), Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939), Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) and Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942); David Macey, Frantz Fanon: A Biography (London and New York: Verso, 2000), 61–2. 4 Harry Belafonte, ‘Acceptance Speech upon Receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award,’ 2014 Governors Awards Ceremony, Hollywood, California, 8th November, 2014. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfj6Ja86lCs [accessed 3rd June, 2015]. 5 Harry Belafonte, ‘Acceptance speech.’ 6 Derek Walcott, ‘Malcochon,’ in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970); it is worth noting that the figure of Tarzan also appears – alongside Al Jolson, Cecil Rhodes, ­Shakespeare, Wilberforce and the KKK – in the roll-call of ‘criminal ­whiteness’ in the play ‘Dream on Monkey Mountain’ itself; V.S. Naipaul, Guerrillas (London: Andre Deutsch, 1975); Kamau Brathwaite, ‘Soweto,’ in Middle Passages (Newcastle, Bloodaxe, 1992), 59–68; Earl Lovelace, The Dragon Can’t Dance (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979); Oonya Kempadoo, Tide Running (London: Picador, 2001). 7 Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, ‘Postcolonial Popular Cultures,’ Continuum 25.5 (2011), 690. 8 Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, ‘Postcolonial Popular Cultures,’ 690. 9 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ in People’s History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (London: Routledge, 1981), 233.

144  Chris Campbell 10 Recent scholarship attests to the popularity of Tarzan beyond just the case of the Caribbean, for instance in India, see: Rosie Thomas, Bombay before Bollywood (Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2014), 131. See also, Ranita ­Chatterjee, ‘Film History through Fragments: The Aurora Archive and the Transnational Travels of Early Indian Cinema,’ BioScope 5:1 (2014), 35. 11 Sol Lesser quoted in Alex Vernon, On Tarzan (Athens, GA and London: The University of Georgia Press, 2008), 35. 12 Alex Vernon, On Tarzan, 37. 13 Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money Power and the ­Origins of our Times (London and New York: Verso, 1994), 59. 14 Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century, 220. 15 Silvia Federici, foreword to Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour by Maria Mies (London: Zed, 2014 [1986]), x. 16 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 239. 17 Tarzan the Ape Man. DVD, dir. W.S. Van Dyke (LA: Metro-­G oldwynMayer, 2004 [1932]), (05:52). 18 Alex Vernon, On Tarzan, 83. 19 For a detailed discussion of this footage and of the ‘creation’ of African tribes for the film, see Cedric J. Robinson, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film before World War II (Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Press, 2007), 340–2. 20 Tarzan the Ape Man, (08:50–09:05). 21 Tarzan the Ape Man, (15:35). 22 Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour (London: Zed, 2014 [1986]), 95. 23 See: Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 2011 [1983]), 24–5; Silvia Federici, ‘The Reproduction of Labour Power in the Global Economy and the Unfinished Feminist Revolution,’ in Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012), 96–100. 24 Tarzan the Ape Man, (58:00–59:59). 25 Tarzan the Ape Man, (1:02:03). 26 Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, 110. 27 Alex Vernon, On Tarzan, 28. 28 Alex Vernon, On Tarzan, 28. 29 For a discussion of the problematic tendency to cast ‘middlebrow’ as a ‘feminine category’ in the cinematic context see, Sally Faulkner, ed., Middlebrow Cinema (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016), 1–2. See also: Kate Macdonald, The Masculine Middlebrow, 1880–1950 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011). 30 Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981). 31 Alex Vernon, On Tarzan, 98–9. 32 The removal of Jane either through the on-screen violence or through the scripting and editing of the production process was to continue beyond MGM, of course. Frequently, ‘Hollywood simply dropped [Jane] out of the picture without bothering to kill her and frequently without bothering to explain her absence or even to mention her,’ Vernon, On Tarzan, 98–9. 33 We might think of: John Hanning Speke’s Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863) and Henry Stanley’s Through the Dark Continent (1878) as well as novels by Rider Haggard, R.M. Ballantyne and G.A. Henty.

Tarzan the Ape Man   145 34 Cedric J. Robinson, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning, 342. 35 Susan Gubar, Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 136. 36 Tarzan the Ape Man, (17:00). 37 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 112. 38 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 233. 39 Cedric J. Robinson, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning, 341. 40 This is the central thesis of such seminal studies as: Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Virginia, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1944) and Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery (London: Verso, 1997). 41 Helen Scott, ‘Was There a Time Before Race? Capitalist Modernity and the Origins of Racism,’ in Marxism, Modernity, and Postcolonial Studies, eds. Crystal Bartolovich and Neil Lazarus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 169. 42 Basil Davidson, The African Slave Trade, (Oxford: James Currey, 2004 [1961]), 60. 43 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London and Dar es Salaam: Bogle-L’Ouverture and Tanzania Publishing House, 1972), 94–5. 4 4 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 123. 45 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 123. 46 Tarzan the Ape Man, (12:15). 47 Joseph Conrad, ‘Geography and Some Explorers’ National Geographic Magazine 45 (1924), 272. 48 Tarzan the Ape Man, (1:38:38–1:38:54). 49 Jason W. Moore, ‘Wall Street is a Way of Organizing Nature,’ in Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Action 12 (2011), 47. 50 Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, 77. 51 Harry Belafonte, ‘Acceptance speech.’

Bibliography Arrighi, Giovanni. The Long Twentieth Century: Money Power and the Origins of Our Times. London and New York: Verso, 1994. Belafonte, Harry. ‘Acceptance Speech upon Receiving the Jean Hersholt ­Humanitarian Award, 2014 Governors Awards Ceremony.’ Hollywood, ­California, 8th November, 2014. Accessed 3rd June 2015.www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Yfj6Ja86lCs. Blackburn, Robin. The Making of New World Slavery. London: Verso, 1997. Chatterjee, Ranita. ‘Film History through Fragments: The Aurora Archive and the Transnational Travels of Early Indian Cinema.’ BioScope 5.1 (2014): 29–47. Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Lost World. London: Penguin, 2008 [1912]. Conrad, Joseph. ‘Geography and Some Explorers.’ National Geographic Magazine 45 (March 1924): 241–356. Davidson, Basil. The African Slave Trade. Oxford: James Currey, 2004 [1961]. Devadas, Vijay and Chris Prentice. ‘Postcolonial Popular Cultures.’ Continuum 25.5 (2011): 687–93. Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Charles Lam Markmann. London: Pluto, 1986 [1952].

146  Chris Campbell Faulkner, Sally. ed. Middlebrow Cinema. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. Federici, Silvia. ‘The Reproduction of Labour Power in the Global Economy and the Unfinished Feminist Revolution (2008).’ In Revolution at Point Zero: Housework Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, 91–114. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012. ———. ‘Foreword.’ In Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour by Maria Mies, 1–5. London: Zed, 2014 [1986]. Gubar, Susan. Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in ­A merican Culture. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Hall, Stuart. ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular.”’ In People’s History and Socialist Theory, edited by Raphael Samuel, 227–40. London: Routledge, 1981. Hayden, Dolores. The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981. Macdonald, Kate. The Masculine Middlebrow, 1880–1950. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011. Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography. London and New York: Verso, 2000. Mies, Maria. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour. London: Zed, 2014 [1986]. Moore, Jason W. ‘Wall Street Is a Way of Organizing Nature.’ Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Action 12 (2011): 39–53. Rider Haggard, H. King Soloman’s Mines. London: Penguin, 2007 [1885]. Robinson, Cedric J. Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film before World War II. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Press, 2007. Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. London and Dar es ­Salaam: Bogle-L’Ouverture and Tanzania Publishing House, 1972. Scott, Helen. ‘Was There a Time Before Race? Capitalist Modernity and the Origins of Racism.’ In Marxism, Modernity, and Postcolonial Studies, edited by Crystal Bartolovich and Neil Lazarus, 167–82. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Tarzan the Ape Man. DVD. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke (LA: Metro-­G oldwynMayer, 2004 [1932]). Thomas, Rosie. Bombay before Bollywood. Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2014. Vernon, Alex. On Tarzan. Athens, GA and London: The University of Georgia Press, 2008. Wallerstein, Immanuel. Historical Capitalism. London: Verso, 2011 [1983]. Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. Virginia, NC: University of North ­Carolina Press, 1944.

Part III


7 Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism Sarah Ilott

For Stuart Hall, popular culture (and under this I would include popular literature) functions as a ‘theater [sic] of popular desires, a theater of popular fantasies’ in which ‘we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented, not only to the audiences out there who do not get the message, but to ourselves for the first time.’1 Following Hall’s assertion, this chapter engages with British multicultural fiction that is concerned with negotiating identity and belonging first and foremost within a community of insiders, with scant concern for a mainstream audience. This chapter examines Karline Smith’s Moss Side Massive (1994) and Full Crew (2002), Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal’s Tourism (2006) as examples of fiction that engages with British multiculturalism through a prioritisation of subcultural affiliation over minority identity in a way that distinguishes them from their more externally engaged counterparts. As such, I will be arguing that these popular multicultural novels construct an alternative implied audience. In bringing these texts together, I synthesise discussions of the popular, subcultural and mainstream in ways that demand explanation. What follows is a short critical introduction to the field of study before I move on to an analysis of the novels, which suggests that they are worthy of critical study by virtue of the alternative commentary on British multiculturalism offered. Engaged with legacies of Britain’s status as a former colonial power, these texts foreground division and alienation over assimilation or integration and centralise material relations based on economic transactions.

Popular Culture, Subculture, Mainstream In order to indicate how the fictions of British multiculturalism considered in this chapter function alternatively in relation to implied audience, it is useful first to consider a novel that I would argue prioritises a mainstream audience: Hanif Kureishi’s critically acclaimed and widely consumed Bildungsroman, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990). The central concern of this novel is protagonist Karim’s identity formation as he oscillates between the various categories offered to him (national,

150  Sarah Ilott regional, sexual and ethnic). The positions that Karim adopts throughout the novel in relation to these identity categories are markedly performative, indexed through deliberate changes in clothing, consumption and affiliation that signify his shifting allegiances. Befitting the novel’s concern with identity as performative, Karim works as an actor, which functions as an enabling device for addressing broader themes of staging and authenticity. Theatre becomes, in Kureishi’s novel, an allegory for society in which the demographic of the audience that British Asian Karim needs to impress (‘four hundred white English people’) is writ large. 2 Though Kureishi’s novel engages with the representation of subcultural identities such as hippy and punk, it clearly does not coincide with Hall’s definition of popular culture as being concerned first and foremost with imagining and representing identities ‘to ourselves, for the first time’ but instead prioritises and internally constructs a mainstream audience that is unfamiliar with the identities performed. Jumping forward nearly two decades, in an article on the market for London’s multicultural fictions, James Graham puts the unfavourable early reception of Gautam Malkani’s 2006 novel Londonstani down to its refusal to make ‘knowable’ the communities it represented in a convincing manner. ‘This is because,’ Graham argues, ‘Londonstani self-consciously mimics the way subculture is performed, rather than representing the way religious, racial or ethnically defined communities live.’3 Drawing attention to performance as the defining characteristic of this new iteration of the British multicultural novel rings a little false, given my discussion of Kureishi’s text: Londonstani’s performative construction of identity is hardly a new direction in the oeuvre of multicultural British literature. What has changed, I would argue, is the implied audience for this multicultural fiction. In Graham Huggan’s paradigm-shifting work on The Postcolonial Exotic (2001), he defines ‘staged marginality’ (such as that evidenced in Kureishi’s novel) as the process whereby ‘marginalised individuals or social groups are moved to dramatise their “subordinate” status for the benefit of a majority or mainstream audience’ [my emphasis].4 The difference with Malkani’s novel is that although it similarly revels in performative identities, the audience implied by the text positions readers as subcultural insiders rather than the ‘majority’ audience for multicultural fictions suggested by Huggan. This change in direction is flagged up in the novel’s marketing and paratext (which is pitched at an urban teen audience with subcultural capital and street cred), in its narration (resplendent with expletives and rendered in ‘text-speak’) and in its subject matter (which focusses on the lives of a group of young men who self-identify as ‘desis,’ a term that denotes cultural origins in the Asian Subcontinent). The novels that I discuss in this chapter have a complex relationship to ideas of the popular, not least due to contested definitions of the popular itself. For critics like Scott McCracken, whose definition of popularity

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  151 relies on bestseller lists, popular fiction is defined ‘simply as fiction that is read by large numbers of people,’ meaning that the books I consider here are not popular or at least not as popular as some of their more mainstream counterparts in the umbrella genre of British multicultural fiction (we might add Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane to a list of novels that have attained greater popularity in this sense). 5 Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani was among the top 30 bestsellers a month and a half after its launch, though, as Graham notes, the 4,350 sales achieved by this point were ‘clearly disappointing, given the publisher’s high expectations.’6 Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal is rumoured to have received a generous advance for Tourism, but there is little evidence to suggest that the novel sold very well, receiving reviews that were mixed at best and little in the way of scholarly attention.7 Karline Smith’s Moss Side Massive has sold over 30,000 copies, although sales figures for the sequel – Full Crew – are not readily available.8 So, the novels considered here have a relative popularity in terms of sales, though they remain decidedly on the margins of any bestseller lists. It is also not possible to designate these novels unquestioningly as popular by virtue of their overt participation in a genre that is widely recognised as such (and of which detective fiction and romance hold the most lucrative shares of the market). There are, however, affinities with the ‘sex and shopping’ genre – popularised by the likes of Julie Burchill (who provides the cover endorsement for Dhaliwal’s novel) – which are similarly concerned with consumerist and erotic fantasies. These subcultural novels also engage with pop cultural practices, such as shopping, music and style, with paratextual aesthetics (linguistic and visual) that are reflective of other popular genres. A more useful working definition for the popular in the way that I am applying it to these novels is that suggested by Stuart Hall. Hall combines a descriptive element – ‘popular culture is all those things that “the people” do or have done’ – with a relational element, arguing that ‘what is essential to the definition of popular culture is the relations which define “popular culture” in a continuing tension (relationship, influence and antagonism) to the dominant culture,’ citing the importance of this ‘cultural dialectic.’9 This definition of the popular in relation to a dominant culture has clear affinities with subcultural affiliation, which also arises from a power imbalance and in a dialectic relationship with a putative mainstream. Yet what subculture entails, in addition to what is suggested by the popular, is an expression of exclusion and deliberate distancing from society. In her introduction to The Subculture Reader (1997), Sarah Thornton summarises this tension adroitly: ‘[s]ubcultures, in other words, are condemned to and/or enjoy a consciousness of “otherness” or difference.’10 This construction illustrates the potentially liberating aspect of subcultural affiliation for those who may have had the

152  Sarah Ilott labels of ‘otherness’ or difference thrust upon them (due to ethnic or class allegiances that mark a deviance from the ‘norm’). Subcultural affiliation means that these labels can be transformed into a self-imposed choice or oppositional stance, recasting subcultural members as agents rather than victims. Where ideas of the popular and subcultural as I am mobilising them come into relief is around questions of the market for multiculturalism. A certain vision of British multiculturalism has been legitimised through political rhetoric that is purportedly celebratory of diversity, with the oft-cited proviso (particularly post-2001, a year that saw race riots in northern towns and cities as well as the fallout from the ­S eptember 11 terrorist attacks in the United States) that this diversity is premised on integration and shared ‘British values.’11 The marketability of such a multicultural vision of Britain is evident in the Demos Report (1997), commissioned by the Design Council and published on the same day as Tony Blair’s New Labour party came into power after 18 years of Conservative rule. It identified the necessity of tackling internal perceptions of Britain so as to effect a change in its image abroad and ultimately boost the sales of British industries and products in a global market. The desire to project a new image of Britain was reflected in the report, which concluded with six new stories about Britishness to replace stagnant ones that lacked resonance with the youth of the day. One of these new stories, entitled ‘United colours of Britain,’ foregrounded Britain’s cultural hybridity, suggesting that the nation thrived on diversity, both subcultural and ethnic (examples of literary success, cuisine and music were listed).12 Reasons for creating a coherent and positive national identity were clearly identified: it protects against atomisation and community breakdown whilst creating happier citizens. Amidst this zeitgeist of ‘Cool Britannia’ and the celebration of multiculturalism, the desire to project a celebratory image of Britain’s diverse communities also began to be reflected in the literature that was being published, widely consumed and critically acclaimed (which does not have a direct correlation with the sum of literature that was being written). This embrace of a celebratory image of multiculturalism was made particularly apparent in the marketing of ethnic minority authors, even when the subject matter of the novels themselves resisted a wholly celebratory tone. The hysteria around the publication of Zadie Smith’s first novel, White Teeth (2000), is a case in point. The novel, which Smith describes in interview as a ‘kind of fantasy book’ about the future of race relations in the country, builds on a sense of utopian hope and promise that has proven highly popular both with publishing houses (as evidenced by Smith’s hefty advance and expensive marketing campaign) and with academics (as evidenced by the volume of criticism already published on Smith’s first novel).13 In terms of the market for

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  153 multicultural fiction, this is what I am designating as mainstream, in its coupling of commercial success with the potential for co-option by politicians and publishers alike. However, this clearly does not mean that literature is solely a vehicle for those in power. It is undeniably capable of subversion and resistance, though this may not be so marketable for publishing houses trading on more easily consumable (positive) images of multicultural Britain. Corinne Fowler’s important essay ‘A Tale of Two Novels: Developing a Devolved Approach to Black British Writing’ traces the ‘differing fortunes’ of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Joe Pemberton’s Forever and Ever Amen (‘also a critical success’), ‘examin[ing] the commercial and cultural logic by which novels are coded as worthy of national and international readerships by corporate publishers and high street retail ­outlets.’14 Among the reasons that Fowler arrives at for the novels’ ‘differing fortunes,’ she suggests that ‘literature is frequently co-opted [by publishers] into the project of constructing a national consciousness’ and that ‘[c]orrespondingly, a novel’s ability to conjure up a sense of place in ways that trigger positive cultural associations has important commercial implications.’15 My response to this is to examine novels that determinedly resist a happy picture of British multiculturalism. In so doing, I heed and echo Fowler’s call for academics to ‘maintain a critical perspective on the corporate publishing industry.’16 This teases at definitions of the popular as I suggest that what is popular by numbers might have an increasingly complex relationship with definitions of the popular as constructed in opposition to a dominant culture that increasingly refuses to engage with the less savoury realities of British multiculture, such as racism, alienation and socio-economic disenfranchisement. Where the subcultural novels that I engage here make their departure, then, is largely in their representation of a multicultural Britain that is increasingly atomised, in large part due to the psychological and economic legacies of Britain’s status as a former colonial power. These novels foreground aspects of racism and vastly unequal access to economic opportunity, refusing to present an ultimately uplifting conclusion or sense of hope for the future. In sum, these novels are popular insomuch as they engage with popular culture and are fashioned in the style of popular genres, though they work at a slant to what has become popular in the market for multiculturalism. The tension between novels that participate in a mainstream consumer culture yet are branded as subcultural does not go unacknowledged in the texts. These novels frequently parody the consumer society that places value on certain cultural artefacts whilst drawing attention to the colonial legacy of combined and uneven development that means that whilst exoticised products and bodies may have a certain cultural cache, some disenfranchised groups (and here I focus in particular on groups of young men from ethnic minorities) are locked out of the means of

154  Sarah Ilott participating legitimately in this consumer culture and must find other modes of consumption. These alternative ways of consuming often involve replacing an economic hierarchy with a sexual one in acts of heteronormative machismo or operating illegally to attain the commodities that would otherwise be unaffordable. Deviant consumption has long been tied to notions of subculture, and for Dick Hebdige it ‘is basically the way in which commodities are used in subculture which mark the subculture off from more orthodox cultural formations.’17 Objects are fetishised (ascribed excessive value) in subcultural circles, which shifts and modifies the way in which capital is conceived and enables an implicit critique of mainstream models of consumption. This chapter draws attention to novels that have largely been excluded from critical attention, which I argue is due to the picture of multicultural Britain that they present and the subcultural imagined audience that they construct internally. These novels use consumerist and sexual desires and systems of value in order to comment upon and critique the construction of multicultural Britain by focussing on the problematic topics of violence, hyper-masculinity, gangs and misogyny that are often passed over by more utopian (political and literary) accounts of multiculturalism.

‘I’m gonna make your heart and your profits rise’: Subculture and Parody in Karline Smith’s Moss Side Novels Karline Smith’s Moss Side Massive (1994) and its sequel Full Crew (2002) are firmly situated amidst the weaponised and drug-fuelled gang culture of Manchester’s most infamous neighbourhood. The novels trace rival antagonisms between gangs as well as paying heed to the alternative affiliations of the men and women involved. These novels map a ­Manchester (or ‘Gunchester’) that is at once intensely local, with frequent reference to existing sites and streets, yet also bears witness to wider affiliations as Jamaican gangs and IRA connections weave through the subplots.18 Whilst gang warfare is not carried out along ethnic lines, the novel makes it explicit that the gang culture has historical roots in the disenfranchisement and attendant alienation of migrant groups. Black DI Edwards, for example, recognises the historical legacy of a city that still has only four black students in its best school and whose residents view him as a traitor for choosing a job in the police force and becoming a ‘beastbwai.’19 For Lynne Pearce, in a notable chapter on Manchester Crime Fiction, Smith makes use of the crime genre as a means of exposing ‘racial inequality’ as in part ‘responsible for the crime in Manchester.’20 As such, the novels engage with the popular classes, whilst imagining the lived realities of British multiculture in a way that subversively resists marketable visions of a diverse nation. 21

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  155 The gang scene described in Smith’s novels is one of conspicuous consumption in which luxury items are an index of power and status. Brand names (‘Moschino, Armani, Klein, Versace, Rockport, Nike’) litter the text and work as signifiers of wealth and power for their owners. 22 This pursuit of luxury and excess as stylistic markers of subculture might be dismissed as a simple case of greed, but the social backdrop of the novels is one in which the characters are taught to prize monetary wealth, yet are excluded from the means of attaining it legally. The case of three brothers in the novels is illustrative of this plight as there seems to be no middle ground between poverty and the wealth attainable only through gang affiliation and drug peddling. The eldest brother, Storm, gets involved in ‘a little hustling,’ which escalates uncontrollably for the simple reason that ‘Being broke was embarrassing.’23 Blue, described as a ‘smart kid [who] had done well at school’ is nevertheless ‘bombarded with reminders of the materialistic world that didn’t form part of his existence,’ and also begins to sell drugs as a child in order to attain the only marker of status that is meaningful amongst his peers. 24 Zukie is the only one of the brothers that refuses to get involved with the gang scene, identifying instead with the spirituality and music of Rastafarianism, but he is faced with the serious problem of unemployment in the area, especially amongst blacks. Arriving at the Job Centre, Zukie finds that the only job that does not require previous experience – a job as a handyman paying a mere £120 per week – has already been filled, two hundred applications having been received. Zukie does remain outside of the gang circles until he is reluctantly drawn in through association with his brother, but his story illustrates that there is very little (legal) opportunity to ‘mek it in this white man’s world.’25 Writing about the crime fiction genre, Lee Horsley argues that ‘Yardie [west Indian] fiction [...] implicitly demands a reassessment of the postcolonial economic and cultural circumstances that made the Yardie underworld possible.’26 For Horsley, such fiction ‘exposes the economic need that underlines the apparent greed of the gangland members.’27 By drawing attention to socio-economic factors affecting Moss Side communities, I would suggest that Smith similarly contextualises and makes sense of the pursuit of luxury and material wealth, refusing to interpret gang behaviours in a political vacuum. This has the effect of centralising the material relations between people frequently elided in narratives or constructions of British multiculturalism (literary and political) that attempt to disconnect questions of class and race, and thereby downplay the role of imperialist logic in placing different value on different groups of people and perpetuating the social and economic exclusion of minority communities. The subtitle of this section brings together subcultural performance and parody, two elements that I use to conceptualise the way that the gangs are structured in the novels. Gangs function in a way that explicitly

156  Sarah Ilott mimics legitimate businesses and companies. The following scene shows gang leader Miss Small allocating positions in her crew: Michigan and Ranger are still in Sales and Debt Recovery. Hatchet and Slide are Security. Trench, I want you to be the crew’s main Security Consultant and Easy I waan you to be Co-Director with myself as Company Director until I decide to evaluate certain positions in de near future. 28 The formal terminology and strict hierarchy that the gang adheres to parallels companies on the right side of the law and in so doing forces a comparison with these companies. 29 Each member of the crew is effective at their allocated role, displaying skills that would be enviable in a different setting. Discussing common conceptions of subcultures, Gelder states that ‘their relation to labour might be understood as parasitical, or as a kind of alternative “mirror-image” to legitimate work practices.’30 Yet the fact that the labour practices might be considered as the illegal reverse of ‘legitimate work practices’ raises the question of why the subcultures have, as such, been forced underground: the tension between social alienation and the self-imposed choice to remove from society is manifest in this social bias. Gang members in Smith’s novels also identify by way of musical preference, which is not only distinguished against ‘mainstream’ musical consumption but also against Rastas: ‘Vegas wasn’t a reggae super star whose lyrics ostracized gangs or violence. His lyrics were born strictly out of the dog-eat-dog world, ghetto-heart streets of Kingston Jamaica. To poor afflicted yout’ he was a super-cult hero.’31 Protest and d ­ issent ­(political or otherwise) are embraced as a more suitable (­musical) ­response ­ onviolent critiques to the social situation than the ideological yet largely n offered by reggae. Ken Gelder, in his comprehensive work, ­subcultures, defines gansta rap music as occupying a ‘“post-­protest” position’ that nevertheless helps to demonstrate that ‘racial discrimination remains a fact of [...] daily life.’32 Far from presenting a scene of happy integration easily consumable by a mainstream audience, characters in Smith’s novels consume dissenting music that documents and foregrounds a history of racism. Racial discrimination – rather than a multicultural utopianism – defines the social legacy with which Smith’s characters interact. Here we find the tension between popular cultures that have gained favour with mainstream audiences (as indicated by the international success of reggae superstars such as Bob Marley) and popular cultures that resist or critique a mainstream (white) audience and as such have not been greeted with such acclaim. In Smith’s novels, the reduced opportunity for social mobility amongst her black male characters manifests itself in a displaced focus on sexual potency as a mask for social/financial impotence. Smith’s

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  157 men reject notions of masculinity born out of a Victorian emphasis on ­respectability – as discussed by Belinda Edmondson in Making Men amongst others – and turn instead to the kinds of masculinity prized in Caribbean performative traditions such as calypso, carnival and dancehall that emphasise irreverent linguistic wit and sexual ­prowess. 33 Women largely occupy peripheral roles in the novels, excluded from the homosocial bonds that unite the gang members; they are frequently referred to as ‘bitches’ and ‘hos’ and a man’s ability to ‘manners his woman’ stands as a marker of pride. 34 Easy-Love Brown is the series’ worst manipulator of women, seducing two women simultaneously but to different ends. The quotation that stands as the subtitle for this section is taken from Easy’s seduction of Vaniesha (the notorious Miss Small), whose gang he subsequently plans to usurp. His promise to make her ‘heart and [...] profits rise’ shamelessly conflates sexual and materialistic desire in a way that cheapens any illusion of romance that might otherwise have been pretended, cheesy lines aside. 35 Sex, for Easy, is another means of manipulation or asserting his authority. His other girlfriend – an Irish woman with IRA links that goes by the name of Chris – is equally seduced by Easy’s money and succumbs to sleep with him in a bed covered in paper bills. The crass equation of sexual and materialistic desire (another classic line includes Easy’s request that Chris join him to ‘make a baby in our money bed’) demonstrates how women become objects of exchange, commodities that are traded to inflate the men’s status. 36 Yet this equation of (hyper)masculinity and sexual manipulation is subtly subverted through the novels as unlike female family members and partners outside of the gangs’ systems, who are represented predominantly as victims, female players like Miss Small and Chris are constructed as willing accomplices in the process of seduction and themselves manipulate men through sex. This deconstructive bent foregrounds the ways in which sex is more widely used as a bargaining tool in the absence of other forms of power, rather than being an inherent tendency of the men. In conclusion, Smith paints an alternative view of multicultural ­Britain by locating her characters amidst the poverty and social alienation of Moss Side, Manchester. By taking as her muse a subculture that values conspicuous consumption and hyper-masculine assertions of power, Smith is able to provoke a consideration of the social situation that has provided fertile breeding ground for gang culture. Though she depicts her characters as products of circumstance, Smith does not excuse them entirely. The novels’ dialogism and multiple points of focalisation function to offer explanations for the subculture’s stance, whilst also internally critiquing it through the string of broken families that the men leave in their wake. As such, the novels engage with and to an extent internally critique popular classes and cultures, yet the subcultural turn additionally highlights an opposition to a mainstream that

158  Sarah Ilott has demonised and subordinated this social group, thereby providing a counter to more consumable images of British multiculture in which gang culture is elided.

Failing the Authenticity Test: Subculture and Performativity in Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani Where Karline Smith’s novels foreground the socio-economic backdrop of poverty and alienation that drives her characters to identify in opposition to a mainstream culture that excludes them, the decision of the boys in Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani to adopt a ‘street’ argot and an illegal livelihood is not born out of a background of poverty. However, the range of positions open to them are depicted as still limited by the systemic racism of the United Kingdom that has created fertile conditions for social alienation. This section suggests that Malkani’s novel negotiates questions of the mainstream, in the first instance, by indicating the subculture’s turn towards increasingly mainstream notions of consumption and, in the second, by rejecting mainstream ideas of multicultural relations, prioritising style, performance and economic transactions above those imagined (often incorrectly) as existing beyond the economic sphere – such as ideology, religion or ethnicity – in the process of establishing collective identity. Londonstani rotates around a group of young men who self-identify as ‘desis,’ using a modernisation of the Sanskrit word for ‘countryman’ to mean ‘homeboy.’37 Narrator Jas is a 19-year-old from Hounslow who is retaking his A Levels along with his desi friends. In order to make money and purchase the luxury items worshipped by their subculture, the boys have a business unlocking mobile phones, which – tax evasion aside – is just about above board until they break one of the phones that they have been given and are forced to steal a new one. Upon being caught stealing said phone from their teacher they are swiftly set up with Sanjay, their teacher’s model ex-student, supposedly to give the boys something to aspire to and work for. However, Sanjay quickly turns the boys into assets for his own illegal business and they begin to make more money by selling on their unlocked (and by now presumably stolen) mobile phones. A downward spiral of events ensues, in which Jas loses his friends, his money and his girlfriend, and sets fire to his father’s business. It is only when Jas is lying in a hospital bed at the end of the novel that readers learn what his name is short for: not Jaswinder, like his friend, but Jason or more precisely ‘Jason Bartholomew-Cliveden: aged nineteen, white, male.’38 Like the gangs of Smith’s novels, the desi boys in Londonstani style themselves in the most expensive of designer clothing and drive the fastest, newest and flashiest cars. The stylistic choices that the boys make to surround themselves by the most luxurious items are self-consciously

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  159 articulated as an economic ideology: ‘there’s no Marxist alternative any more. The fall of communism, the rise of bling.’39 Employing quasi-­ religious terminology, Sanjay explains to Jas and his friends that ‘You will forever be judged and judge yourselves by your luxury consumerist aspirations, your nice stuff.’40 The ideological/religious nature of ­Sanjay’s explanations amasses extra significance if we consider that the boys’ parents’ culture is defined along religious lines, all (with the exception of Jas) coming from Hindu or Sikh backgrounds. The desi boys adopt the prejudices of their parents (who frequently discriminate against other minorities, including blacks and Muslims) but are shown to have little care for religious practices unless they concern the machismo of family honour or can be incorporated into their clothing style: ‘Hardjit always wore a Karha round his wrist an something orange to show he was a Sikh’ and they all wear rakhis until Diwali to show how many girls they are bound to protect.41 The incorporation of religious symbols into desi clothing illustrates a shared culture with their parents, but with material goods replacing spiritual gods as the key marker of identity, a subcultural turn is evident, and modes of consumption become the key facet of identity. The increasingly mainstream appeal of the items fetishized by the subculture is acknowledged in a way that implicitly critiques an increasingly pervasive prioritisation and celebration of affluence in mainstream society: ‘This isn’t about society becoming more affluent, this is about a subculture that worships affluence becoming mainstream culture.’42 As the criminal endeavours required by the young men to maintain an affluent lifestyle are revealed, it forces a reflection upon the illicit transactions supporting the greedy aspirations of a small elite in Britain as well as the turn from ideology to the economy as central to British political life. Relations with a putative mainstream are, nevertheless, complicated through the boys’ attitudes to identity in the context of a multicultural Britain. As Michael Perfect has rightly observed in Contemporary Fictions of Multiculturalism, the boys reject the version of mainstream culture ‘typified by the arts, by political debate’ that is articulated by their teacher Mr Ashwood when he tries to ‘get you boys interested in our mainstream, multicultural society again, in books, plays, politics, public institutions like the BBC.’43 As indicated in the introduction to this chapter, despite engaging in increasingly mainstream modes of consumption, the novel turns away from a mainstream audience and directs itself at subcultural insiders. This is evident in the its narration, which sees Jas alternating between first and second person address and, in so doing, generalising his own situation, assuming the audience’s similar experience and creating a conversational relationship. Slipping out of the first-person ‘I,’ the narrator begins to extrapolate: ‘In the end you ignored everyone. The whole fuckin lot. The problem for you was that [...].’44 The only audience that Jas cares about is his friends, who – despite Jas’s

160  Sarah Ilott devotion to ‘MTV Base an Juggy D videos’ – seem to possess a superior level of ‘rudeboy authenticity.’45 However, authenticity is not something that Jas is alone in lacking. By hosting a number of the scenes in various parents’ houses, Malkani is able to illustrate that the boys are all different at home than on the streets or with friends, exchanging their ‘desi rudeboy’ postures for polite and respectful exchanges with parents and aunties. Malkani himself is justifiably annoyed at the ‘authenticity hurdle that reviewers have required [him] to jump,’ which ‘implies that there’s a single authentic British Asian experience and that authentic experience can’t be shared by someone who went to Cambridge and works for the FT.’ He states that ‘[t]he whole point of the book was to look at the construction and performance of inauthentic identities among young people today regardless of race.’46 The presence of the novel’s deliberate red herring (in the form of the white narrator) in part contradicts Malkani’s own assertions as race is deliberately foregrounded as an important feature of identity by being hidden until the end. Indeed, Londonstani’s structure is designed to trick readers into believing that, like his friends, Jas is also from an Indian background. The ‘we’ of the novel appears to be drawn along ethnic lines, explicitly so at points. Hardjit, in the process of beating someone up, turns to Amit, Ravi and Jas for confirmation of his threats, ‘Call me or any a ma bredrens a Paki again an I’ma mash u an yo family. In’t dat da truth, Pakis?’47 Their uniform response – ‘Dat’s right [...] dat be da truth’ – serves to align Jas with Amit and Ravi.48 Jas’s refusal to reveal his surname is put down to it being ‘one a them extra long surnames that nobody’d ever pronounce proply,’ citing a problem more typically associated with South Asian names.49 Even his girlfriend, Samira, describes him as ‘just another straight-off-the-boat possessive desi guy,’ equating his (increasingly misogynist) attitude with those of a first-generation immigrant.50 Malkani disperses red herrings like this throughout the novel in order to fuel assumptions that Jas shares his friends’ Indian ‘roots’ (a word that I use here in the loosest of senses). By reading Jas’s identity construction in relation to subculture, the fact that he obscures his ethnicity might be interpreted as a point of embarrassment – his skin colour and cultural background do not grant him the same subcultural capital as his peers of Subcontinental descent. It is crucial that it is not ethnicity itself that is the most important factor in attaining subcultural status but the fetishized value placed on ethnicity as cultural symbol. As such, the desis identify against perceived race traitors, or ‘coconuts,’ who are portrayed as complicit with white middle-class values. Pulling up alongside an Asian man’s car they cruelly observe: You could tell from his long hair, grungy clothes, the poncey novel an newspaper on his dashboard an Coldplay album playin in his

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  161 car that he was a muthafuckin coconut. So white he was inside his brown skin, he probably talked like those gorafied desis who read the news on TV. 51 His choice not to live the same lavish lifestyle as the desis causes them to write him off as ‘some gora-lovin, dirty hippie.’52 Whiteness, or ‘gorafication,’ is frequently used as an insult in the novel. However, the line between whites and Asians, goras and desis, is not as clear-cut as readers might initially surmise, as illustrated by white Jas’s accepted desi performance throughout the novel. In sum, the novel presents an alternative model for multiculturalism in which what is paramount in the construction of identity is performance, and a performance that is consolidated by the ability to consume expensive products. Though the products consumed increasingly tend towards mainstream consumption, the subculture identifies against a mainstream that defines multicultural relations in terms other than economic ones (in lofty gestures to politics, ideology or art). This thematic engagement with consumption has an ironic relationship with the marketing and contested identity of the novel itself, which has already gone through many facelifts. In an article questioning if the British novel has lost its way, Robert McCrum cites the book’s initial mismarketing (rather than its content alone) as the reason for its lack of commercial and critical success, arguing that ‘if it had been published, as its author once intended, as a teen novel, it might have found a secure place as a contemporary classroom classic.’53 The fraught process of marketing the novel provides an interesting parallel to the novel’s thematic engagement: McCrum implies that its success (or lack thereof) has hinged upon the way that the content is dressed up and the market to which it appeals.

‘I’m just a fucking tourist [...] I just look at the view’: Post-subcultural identity and the Order of Money in Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal’s Tourism The final novel to which I turn could be considered post-subcultural: whilst subculture has been called ‘a response to the individualisation and alienation of modern life,’ post-subcultural commentary holds that ‘individualisation is modern life’s logical and desirable conclusion.’54 ­Bhupinder (‘Puppy’) Singh Johal, the narrator of Nirpal Singh ­Dhaliwal’s Tourism, is a perennial outsider. Barely recognising social ties or responsibilities, he adopts the detached gaze of the perpetual tourist, which is at once removed from ‘mainstream’ values and from relations to work and consumerism, yet also fails to acknowledge subcultural ties with other outsiders. Puppy has left his Southall childhood home to mix with ­London’s multicultural elite and shamelessly seduces rich-girl ­Sophie in order to live off her wealth and get closer to Sarupa, fiancée of Sophie’s

162  Sarah Ilott cousin. The narrative takes us through a host of graphically detailed sexual encounters, culminating in Puppy’s eventual seduction of Sarupa. Yet this does not signal a romantic resolution to the novel, as Sarupa (though pregnant with Puppy’s child) goes back to her fiancé and leaves Puppy to indulge in a downward spiral of unhealthy eating, dope smoking and daytime television. Puppy finally gets his break by stealing £20,000 from his only close friend and escaping to Europe in order to shed any remaining ties and indulge his touristic predilection more seriously. In the novels I have examined thus far, there has been a focus on the pursuit of material wealth and beautiful women as signifiers of status and masculinity. Yet in Tourism (2006), the blurring of materialist and sexual desire is foregrounded even further as the financial and sexual marketplaces are juxtaposed as alternative ways of conferring value. Previous novels of multicultural Britain, such as Kurieshi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000) and even S­ alman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988) have used interracial romance as a means of uniting different social and cultural groups. This foregrounds mutual desire as structuring relationships in multicultural Britain, rather than the suspicion, inequality and racism presented in novels such as those by Karline Smith. Tourism represents a number of interracial relationships; however, these relationships are viewed from a cynical distance as comical stereotypes of desire, resounding with political incorrectness and louche irreverence. The novel is littered with parodic and provocative sound bites on the narrator’s opinion of the ‘miscegenist heaven’ that is London: ‘white women clung to well-wrought ethnic studs who pushed tricycle pushchairs laden with fat brown babies; demure young white men guided Asian girlfriends through stalls selling hookahs, avant-garde sneakers and sun-dried tomatoes’; ‘in his grab for wealth, Whitey created the body his women want to fuck the most’; ‘White chicks love dark cock [...]. Even Princess Diana was crazy for it,’ and so on.55 Yet a novel so immersed in sex in all of its lurid detail is profoundly unerotic as Puppy describes the various sexual acts in clinical detail and in so doing removes any illusion of emotional attachment or desire. Recounting his experience with a prostitute (Luca), Puppy recalls ‘She closed her eyes and slid a firm grip up and down my erection, winding her hips while I fingered her.’56 This scene – reminiscent of a Mills and Boon by virtue of its explicit erotic language – is deflated by the remarkably anticlimactic addendum: ‘This continued for some time.’57 His ­longer-term relationships hardly fare better as a series of bathetic plunges deny sexual climax. Descriptions of sex are brief and mechanical, ending with distraction or disinterest to highlight the emotional detachment of the narrator, placing him as a voyeur rather than an agent in the world that he inhabits.58 Puppy’s emotional detachment confirms his overriding anti-ideology. As the subtitle states, Puppy describes himself

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  163 as a ‘tourist’ in response to Sarupa’s bemused questioning: ‘So you’re not a socialist, or an anarchist or anti-globalist, even though you think capitalism is mediocre and paranoid?’59 His sense of alienation is not only self-imposed, however, as he argues that he would ‘have to feel [...] relevant to the world in order to care about it.’60 Puppy understands that money is the only thing that counts in the social milieu that he wants to inhabit, and this is something of which he has a limited supply. Sarupa is the only woman with whom Puppy is involved emotionally, but she moves in social circles that Puppy cannot properly enter. Her dismissal of him in favour of her rich but uninteresting fiancé serves to highlight the novel’s ideology: it is not romance that has the power to unite different social factions but money. As Puppy observes, ‘Money alchemises people, the mere suspicion of it changes everything.’61 For ­people like himself and his black friend Michael, who are both financially excluded from London’s elite circles, the only hope is ‘[k]nowing what white people want’ and selling it to them, which is Michael’s philosophy for ‘making it’ in Britain.62 The only way that they can subvert the hierarchy is to ridicule consumers with the products that they ‘sell.’ Growing tired of an undistinguished career in journalism, Michael decides to produce some artwork, for which he receives lottery funding. His concept is a ‘multi-screen video installation: called Niggers, it involved images of everyday white people – plumbers, bank clerks, taxi drivers – dancing the running-man to Vanilla Ice’s 1990 hit single “Ice Ice Baby.”’63 When questioned on the rationale behind the piece, he answers ‘I wrote about how this idea deals with the white paradigm, and its appropriation of the black subject. [...] Fuck knows [what it means]. Evie told me to write it. But they fell for it. Can you fucking believe that?’64 Selling crazy products to a hungry, white, consuming public is a way of ridiculing a society built on the hierarchy of who has the capacity to consume the most. Romance fails as an alchemist for disparate social factions in Tourism; however, Puppy uses sex as another way of reversing the ruthless capitalist hierarchy by placing himself as the consumer of white bodies. Described as so much meat on a shelf in acts of disinterested appraisal, white women are frequently subjected to Puppy’s cruel gaze: ‘[t]he blonde [...] was sexy, but wasn’t the prettiest girl around; her face was wide, her teeth a little crooked. I didn’t mind; I wouldn’t have to put in too much work.’65 This reverses a hierarchy that Felly Nkweto Simmonds identifies in her article ‘Love in Black and White,’ where she argues that in ‘sexual relationship[s] between Black and white [...] the white body is ascribed the status of consumer [...] of Black bodies,’ citing supporting historical and contemporary evidence.66 The article has contemporary relevance in terms of its emphasis on the interconnected history of sexual and racial politics, which necessitates the inclusion of the ‘public/ political’ as well as the ‘private/personal’ in the theorisation of ‘interracial romances.’67 Rather than simple and generic misogyny, Puppy’s

164  Sarah Ilott denigration of women is limited to those that are white, creating an alternate hierarchy in which capital is not supreme and in which those without it do not have to pander to the consumerist desires of the white majority. This is of course problematic and falls foul of the criticisms directed at Frantz Fanon and other post-war writers for their construction of white women as currency in a world ordered by white men.68 Nevertheless, it crucially and subversively foregrounds the role of money in the relationships across cultures. This paints a rather bleak picture of contemporary multicultural Britain but in so doing reveals and challenges the capitalist logic and blinkered devotion to the economy that increasingly defines British politics. Gelder’s analysis of the post-subcultural trend illustrates that it is the perfect model for Dhaliwal’s social critique: ‘[a]ll that this post-­ subcultural picture of heterogeneity is left with here is a benign and docile expression of capitalism’s primary ideological fantasy, the “individual’s freedom of choice.”’69 Puppy stands as a manifestation and (due to his cruel character traits) implicit critique of capitalist logic. Denied the freedom of choice granted by financial wealth, the narrator instead exercises his freedom of choice on the sexual market, expressly grateful that he ‘didn’t have to strive for wealth to avoid a life of substandard sexual partners.’70 In so doing he replaces a financial hierarchy with a sexual one and becomes a representative of the ruthless detachment of market forces.

Conclusion In The Postcolonial Unconscious (2011), Neil Lazarus persuasively suggests that postcolonial studies has become limited, with scholars writing ‘with reference to a woefully restricted and attenuated corpus of works,’ and teaching with reference to texts that allow ‘a certain, very specific and very restricted kind of reading to be staged through reference to them.’71 For Lazarus, the narrowing of the discipline has seen undue focus on ‘a discrete cultural tendency’ (pomo-postcolonialism) and a severing of capitalism from discussions of colonialism and imperialism.72 What this chapter has sought to do is in part a corrective to the worrying trends that Lazarus reads: it has focussed on novels frequently overlooked within research and curricula and recentred the material relations between people as being of primary importance in a postcolonial society that has perpetuated the social and economic exclusion of minority communities through a continuation of imperialist logic that places unequal value on different groups of people. Focussing on popular literature and representations of popular culture enables the foregrounding of what Hall terms ‘the field of force of the relations of cultural power and domination’ in which popular culture is enmeshed.73 In sum, the novels discussed here portray British

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  165 multiculturalism in a way that has not found equal favour with critics or markets to those novels more frequently found on bestseller lists, re­ ecause search agendas and teaching curricula. I would argue that this is b they prioritise material relations between individuals and communities that call to mind the centrality of British economic conditions that have created both poverty and insupportable greed. This has the effect of denying the utopianism of political models of multiculturalism that seek to dissociate questions of class, deprivation or poverty from a discourse of communities and integration. It also serves to challenge and subvert models of the popular that are premised solely on marketability in a given political climate by refusing to interpellate a mainstream readership.

Notes 1 Stuart Hall, ‘What is this “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ in Black Popular Culture, eds. Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992), 32. 2 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), 228. 3 James Graham, ‘‘This in’t Good Will Hunting’: Londonstani and the Market for London’s Multicultural Fictions,’ Literary London, 6 (2008), para. 18 of 23. www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/september2008/graham. html [accessed 22nd May, 2012]. 4 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London: Routledge, 2001), 87. 5 Scott McCracken, Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 1. 6 Graham, ‘This in’t Good Will Hunting,’ para. 11 of 23. 7 Cristina Odone, ‘So Much More than a Marriage of Inconvenience’ The Telegraph 25th April, 2006. www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3651855/So-muchmore-than-a-marriage-of-inconvenience.html [accessed 22nd October, 2015]. 8 Tony White, britpulp! New Fast and Furious Stories from the Literary Underground (London: Sceptre, 1999). https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Sv_ MBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=­britpulp&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC 4QuwUwAGoVChMI7ajgwJH0yAIVSVsaCh3EMQ1q#v=onepage&q=britp ulp&f=false [accessed 22nd October, 2015]. 9 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, Fourth Edition, ed. John Storey (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2009), 514. 10 Sarah Thornton, ‘General Introduction,’ in The Subcultures Reader, eds. Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton (London: Routledge, 1997), 5. 11 See further: David Blunkett, ‘The Full Text of David Blunkett’s Speech, Made in the West Midlands to Highlight the Publication of Reports into Inner-city Violence this Summer,’ Guardian 11th December, 2001. www. theguardian.com/politics/2001/dec/11/immigrationpolicy.race  [accessed 14th January, 2015]; Tony Blair, ‘The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values,’ Runnymede Trust 8th December, 2006. www.runnymedetrust.org/ uploads/publications/pdfs/348BulletinDec06.pdf [accessed 22nd October, 2015]; Michael Gove, ‘Birmingham Schools: Secretary of State for Education’s Statement,’ Gov.co.uk 9th June, 2014. www.gov.uk/government/

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speeches/birmingham-schools-secretary-of-state-for-educations-statement [accessed 29th September, 2015]. Mark Leonard, ‘Britain™: Renewing our Identity,’ Demos 1st May, 1997, 52-3. www.demos.co.uk/files/britaintm.pdf [accessed 29th April, 2015]. Stephanie Merritt, ‘She’s Young, Black, British – and the First Publishing Sensation of the New Millennium,’ Guardian 16th January, 2000. www. theguardian.com/books/2000/jan/16/fiction.zadiesmith [accessed 3rd November, 2015]. Corinne, Fowler, ‘A Tale of Two Novels: Developing a Devolved Approach to Black British Writing,’ Journal of Commonwealth Literature 43 (2008), 76. Fowler, ‘A Tale of Two Novels,’ 81. Fowler, ‘A Tale of Two Novels,’ 89. Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1979), 103. Karline Smith, Full Crew (London: The X Press, 2002), 260. Karline Smith, Moss Side Massive (London: The X Press, 1994), 14. Lynne Pearce, ‘Manchester’s Crime Fiction: The Mystery of the City’s ­Smoking Gun,’ in Postcolonial Manchester: Diaspora Space and the D ­ evolution of Literary Culture, eds. Lynne Pearce, Corinne Fowler and Robert C ­ rawshaw (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), 122, 115. Indeed, the ‘purportedly “negative” representation of Moss Side was a bone of contention for people living and working in the area,’ suggesting that local residents did not feel that the novels promoted the area well to a wider reading public. Pearce, 122. Smith, Full Crew, 249. Smith, Moss Side Massive, 218. Smith, Moss Side Massive, 9–10. Smith, Moss Side Massive, 38. Lee Horsley, Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 230. Horsley, Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction, 230. Smith, Full Crew, 98. David Simon’s HBO series The Wire (2002–08) effected a similar manoeuvre by paralleling the criminalised corruption to be found in Baltimore gangs with the systemic and insidious corruption of politicians, schools and businesses in the region. Ken Gelder, Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice (London: Routledge, 2007), 3. Smith, Full Crew, 169. Gelder, Subcultures, 119. Belinda Edmondson, Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999). Smith, Moss Side Massive, 267. Smith, Full Crew, 68. Smith, Full Crew, 116. Malkani, Londonstani (London: Harper Perennial, 2007), 6. Malkani, Londonstani, 340. Malkani, Londonstani, 168. Malkani, Londonstani, 167–8. Malkani, Londonstani, 9, 175. Malkani, Londonstani, 171.

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  167 43 Michael Perfect, Contemporary Fictions of Multiculturalism: Diversity and the Millennial London Novel (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 147; Malkani, Londonstani, 128. 4 4 Malkani, Londonstani, 145. 45 Malkani, Londonstani, 6. 46 James Graham, ‘An Interview with Gautam Malkani: Ealing, Broadway, 6th November, 2007,’ Literary London, 6 (2008), para. 7 of 37; para. 10 of 37. www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/march2008/graham.html [accessed 21st July, 2012]. 47 Malkani, Londonstani, 3. 48 Malkani, Londonstani, 3. 49 Malkani, Londonstani, 24. 50 Malkani, Londonstani, 294. 51 Malkani, Londonstani, 20–1. 52 Malkani, Londonstani, 22. 53 Robert McCrum, ‘Has the Novel Lost its Way?’ The Observer 28th May, 2006. www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/may/28/fiction.features [accessed 23rd July, 2012]. 54 Gelder, 105. 55 Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, Tourism (London: Vintage, 2006), 52, 62, 160. 56 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 15. 57 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 15. 58 This ambivalent and detached relationship to sex as a mode of combatting a sense of social powerlessness has parallels in the work of first-generation immigrant writers from the Caribbean, such as Sam Selvon, George Lamming and Andrew Salkey, who wrote novels that sought to make sense of a newly multicultural Britain in the post-war period. It is interesting that Puppy plays with stereotypes of masculinity in this novel, adopting character traits of sexual promiscuity more often associated with African-heritage men and rejecting aspects of effeminacy associated with Asian men following a British imperial project in India that sought to undermine the ability of Indian men to care for Indian women or political affairs. Unfortunately, there is not space in this essay to develop this aspect further, but there is room for further research on the stereotypes of masculinity that are mobilised and subverted by these novels. 59 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 85. 60 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 85. 61 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 52. 62 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 159. 63 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 159. 64 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 159. 65 Dhaliwal, Tourism, 221. 66 Felly Nkweto Simmonds, ‘Love in Black and White,’ in Romance Revisited, eds. Lynne Pearce and Jackie Stacey (New York: New York University Press, 1995), 217. 67 Felly Nkweto Simmonds, ‘Love in Black and White,’ 220–1. 68 For Supriya Nair, ‘Desire for the white woman, transferred from the desire for colonial power, is correspondingly reversed into violence against her and substituted for an attack against the white man whose property she becomes. In an all-too-familiar systemic flow of sexual aggression and assault, women embody a functional interruption of the man-against-man chain of

168  Sarah Ilott

69 70 71 72 73

violence,’ in Caliban's Curse: George Lamming and the Revisioning of History (Michigan, MI: University of Michigan, 1996), 67. Gelder, Subcultures, 106. Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, Tourism, 139. Neil Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 22. Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious, 34–6. Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 512.

Bibliography Blair, Tony. ‘The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values.’ Runnymede Trust, 8th December, 2006. Accessed 22nd October 2015. www.runnymedetrust. org/uploads/publications/pdfs/348BulletinDec06.pdf. Blunkett, David. ‘The Full Text of David Blunkett’s Speech, Made in the West Midlands to Highlight the Publication of Reports into Inner-City Violence this Summer.’ Guardian, 11th December, 2001. Accessed 14th January 2015. www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/dec/11/immigrationpolicy.race. Dhaliwal, Nirpal Singh. Tourism. London: Vintage, 2006. Edmondson, Belinda. Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Fowler, Corinne. ‘A Tale of Two Novels: Developing a Devolved Approach to Black British Writing.’ Journal of Commonwealth Literature 43 (2008): 75–94. Gelder, Ken. Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice. London: Routledge, 2007. Gove, Michael. ‘Birmingham Schools: ­Secretary of State for ­Education’s ­Statement.’ Gov.co.uk, 9th June, 2014. ­Accessed  29th  ­September 2015. www.gov.uk/ government/speeches/birmingham-schools-secretary-of-state-for-­educationsstatement. Graham, James. ‘An Interview with Gautam Malkani: Ealing, Broadway, 6 ­November 2007.’ Literary London 6.1 (2008). Accessed 21st July 2012. www.literarylondon.org/londonjournal/march2008/graham.html. ———. ‘“This in’t Good Will Hunting”: Londonstani and the Market for ­London’s Multicultural Fictions.’ Literary London 6 (2008). Accessed 22nd May 2012. www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/september2008/graham. html. Hall, Stuart. ‘What is this “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ In Black Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent, 21–33. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992. ———. ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular.”’ In Cultural Theory and ­Popular Culture: A Reader. Fourth Edition, edited by John Storey, 508–18. ­Harlow: Pearson Education, 2009. Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routledge, 1979. Horsley, Lee. Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Kureishi, Hanif. The Buddha of Suburbia. London: Faber and Faber, 1990.

Subcultural Fiction and the Market for Multiculturalism  169 Lazarus, Neil. The Postcolonial Unconscious. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Leonard, Mark, ‘Britain™: Renewing our Identity.’ Demos, 1st May, 1997. Accessed 29th April 2015. www.demos.co.uk/files/britaintm.pdf. Malkani, Gautam. Londonstani. London: Harper Perennial, 2007. McCracken, Scott. Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. McCrum, Robert. ‘Has the Novel Lost Its Way?’ The Observer, 28th May, 2006. Accessed 23rd July 2012. www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/may/28/ fiction.features. Merritt, Stephanie. ‘She’s Young, Black, British – And the First Publishing Sensation of the New Millennium.’ Guardian, 16th January, 2000. Accessed 3rd November 2015. www.theguardian.com/books/2000/jan/16/fiction. zadiesmith. Nair, Supriya. Caliban’s Curse: George Lamming and the Revisioning of History. Michigan, MI: University of Michigan, 1996. Odone, Cristina. ‘So Much More than a Marriage of Inconvenience.’ The Telegraph, 25th April, 2006. Accessed 22nd October 2015. www.telegraph.co.uk/ culture/3651855/Somuch-more-than-a-marriage-of-inconvenience.html. Pearce, Lynne. ‘Manchester’s Crime Fiction: The Mystery of the City’s Smoking Gun.’ In Postcolonial Manchester: Diaspora Space and the Devolution of Literary Culture, edited by Lynne Pearce, Corinne Fowler and Robert ­Crawshaw. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013, 110–53. Perfect, Michael. Contemporary Fictions of Multiculturalism: Diversity and the Millennial London Novel. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Simmonds, Felly Nkweto. ‘Love in Black and White.’ In Romance Revisited, edited by Lynne Pearce and Jackie Stacey, 210–22. New York: New York University Press, 1995. Smith, Karline. Moss Side Massive. London: The X Press, 1994. ———. Full Crew. London: The X Press, 2002. Thornton, Sarah. ‘General Introduction.’ In The Subcultures Reader, edited by Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton, 1–7. London: Routledge, 1997. White, Tony. britpulp! New Fast and Furious Stories from the Literary Underground. London: Sceptre, 1999. Accessed 22nd October, 2015. https://books. google.co.uk/books?id=Sv_MBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=­britpul &hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC4QuwUwAGoVChMI7ajgwJH0yAIVSVsaCh3EM Q1q#v=onepaq=britpulp&f=false.

8 Everything Must Go Popularity and the Postcolonial Novel Sam Goodman

It is a fact of history that the state of the British Empire and the idea of what it meant to be British in a global context altered dramatically in the two decades following the Suez Crisis of 1956. The loss of power, prestige and influence inherent to the maintenance of Empire, deftly renamed the Commonwealth in 1952, meant that, in the decade that followed Suez, the remaining British possessions around the globe steadily began to drop away. The period after Suez represents a time of intense and concentrated change, one in which the post-war era shifted suddenly and swiftly into a postcolonial one. However, as Ania Loomba quite rightly posits, ‘we might ask not only when does the postcolonial begin, but where is postcoloniality to be found?’1 As well as in the former colonies of the British Empire, the exploration of postcoloniality in the 1960s and 1970s was to be found in the literary output of some of Britain’s best, and most popular, contemporary novelists. Novels that dealt with evidently imperial themes were both commercially and critically popular in this period. For instance, it is a further fact of history that, in the first ten years of the Booker Prize, a prize dedicated to recognising ‘the best’ in literary fiction, seven of the winning novels were concerned with postcolonial themes and the shifting sands of Empire, both past and present, with three of these relating to India in particular. 2 These high-profile literary successes were representative of a more general turn towards fictions of Empire and after, with authors composing a cross section of class, gender and ethnicity choosing to engage with the imperial legacy of Britain in a variety of ways. As such, the popular novel in this period can also be assessed as an inherently political one, with interest in how Britain’s colonial actions had shaped the modern world intensifying in reaction to events on a national and global scale. However, the resurgence of colonial themes in British fiction in this period and their enthusiastic reception on the part of the public that received them – a trend that Salman Rushdie would later call ‘Raj ­revivalist’ – also owed a great deal to the long and established history of colonial writing and the deep-rooted publication culture that arose specifically from British experiences of India since the eighteenth century. 3

Everything Must Go  171 This combination of narrative and commerce is in many ways fitting; along with romance, India had always meant big business to Britain and the British Empire. The accumulation of wealth was the principal objective of colonialism, from the early and ad hoc days of British visits to trading outposts on India’s western coast in the 1630s through to the concern over nationalist agitation within the cotton industry in the 1930s.4 It is perhaps unsurprising then that textual production and the publishing industry was just as lucrative a pursuit for Anglo-Indians as any other. Historians and critics, including Ralph Crane and Simon Gikandi, have recognised the long association between India and textual production, with Gikandi in particular noting the ease with which the colonial narrative, and indeed the grand narrative of imperialism, has been translated into fictional and factual publications. 5 Indeed, a cursory examination of the British Library’s current holdings reveals the multitude of letters, diaries, memoirs, journals, guides, how-tos, histories, novels, poetry, romances and, of course, seemingly unending official documentation relating to India and Anglo-Indian society.6 This raft of documents suggests that the British relationship to India had always been maintained as much by its textuality as its physical tangibility; in the years after independence, as the reality of Empire slipped swiftly into myth, never was this more apparent.7 This chapter will explicitly engage with the popular representation of India in a range of fiction drawn from the 1970s, a decade of political disintegration and decline that, in turn, fostered a resurgent interest in Britain’s imperial past. With equal emphasis on works that dealt directly with colonial and postcolonial India, I will argue that a range of post-imperial and postcolonial novelists of the 1970s employed and revisited various popular literary forms in order to critically engage with the legacy, history and culture of the British Empire. The chapter will be divided into two distinct, but contiguous, sections. The first will consider prize-winning fictions by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Paul Scott that concern postcolonial themes, examining the role and status of the Britons who remained in India after independence. The second will explore the way in which J.G. Farrell, himself a Booker Prize winner, and George MacDonald Fraser both use popular forms such as the adventure novel and memoir to explore postcolonial themes and to comment on Britain’s present through focus on its past. John Storey identifies four main ways of determining what is meant by the term ‘popular culture.’ According to Storey it can variously signify cultural products that are well or widely liked and thus possess a quantitative dimension in terms of sales, as a form of culture ‘left over’ after what constitutes ‘high culture’ has been decided, as a mass culture that relies on the passivity of a non-discriminating audience, and finally as a culture that emerges from the people as a sort of folk art.8 This chapter adopts a mixture of these critical positions in its understanding of the

172  Sam Goodman term ‘popular.’ In the first instance, it reflects the quantitative approach and will refer to those signifiers of literary or cultural esteem bestowed upon a work of fiction in the form of critical or public acclaim, sales or reputation. Second, it will refer to the form of the text itself and in particular to its choice of literary mode, convention or style. As the chapter will illustrate, these two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and a work can be critically acclaimed whilst written in a deliberately ‘low cultural’ or even ‘middlebrow’ fashion (in the case of J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur), just as much as it can be critically marginalised yet consistently popular with a reading public (such as G.M. Fraser’s Flashman series). When it comes to the novels under discussion, the line between these various categories is often (deliberately) blurred by the authors in question, either as a comment on the publishing culture that exists around Britain’s former colonial Empire or the modes of storytelling and narrative transmission that it generated throughout its long history. In light of this understanding, the chapter will explore the politics of popularity and their relationship to the postcolonial novel. I will illustrate how the critiques of Empire engaged in by Fraser, Scott and others are tempered by ambiguity; the re-engagement with established popular form through the inclusion of irony, subtlety of authorial voice and humour means that whilst at first glance these novels may read in a fairly innocuous manner, closer inspection reveals that they are engaged in a far more concerted critique of Empire.

Empire and After: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Paul Scott and ‘The end of a long, inarticulate love’9 In August 1947, the declaration of Indian Independence brought three hundred years of British colonial presence in the subcontinent to an end. However, the finality suggested by the process of partition and British withdrawal from government did not extend to Anglo-Indian society, and a large proportion of Britons living in India at the end of the Raj decided to stay on, either reluctant or unwilling to give up the lives in India to which they had become accustomed. In many cases, this was the only way of life they had ever known. The post-war growth of the Anglo-Indian novel in the decades after independence also reflected the continued British attachment to its Indian Empire. Though the 1940s and 1950s were a comparatively quiet period for new Anglo-Indian fictions to that of the 1970s, John Masters’s series of novels began a new era in Anglo-Indian fiction, bringing him fame and popularity in the United States as well as in Britain.10 Masters’s novels marked the beginning of a resurgence of Anglo-Indian fiction in the 1960s and 1970s as the effects of the end of Empire came to be more keenly felt by a Britain in the throes of an identity crisis.

Everything Must Go  173 Despite the thematic parallels between the Anglo-Indian novel and its post-war context, it would be too simplistic to assume a direct representational relationship between literature and society as well as between the end of Empire and popular fiction. Bernard Porter, for example, argues that the preoccupations of individual novelists may not reflect the majority culture of their particular time and that the effects of the Empire on art and literature over the past two hundred years have been exaggerated.11 In terms of postcoloniality, Porter dismisses any direct or long-lasting link between the end of Empire and British culture, instead reducing the legacy of colonialism, and Anglo-India, to what he calls trivial ‘visible detritus.’12 To Porter, the Empire’s legacy was to be found in a handful of disparate locations, such as the various borrowed words (chutney, verandah, mulligatawny) that had made it into the English language, the names of various hotels and the taste for India Pale Ale and Tonic Water.13 However, whilst Porter is correct in his assertion that this period represents a shift from a sense of tangible Empire to that of myth, he overlooks the manner in which myth, nostalgia and fantasy can nevertheless produce material, tangible effects. Rather than the end of Empire diminishing literary interest in history and the historical novel as Porter’s opinion might suggest, an examination of the literary history of the period indicates the reverse. Indeed, along with Raphael Samuel’s analysis of the growing public interest in British history and heritage, both in Britain and its former colonies, A.S. Byatt states that there was a ‘sudden flowering of the historical novel in Britain’ in the post-war period, representative of a wider authorial and public fascination with the rapidly fading world of Britain’s imperial grandeur.14 At a time when the nation was beset by internal divisions over devolution, increased levels of immigration and the protracted struggle involved in attempts to join the European Union, the taste in British fiction of the period reflected a more widespread longing for the apparent and comparatively secure ‘Golden Age’ of Empire, stoked in no small part by ­ owell.15 the rhetoric, and popularity, of public figures such as Enoch P Powell, and the sentiment his popular discourses on immigration engendered, presented growing social tension in British race relations as being a direct consequence of the loss of Empire. There existed a split in the British historical consciousness during this period between those who favoured a return to the values of the past as a means of correcting contemporary national decline and an equally prevalent belief in the outdated nature of such views.16 The British Empire thus returned to the forefront of 1970s literature, with a particular focus on colonial and postcolonial India as a means of exploring the contemporary dilemma of British nationhood and international decline. As Scott McCracken explains, ‘written popular narratives can tell us much about who we are and about the society in which we live.’17 Though it had been only a few years since the end of British rule in some African colonies compared

174  Sam Goodman to the twenty years since Indian independence (Swaziland was the last British colony in Africa to achieve independence in 1968), the longest standing, and most keenly felt, colonial relationship had been that between Britain and India, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the nation’s colonial possessions.18 It is therefore understandable that the fictional return to Empire was largely re-­envisioned in an Indian context. The extent to which the Empire lingered in the minds of British and Anglophone authors in this period can be measured through analysis of the intersection between postcoloniality and one of the most significant and long-lasting awards in literary prize culture of the last forty years: the Booker Prize. Inaugurated in 1969, the Booker Prize is a clear reflection of its historical moment. That the Booker’s chosen objective was to determine ‘the best novel written in English’ from across the Commonwealth at a time when Englishness and identity was undergoing such redefinition is an indication of its relationship to the post-imperial and post-colonial literary zeitgeist. As such, the Booker Prize should not be read as politically or ideologically neutral. For instance, in The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire (2002) Luke Strongman argues that the intersection with the context of postcoloniality should instruct entirely any reading of Booker prize-winning novels and the Booker itself: ‘All of the Booker Prize winning novels have an implied relationship with Empire, whether this be writing in the form of counterdiscourse, subscription to imperial rhetoric, nostalgia for Empire or of an articulation of identity in the fluid internationalisms which emerge after Empire.’19 Whilst the terms of this relationship may differ between time periods, continents and the representation of individual colonies, it is, as suggested by Andrew Thompson’s assessment of the ‘maximalist’ approach and in opposition to the opinion of Porter, nonetheless always present in the literature of the era. As Graham Huggan and Luke Strongman have indicated, the status of the Booker Prize, and the prize culture in literature more broadly, is conflicted and often contradictory. On the one hand, the Booker is a mark of literary distinction and critical validation, awarded to an author of outstanding merit and the continuation of a tradition of prize culture and esteem that James English asserts stretches back little altered through time from the present to Ancient Greece.20 On the other hand, however, Huggan argues that the Booker’s supposedly ‘high’ cultural status has from its inception been troubled by its undoubtedly populist nature, not to mention the concern for ‘razzmatazz’ that its promotion and ‘vulgar, Miss World’-style awards ceremony display. 21 Huggan suggests that this conflict has historically extended to the kinds of fiction that the Booker has shortlisted and been awarded to, and that, as a result of various

Everything Must Go  175 extraneous considerations and agendas, the adjudication will often have ‘little or nothing to do with the act of writing or the art of literature.’22 Rather than solely reflecting ‘highbrow’ literary work, the Booker has often lent a veneer of literary respectability to what are essentially middlebrow works of fiction reflective of the particular thematic concerns and interests of the panel at a given point in the award’s history. In the early years of the Booker, these concerns were primarily that of decolonisation and the British experience of Empire. Indeed, Huggan observes ‘viable orientalist myths’ of the kind familiar to popular pulp fiction in a number of the winning novels from the 1970s and 1980s, which he labels revisionist histories. 23 Such a conflict fosters a feeling of inherent tension to both the winner and the award itself, with the ‘high’ status of the prize held in check by the ‘low’ nature of the work. Within the number of Booker-winning novels that contain postcolonial or post-imperial themes published in the prize’s first decade, three titles deal directly with India and reflect many of Huggan’s observations regarding the Booker’s revisionist leanings; these are J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur (1973), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust (1975) and Paul Scott’s Staying On (1977). 24 These three novels are representative of the way in which British fiction on India in the 1970s splits into two distinct, though interconnected, branches; first, the literally post-imperial or post-colonial those that focussed on decolonisation and the period immediately after that of colonial rule, and that sought to explore continued British engagement with India in the historical present. Second, those which chose to re-engage directly with the history of the British Empire through historical fiction or historiographic metafiction; these texts adopted a more recognisably postcolonial approach and drew focus on the effects of colonisation on both coloniser and colonised. 25 Jhabvala’s and Scott’s novels are representative of the former category, choosing to explore the aftermath of Empire on an intimate and more personal level, focussing on both platonic and romantic relationships between Britons and Indians. Scott’s and Jhabvala’s works are clearly postcolonial inasmuch as both novels are overwhelmingly concerned with processes of transition and adjustment, as well as the determination of identity in the new context of independent India, whilst always keeping an eye on the colonial past. In a reflection of the relationship between past and present that characterises so much of British writing on colonialism in this period, ­Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust tells two parallel stories of Anglo-Indian relations. The first takes place in 1920s Satipur and relates how Olivia, an Englishwoman married to a civil servant, begins a relationship with the local nawab in order to escape from the boredom of her marriage and the restrictions of her life in Anglo-Indian society. The second narrative, told in parallel with the first, is set in the contemporary present and focusses on an unnamed narrator (revealed to be Olivia’s step-granddaughter)

176  Sam Goodman who retraces Olivia’s steps and travels to India. Jhabvala’s narratives are joined by the fact that both Olivia and the unnamed narrator fall pregnant, but while Olivia aborts her child and lives in exile and in shame in India, the unnamed narrator decides to keep her child, suggesting a more tolerant and hopeful future, a ‘rebirth’ for Anglo-Indian relations after the divisions of the past and one that inverts the typical metaphorical colonial relationship of an invasive masculine West and ‘passive’ feminised East through procreation. Aside from its high-profile status as a Booker winner, Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust is significant to a study of popularity and postcolonial fiction for a number of reasons. The form, theme and narrative of the novel draw inherently on the traditions and history of Anglo-Indian writing and follow its established literary conventions, particularly that of a journey of personal or spiritual growth told in first-person narration by an inexperienced visitor to India. 26 For instance, the split temporal and narrative perspective of Heat and Dust means that the novel is essentially constructed as an amalgamation of travelogue, diary and epistolary novel, combining the personal views and experiences of its two female protagonists with their documentation of Indian society in their respective eras. In so doing, Jhabvala acknowledges the history of textual production associated with British experiences of India. For example, after a brief preamble, the sections from the contemporary present are organised into dated entries and paragraphed as though in diary format, recording events shortly after they are experienced: 16 February. Satipur. I have been very lucky and have already found a room here. I like it very much. It is large, airy, and empty. There is a window at which I sit and look down into the bazaar. My room is on top of a cloth-shop and I have to climb a dark flight of stairs to get to it. 27 The dated diary format has a long association with both India and the wider expansion of the British Empire. Felicity Nussbaum argues that the private diary is a production of the late eighteenth century, a time when autobiography developed a set of practices ‘distinct from other kinds of writing.’28 The diary’s eighteenth-century origins make it contemporaneous with the consolidation of British power in India, and other historians, such as Rebecca Steinitz and Claudia Klaver, have noted that the popularity of India diaries or similar travelogues within the literary marketplace grew steadily as a habit amongst the Victorian middle classes over the following century. 29 Jhabvala’s novel mimics the often overtly amateur status of such publications, using short, simple sentences and prose largely unadorned with any great descriptive worth. Essentially, the novel attempts to convey the impressions of the narrator as simplistically and directly as possible, mostly as a means of making

Everything Must Go  177 sense of India itself; as the narrator explains, India is ‘not what I had imagined at all […] all those memoirs and letters I’ve read, all those prints I’ve seen. I really must forget about them.’30 In her attempts to understand contemporary India, Jhabvala’s narrator and Jhabvala herself are seemingly presented with an appropriately postcolonial problem; Jhabvala and her narrator both choose a form that recognises the history of popular writing on India but assert that such writing is now outdated and not representative of contemporary India. Nonetheless, whilst the narrator disregards the wealth of writing on India that had come before her, like Jhabvala, she adds to it. Alongside the diary, the other popular form that Jhabvala’s novel recalls is that of the travelogue. The novel, in essence, is the story of an individual both dissatisfied with her life and curious about India; both common ingredients in narratives of travelling recurrent throughout the era of Empire. In Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation Marie Louise Pratt writes that: Travel books […] gave European reading publics a sense of ownership, entitlement and familiarity with respect to the distant parts of the world that were being explored, invaded, invested in, and colonized. Travel books were very popular. They created a sense of curiosity, excitement, adventure, and even moral fervour about European expansionism.31 In the postcolonial circumstances of Jhabvala’s work, however, these feelings are preserved but given a new context. The narrator is undeniably curious and, when she later pays for hospital treatment of a homeless woman, given to a degree of moral fervour. However, where Pratt sets this approach against the context of European expansionism, ­Jhabvala’s is against that of decolonised, independent India. Yet, despite the change in context, Jhabvala maintains many historical aspects of travel writing, such as the expectation that letters and writing can capture the elemental essence of the place being described; at one point, the narrator states that ‘Chid’s crumpled letters […] appear soaked in all the characteristic odours of India, in spices, urine, and betel.’32 The journey of self-­discovery suggested by Pratt’s analysis is also preserved in Jhabvala’s work, though is again subject to a contemporary reframing; instead of coming to India to seek a fortune as many nineteenth-century travellers did, Jhabvala makes many of her English visitors to India hippies, seeking enlightenment: “‘Why did you come?” I asked her. “To find peace.” She laughed grimly, “but all I found was dysentery.”’33 Again, Jhabvala’s intimation is one of contradiction; her novel suggests that modern India is no place for English men and women, yet they are drawn to it nonetheless. This theme of frustrated expectations further confirms the way in which Jhabvala’s novel, to borrow a phrase from Linda Hutcheon, is a

178  Sam Goodman text in dialogic relationship to a range of writing on India that precedes it. In Inventing India: A History of India in English Language Fiction, Ralph Crane argues that Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust should be considered a postmodernist work concerned with intertextuality: ‘it is surely no coincidence that Jhabvala’s major characters in the 1923 story are called Olivia and Douglas. Olivia in India by O. Douglas (Anna Buchan, the sister of John Buchan) consists of a series of letters penned by Olivia whilst in India, and in Heat and Dust it is the letters of Jhabvala’s Olivia which later lead the unnamed narrator to India, where she herself keeps a journal.’34 Similarly, Strongman argues that a key influence on ­Jhabvala is that of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924), however, whilst Heat and Dust is a novel that also deals with scandal arising from sexual impropriety, it has as much in common with a colonial narrative such as Kipling’s Kim (1901) in which a white character achieves self-fulfilment through their experiences in India, deciding to remain there at the novel’s conclusion. Whereas the English and Indian protagonists of Forster’s novel are cordial but remain inherently divided at the narrative’s close, Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust is much more hopeful and embodies the future of Anglo-Indian relations in the form of the narrator’s mixed-race pregnancy. Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust is both a diachronic and synchronic examination of Anglo-Indian relations as well as the culture of textual production that exists throughout the history of Empire. Whilst the novel is mostly set and published after the end of formal colonialism, the structure and parallels Jhabvala sets up within it suggest that British feelings towards India continue to retain a semblance of how they were at the height of the Raj.35 In its reuse of traditionally imperial forms of writing in a postcolonial context, the novel is simultaneously preservative of the old Anglo-Indian clichés but also suggests new ways of looking and being, especially through the tolerance of hybridity and the breakdown of social and racial distinctions suggested through the narrator’s ­pregnancy. Its temporal juxtaposition can be seen as a means for Jhabvala to explore her present context against that of the imperial past and hold each up to new scrutiny. Yet in the closing pages of the novel, Jhabvala revealingly reiterates a common colonial feeling towards India: ‘There are many ways of loving India […] but all […] are dangerous for the ­European who allows himself to love too much.’36 It appears that despite the postcolonial context of her novel, the attitudes of the past are still ever present within its pages. Scott’s Staying On tells a similar story to Jhabvala’s in terms of the preservation and representation of the values of the Raj. The novel concentrates on two minor characters from Scott’s earlier series of Indian novels known as The Raj Quartet, former army officer Tusker Smalley and his wife Lucy who decided to stay on in Pankot, a hill station that

Everything Must Go  179 was Tusker’s former posting during his career in the Indian army. 37 Drawing on Scott’s own experience of Indian society acquired during his military service in the Indian Army during the Second World War, Staying On is a portrait of the petty snubs and rigid adherence to the hierarchies of Anglo-Indian society as well as a novel which illustrates the rapid and in many ways dramatic changes that India had undergone since Independence. Though the majority of the narrative is set in 1972, many of the book’s key scenes are told in flashback as the Smalleys adjust to life in business as ‘box-wallahs’ and are gradually ostracised and abandoned by the English community in Pankot. 38 Like Jhabvala, though Scott sets his novel in the contemporary present, the form, theme and plot of the novel adhere closely to an older well-established genre of Anglo-Indian writing, namely, the romance or domestic novel. In ‘Married to the Empire: The Anglo-Indian Domestic Novel’ Alison Sainsbury argues that the domestic/romantic novel is a key genre of Anglo-Indian writing and historically popular with readers in India and Britain. 39 Sainsbury notes that the production of these novels rose and fell in accordance with context and a range of significant events, in fact largely dying off with the end of the Raj; however, despite these influences, such novels conformed to recognisable plots which, according to critic Bhupal Singh, address ‘the unhappiness, misunderstanding, and complexities of married life in India.’40 Sainsbury argues that such novels are concerned with ‘domestic life; with courtship and marriage, with the ordering of Anglo-Indian households, with the relations between family members and among households in the Anglo-Indian community.’41 Scott’s Staying On conforms almost exactly to this analysis, however, with crucial contextual differences of its own. Rather than the typical happy ending of such a novel, Staying On begins and ends with Tusker’s death. This allegorically represents the death of the ‘old India’; Tusker Sahib and the last remnants of the Raj society like him are shown to be literally ‘dying out’ in the context of the new India, one marked not by hierarchies of old but by urban redevelopment and a focus on leisure and profit. For example, the Smalleys are being forced out of their leasehold property to make way for a new hotel complex run by an exclusively Indian business consortium. Similarly, Tusker and Lucy’s marriage is pushed to breaking point as if without the Empire there is nothing left to hold them together. Indeed, in possibly the most poignant scene in the novel, Tusker and Lucy’s last real moment of intimacy occurs in the handover ceremony on 15th August 1947: There was no sound otherwise until on the stroke of midnight the Indian flag began to go up […] and the band began to play the new Indian anthem and all the crowds out there in the dark began to

180  Sam Goodman sing the words […] you never heard such cheering and clapping. I couldn’t clap because Tusker still had hold of my hand and didn’t let go until all the floodlights came on again and the troops marched off to the sound of the band.42 In choosing to record this moment, Scott’s novel attempts to capture all the elements of the British relationship with post-colonial India; Staying On is arguably a domestic novel, but Scott’s own argument is that domesticity in post-colonial India for those that stayed on is bound up with history and the grand narrative of Anglo-Indian relations through Empire and after. The beginning of Independence is not only the end of the Empire, but also a personal ending for many of its participants, now without that which had determined their sense of self for so much of their adult lives. Tusker’s frustrations stem from the fact that, unlike his wife, he has been unable to maintain his identity in the new context of independent India; he is referred to as Colonel Sahib by their household staff, but it is an empty courtesy. Despite the strain on the Smalleys’ marriage and the aimlessness they feel that underpins the narrative, the novel remains very much one of farce and comedy, with Scott noting pointedly that ‘one of the troubles with the British in the days of the Raj was that they had taken themselves far too seriously.’43 This feeling is emphasised throughout the novel by Tusker’s obsession with maintaining a neat garden for propriety’s sake, another element of the ‘domestic’ theme, as well as the novel’s continual fixation with sex and advancing sexual (and social) impotence on Tusker’s part. In much the same way as Crane argues of Jhabvala’s work, Staying On becomes an ironic blending of multiple genres, mixing humour and pathos together in reflection of its literary and historical context, and the divided British attitudes towards India. Scott mocks the pomposity of Britons in India such as the Smalleys, whilst at the same time illustrating how the end of Empire was not merely a political change but rather a deep emotional loss. Scott’s novel ridicules and commemorates British India in simultaneity, mixing styles as a means of capturing the contradictory nature of the Empire’s end. For all Tusker’s and Lucy’s misgivings over the ‘new’ India, the novel also emphasises the opportunities for both economic and personal change underway in India since Independence. In its resolution, Staying On, again like Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust, mixes its message: the novel ends on a note of hope; however, it is a compromised one influenced by circumstance. With Tusker’s death, Lucy is able to return home to England and get by on the ‘£1500 a year’ from Tusker’s pension.44 As Jhabvala does with her disillusioned hippies, Scott intimates that modern India is no longer the place for the Smalleys, nor others of their generation or even their nationality. Contemporary India finally, and rightfully, belongs to Indians.

Everything Must Go  181

‘Mad, senseless, incredible’ – J.G. Farrell, George MacDonald Fraser and Fictions of the Indian Rebellion45 Much like Anglo-Indian fiction of the late 1960s and 1970s, public opinion on the British Empire remained conflicted too, with many welcoming the end of what they believed to be an anachronism in the postwar world whilst others lamented the decline of British international standing and the successive waves of immigration into Britain at this time.46 Beyond Jhabvala and Scott, a range of contemporary authors recognised the way in which popular fiction could be used to address such divisions and question how such decline occurred. Alongside the postcolonial novels of Jhabvala and Scott, and in conjunction with the development of a critical language designed to analyse the end of colonialism, popular writing on India and Empire becomes identifiably postcolonial in the sense of resisting or critiquing the imperial project. By entering into debates of this kind, Scott McCracken observes that popular fiction ‘mediates social conflict […] it acts as a medium between reader and world through which the social contradictions of modernity can be played out […]. Battles are fought across its pages, victories won and defeats suffered.’47 In order to play out these figurative battles of post-imperial modernity, popular postcolonial works of the 1970s often sought to represent actual battles from imperial history. In the novels of J.G. Farrell and George MacDonald Fraser, this would result in particular focus on the Indian Rebellion, a battle that reflected both the brutality and the supposed adventurous romance of the British colonial presence in India and that thus came to symbolise the clash over the legacy of imperialism. The Indian Rebellion of 1857–58, largely referred to as the ‘Indian ­Mutiny’ in British literature and culture pre-1947, was one of the key events in the history of British India.48 Allegedly beginning over the greasing of rifle cartridges with beef and pork fat, offensive to the Hindu and ­Muslim sepoys of the East India Company army, the Rebellion surprised the British civil and military administration in India, and as a consequence many cities and garrisons were left not only ­under-defended but also unprepared for siege warfare.49 Over the course of the next thirteen months, the British gradually reclaimed territory and reasserted their control over India. However, the conflict was a bitter and violent struggle with both rebel and British forces responsible for various atrocities, chief among them the massacre of British women and children at Cawnpore by Sepoy troops and the retributive executions carried out by the British. The Rebellion had a lasting impact; Richard ­Steadman-Jones states that it was ‘a moment of crisis that became crucial to British depictions of imperialism’ from the latter nineteenth ­century onwards, its legacy often instrumental in the suppression of Indian nationalist sentiment. 50 Not only did it alter the governance of

182  Sam Goodman British India, but its dual-narrative of heroic struggle against the odds and eventual British triumph lent itself to fiction and non-fiction alike, resulting in a long-lasting and lucrative publishing culture in which works dealing with events of the Rebellion were extremely popular with British audiences for decades afterwards. 51 The Rebellion of 1857–58 served as the basis for a great number of personal accounts in the form of diaries and memoirs published shortly after events and various scholarly and popular histories published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As stated earlier, the service memoir is a cornerstone of colonial textual production and one that enjoyed a lucrative market both in India and Britain alike. Accounts of the Rebellion, satisfying British curiosity over Cawnpore as well as restoring belief in the efficacy of the Empire’s defences, remained popular for decades and were produced by soldiers of all ranks, thus illustrating the link between textual production, myth and cultural perception. 52 The popularity of such publications led to, and was aided by, official histories of the Rebellion, including G.W. Forrest’s authoritative A History of the Indian Mutiny – Reviewed and Illustrated from Original Documents, compiled in three volumes published between 1904–12, and more amateur efforts, such as I. Gilberne Sieveking’s A Turning Point in the Indian Mutiny (1910). The sustained focus on India served also as inspiration for novels of varying quality and character; many, like Farrell and Fraser, focussed directly on the Mutiny itself whilst others would return to India as the setting for tales of British heroics. Some, like Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur appear to do both. The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize in 1973; in essence, the novel tells the story of the Siege of Lucknow and uses a great number of histories and memoirs of the Rebellion in its construction, often transposing the text directly with very little alteration. Much like Scott and the domestic novel or Jhabvala and the romance, Farrell adopts a recognisably imperial format and genre for The Siege of Krishnapur, albeit one with some subtle differences and a far more overtly critical intent. The characters and plot bear all the traits of a nineteenth-century adventure novel; for instance, the Collector is the garrison’s steady moral centre, Harry Dunstaple is the dashing hero and Fleury is the liberal idealist who, after his experience of battle, is brought round to the cause of Empire by the book’s close. Farrell is not imitating this format or the original texts as merely a pastiche as some critics have occasionally assumed but, as McLeod argues, exposes the form and its archetypes to ‘comic critique.’53 Missing this comedic critique, Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur has often been mistakenly labelled as an exercise in conventional realism; however, as McLeod explains, this is to overlook the subtlety of his authorial voice and to miss the way in which Farrell ‘opened a critical view of colonialism’ by replicating and ridiculing its cultural output. 54

Everything Must Go  183 In addition to the 1970s novelists whose work received a stamp of validation in the form of a Booker award or nomination, there were other contemporary writers who, whilst less successful with the judges, were nonetheless popular with the reading public. George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, which, like the Booker itself, began in 1969, was one such example. Popular appreciation of Fraser’s novels had always been forthcoming; on the occasion of his death in 2008, many obituaries drew attention to the rapid and enduring global popularity of his work.55 However, unlike Farrell, academic interest never followed, and Fraser remains a critically marginalised figure to this day. A chief reason for this marginalisation stems directly from Fraser’s p ­ opularity; like many other authors who wrote only seemingly comic works, ­Fraser’s literary project has been written off either as pastiche or, worse, as mere entertainment. In some instances, what critical attention has been paid to Fraser’s work has adopted an overtly dismissive position towards both the novelist and his output as well as the return towards fictions of colonial India in general. Gautam Chakravarty’s The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination assesses a range of post-war Anglo-Indian novels set in and around 1857 as part of its opening chapter, only to dismiss them with the claim that such writing is ‘vestigial to a project that came to an end in 1947…’56 Chakravarty conflates the intentions of John Masters’s Nightrunners of Bengal (1954), J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Norman Partington’s And Red Flows the Ganges (1972) and Fraser’s Flashman in the Great Game (1975), arguing that such novels amount to ‘little more than ironic coda or naïve nostalgia’ in the era after Empire.57 I would argue that we must place the resurgence of novels focussed on conflict in colonial India at this time in relation to their context; either an immediately postcolonial one or, for those who are writing a little later, within an era of burgeoning postcolonial discourses and widely recognised British international decline. The fact that Partington, Farrell and Fraser published ‘Mutiny’ novels within a close three-year period of one another is indicative of a definite, if not necessarily unified, return to the mythology of colonial India, but theirs is a much more divisive and conflicted portrait of Empire than the general turn towards Empire and its values in this period. Chakravarty’s analysis fails to stand up to close scrutiny when it is applied to the work of novelists such as Fraser or Farrell. Upon reading a novel such as Flashman in the Great Game, it becomes increasingly difficult to describe such a work as ‘naïve,’ either politically or historically; the wealth of references which underpin each of Fraser’s novels are used not in a baldly reiterative and therefore supportive way but rather as a means of highlighting their ridiculousness. To take the rhetoric of Empire at face value in Fraser’s novel is a misreading of the author’s intent, as made evident in his tone, style and introductory notes. In fact,

184  Sam Goodman whilst Scott and, to a lesser degree, Jhabvala vividly evoke the sense of helplessness felt by individuals whose lives are affected by large-scale political and social change, it is their novels that deal in a mostly cursory way with the historical and moral legacy of Empire. Instead, it is authors such as Farrell and Fraser whose work seeks to explore most fully the ambiguity inherent to the post-imperial literary consciousness, often with detailed research into the events their novels represent. 58 To dismiss Farrell (a double Booker Prize winner) and Fraser is to deny that these works spoke to a receptive public and were recognised for their contemporary relevance and mass appeal. In light of Huggan’s analysis of the Booker Prize, the fact that Fraser’s work failed to win an award does not diminish its significance either in relation to the other novels explored here or the period under discussion, nor does it weaken the potency of his criticism of Empire. Recalling Storey’s criteria of popularity, Fraser and his work fall into the categories of popularity through quantitative sales but also as an example of that which is ‘left over’ after high culture has been decided. 59 Though critically and academically overlooked, Fraser’s novels are not without a sense of cultural cachet, especially when it comes to navigating the political and nationalist landscape of their particular time and place. Moreover, Flashman and his values remain potent signifiers of a certain kind of privilege and attitude within the collective national consciousness in the contemporary present.60 ­Fraser and Farrell’s mimicry of the popular mode to advance critical and satirical perspectives on Empire suggests that instead of the assertion that it is either popularity or critical acclaim that gives a text its power, the relationship between the two is more nuanced and reciprocal than at first understood. Far from inhibiting the ability to advance meaningful critique, popularity can instead act as a vehicle for the voice of dissent within mainstream discourse, with cultural products engaging with the politics of popularity as they adopt its forms. Fraser’s Flashman in the Great Game is an example of this process. The ­ lashman novel tells the story of its much-decorated ‘hero’ Harry Paget F (recipient of the Victoria Cross, the Order of the Bath and the Order of the Indian Empire, all won with subterfuge or under false pretences) as he is caught up in Russian intrigues designed to foment rebellion in central India in the summer of 1857. Like all of the Flashman series, the novel is written as a memoir, compiled by the elderly Flashman towards the end of his life in 1915, and Fraser presents himself not as author but as editor, whose job is to ‘correct his [Flashman’s] spelling, deplore his conduct and provide the usual notes and appendices.’61 In relation to the politics of popularity, Fraser’s conceit is twofold here. Not only does he draw on the long-established popularity of the Victorian memoir, but he is also influenced by a classic of Victorian publishing, Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857), which serves as the inspiration for

Everything Must Go  185 his titular character. With great historical irony, ­Flashman, the coward and bully of Rugby School, becomes a leading imperial figure and one thought to embody the spirit of his age. Fraser’s criticism of the great era of the British Empire is apparent; that beneath the pomp, the circumstance and the supposed glory of Victorian colonial endeavours lay a morally corrupt and venal truth. In a style more often associated with an overtly postmodern novelist, Fraser dissolves the boundaries between fact and fiction within Flashman in the Great Game on a repeated basis. Aside from the framing device of the novel itself, both the memoir genre and Tom Brown’s Schooldays appear within the narrative, allowing Fraser to acknowledge their popularity and consider how popular texts and their readership are complicit in advancing the ideology and accepted history of Empire. For example, as well as Fraser’s direct use of Mowbray Thompson’s The Story of Cawnpore (1859) and in addition to the memoir format of ‘The Flashman Papers’ as Fraser’s novels are styled, Flashman writes his own memoir based on his military career: So I settled in as Havelock’s intelligence aide – a nice safe billet in the circumstances, but if you would learn the details of how I fared with him you must consult my official history, Dawns and Departures of a Soldier’s Life (in three handsomely-bound morocco volumes, price two gns. each or five gns. the set […]).62 Fraser clearly acknowledges here the culture of publication that arose around the service of Empire as well as the around the Rebellion. Moreover, his choice of title for this instalment of the series, Flashman in the Great Game, metafictively acknowledges the slew of espionage novels based on the ‘Great Game’ itself. However, Fraser goes further by criticising and questioning the history of Empire and deliberately undermining the accepted truthfulness of such eyewitness accounts; noting a discrepancy between the ‘official history’ and the truth, here too rendered as a fiction, Fraser suggests that the history of Empire demands re-evaluation and reconsideration. By placing the veracity of imperial history in doubt, Fraser is able to present a more effective and incisive criticism of Empire and the relevance of Empire in the postcolonial present. However, the criticism he applies is couched in deliberately ambiguous terms. Towards the end of the novel, Flashman considers contemporary (i.e., early ­t wentieth-­century) revisionism over the history of the Rebellion: But what amuses me most is how fashionable views change – why, for years after Cawnpore, any vengeance wreaked on an Indian, mutineer or not, was regarded as just vengeance; nothing was too bad for ‘em. Now it’s t’other way round, with eminent writers crying shame. And

186  Sam Goodman saying nothing justified such terrible retribution as Neill took, and we were far guiltier than the niggers had been. Why? Because we were Christians, and supposed to know better? – and because ­England contains this great crowd of noisy know-alls that are forever defending our enemies’ behaviour and crying out in pious horror against our own. Why our sins are always so much blacker, I can’t fathom.63 Fraser made no secret of his admiration for many of the achievements of Empire, but to read this section of the novel as indicative of his views would be to miss the point of ‘The Flashman Papers’ entirely.64 By using such bigoted rhetoric and placing it in the mouth of a great imperial hero, revealed to us as equally deplorable, any nostalgia for Empire is removed. Instead of an indication of Fraser’s adherence to Empire, it is a condemnation of that Empire’s dubious moral values. Equally, it is a direct address to a readership that might also bear similar sentiments or opinions on the present state of 1970s Britain and attitudes to Empire. This passage demonstrates how popular fiction can, as McCracken points out, question and hold up for scrutiny ‘the kind of values a particular audience has a vested interest in creating or sustaining.’65 ­Fraser’s critique strikes at adherents of an Empire that encouraged such persecution and, rather than whitewash the history of colonial Britain, he reveals its ugly truths. Fraser was always concerned with honesty as he expressed in The Hollywood History of the World; taking issue with popular fiction that falsifies the truth to reflect contemporary social or political sensibilities, he writes, ‘[i]n other words, damn the truth if it doesn’t fit with what one would like to believe is true – an attitude which, honesty aside, seems to me offensively patronising.’66 The Flashman Papers become Fraser’s means of combatting such actions; Flashman, for all his own deceit and falsehood, is Fraser’s attempt to reveal what he saw as the true face of the British Empire.

Conclusion The popularity of fictions of India and the wider Empire in the post-war era is not in doubt. The Booker Prize-winning novels of Jhabvala, Scott and Farrell and the popular works of Fraser analysed in this chapter are indicative not only of how imperial themes were a widespread preoccupation among British writers in the 1960s and 1970s but also that there was a receptive readership. Whilst critics such as Michael Denning have argued that popularity and sales are no justification for critical attention or literary importance in and of themselves, it is clear that these novels and many others like them from the same period aim to do far more than simply achieve popularity.67 Instead, popularity and popular forms become tools used by each of these authors as a means of furthering and deepening their critique of the history of Empire.

Everything Must Go  187 By subjecting popular forms to questions of alterity and coupling them with contemporary postcolonial and postmodern critical theory, these novelists produce hybrid forms in order to explore the cultural and temporal plurality of 1970s Britain. In the case of Jhabvala and Scott, it is a question of how to make sense of a past now physically vanished but which lingers so strongly in memory. For Farrell and Fraser, it is more about how such nostalgic views of the British imperial past impede acceptance of the change in modern Britain after Empire. Ultimately, in their re-­examination of the imperial past and employment of a variety of popular literary tropes, these novelists all seek to fathom the circumstances of the British postcolonial present.

Notes 1 Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism. Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2005), 18. 2 Those novels dealing with the former territories of the British Empire or with postcolonial themes included P. H. Newby’s Something to Answer For (1970), V. S. Naipaul’s In a Free State (1971), J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur (1973), Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist (1974), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust (1975), Paul Scott’s Staying On (1977) and William Golding’s Rites of Passage (1980). Due to a change in the rules in 1970, a group of novels published early in the year were disqualified from the running. In a 2010 re-run of the competition entitled the ‘Lost Booker,’ J.G. Farrell’s Troubles (1970), another postcolonial novel, was chosen as the winner. 3 Andrew Teverson, Salman Rushdie (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 6. For evidence of how Britain’s cultural nostalgia for the Raj has lasted, one needs look no further than Channel 4’s lavish (and woefully inaccurate) Indian Summers (2015). 4 Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (London: Abacus, 1997), 14–5. 5 Simon Gikandi, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (New York: Columbia, 1996), 2. 6 The prodigious volume of administrative documents produced by the ICS is responsible for a common workplace expression; the infamous red tape of bureaucracy derives from the tape used to tie up the mountains of paperwork produced by the Indian Civil Service. See James, Raj, 315. 7 Andrew Thompson’s introduction to Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century mentions how there was an ‘intense (and intensifying pluralism) to British society’ in the twentieth century that makes it difficult to generalise over the affect of Empire; however, though this subjectivity makes forming any uniform response to Empire impossible, such a pluralism nonetheless suggests a widespread knowledge of how ideas of Empire underwrote British life, from international relations to the social make up of cosmopolitan and urban spheres of existence. See Andrew Thompson, ed., Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 21. 8 John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. ­Seventh Edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), 5–9.

188  Sam Goodman 9 This quote is taken from the cover jacket of Staying On (London: Granada, 1978); the edition is from the year after Scott’s Booker award and attributed to Philip Larkin, one of the judges for 1977. 10 The fiction of John Masters, including The Nightrunners of Bengal (1951) and The Deceivers (1952), is usually considered in terms of its overt nostalgia, depicting a longing for the lost grandeur of Empire. However, this is not strictly the case as Masters’s novel Bhowani Junction (1954), set in the final days of British rule in India, far more deftly addresses the complications of social hierarchy and race. Though there is no space to discuss Masters’s work in any detail here, he is nonetheless an important figure in the development of post-war Anglo-Indian fiction and an author largely marginalised by scholarship. Richard Steadman-Jones explores Masters’s complex formulation of nostalgia post-Suez and his cross-political appeal; see ‘Colonial Fiction for Liberal Readers: John Masters and the Savage Family Saga,’ in End of Empire and the English Novel Since 1945, eds. Rachael Gilmour and Bill Schwarz (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2015). 11 Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford: University Press, 2004), 134, ix. 12 Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists, 299. 13 Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists, 299–301. 14 A.S. Byatt, On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays (London: Chatto and Windus, 2000), 9; Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory (London: Verso, 1994), 139. 15 Tom Nairn’s The Break Up of Britain: Crisis and NeoNationalism (London: New Left Books, 1977) is widely considered one of the representative political texts of the era and indicative of tensions over British identity at this time. 16 See Sam Goodman, ‘This Time It’s Personal: Reliving and Rewriting History in 1970s Fiction,’ in The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction, eds. Nick Hubble, John McLeod and Phillip Tew (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 117–44. 17 Scott McCracken, Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 1. 18 The colonial relationship between Britain and India was much more long-standing than that of Britain and the majority of the nation’s ­A frican colonies, with a British presence in India of over 300 years. Further, in the minds of many Britons, the link between Empire and India was not an exploitative one but one of mutual benefit. As a result of the so-called ‘civilising mission’ of Empire in India, particularly after Thomas Babington ­Macaulay’s influence in the 1830s, the development of the railways and the efforts of the Empire Exhibitions of 1924/25 in London and 1938 in Glasgow, India was a country where Britain convinced itself it had made a positive difference to the lives of ordinary Indians. 19 Luke Strongman, The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002), 4. It is arguable that this connection between the Booker and postcoloniality continues to this day; 2013 winner Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries bears many of the same hallmarks as identified by Strongman, including an author from a former colony (Canada) and a suitably imperial context (Victorian New Zealand). 20 James F. English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 1–2. 21 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins ­(London: Routledge, 2001), 107.

Everything Must Go  189 22 Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic, 118. Huggan’s assertions are further borne out by the Booker’s tendency to use ‘celebrity’ judges renowned more for their popular appeal than for their literary expertise, such as actor Dan Stevens from the ITV production Downton Abbey, who served as a judge in 2012. 23 Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic, 115. 24 A fourth novel that arguably addresses Indian identity is V. S. Naipaul’s In a Free State (1971), though its varied settings (contemporary North America, England, and the Great Lakes) means that it differs greatly from Farrell, Jhabvala and Scott’s work. However, that Naipaul, the only ethnically Indian (though born in Trinidad and Tobago) writer amongst this group, is looking principally to the United States and not India or Britain may well be revealing in its own right. 25 Linda Hutcheon’s formulation of historiographic metafiction outlined in The Politics of Postmodernism (1989) comes chronologically later than the novels discussed in this chapter; however, it is nonetheless useful in analysing the stylistic and thematic choices of authors such as Farrell and Fraser and is explored in further detail later in the chapter. 26 For an overview of the tropes and conventions of romance novels see: HsuMing Teo, Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels (Austin, TX: University of Austin Press, 2012) and Janice A. Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). 27 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust (London: John Murray, 2003), 6. 28 Felicity Nussbaum, The Autobiographical Subject: Gender and Ideology in Eighteenth-Century England (London: Johns Hopkins, 1995), xi. 29 See Rebecca Steinitz, Time, Space and Gender in the Nineteenth-century British Diary (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Claudia Klaver, ‘Domesticity Under Siege: British Women and Imperial Crisis at the Siege of Lucknow 1857,’ Women’s Writing, 8.1 (2006): 21–58. 30 Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, 2. 31 Marie Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2002), 3. 32 Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, 93. 33 Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, 20–21. 34 Ralph J. Crane, Inventing India: A History of India in English Language Fiction (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1992), 87. 35 After the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the decline of the East India Company, the administration of colonial India was taken over by the British Crown. This period became known as the ‘Raj,’ the Hindi word for ‘rule’ in the context of royalty. 36 Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, 170. 37 Tusker’s Indian Army service is another significant factor in explaining his personal bond to India itself. India has dominated Tusker’s professional and personal identity for throughout his adult life, and so to relinquish his connection to India would be to lose a core part of his sense of self. 38 Paul Scott, Staying On (London: Granada, 1978), 206. 39 Alison Sainsbury, ‘Married to the Empire: The Anglo-Indian Domestic Novel,’ in Writing India 1757–1990: The Literature of British India, ed. Bart Moore-Gilbert (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 163–88. 40 Bhupal Singh, Cited in Alison Sainsbury, ‘Married to the Empire,’ 164. 41 Sainsbury, ‘Married to the Empire,’ 165. 42 Scott, Staying On, 171. 43 Scott, Staying On, 117.

190  Sam Goodman 4 4 Scott, Staying On, 232. 45 George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman in the Great Game (London: William Collins, 1975), 152. 46 Dominic Sandbrook, State of Emergency: The Way We Were, Britain 1970–74 (London: Allen Lane, 2010), 258–9. 47 Scott McCracken, Pulp, 6. 48 Though generally referred to as the ‘Indian Rebellion,’ usage of the term ‘Indian Mutiny’ occurs here in accordance with the wording of the sources used, not for any ideological reasons. 49 The causes of the Rebellion were manifold and much more complex than the traditional narrative suggests. Historians have variously cited internal divisions within Britain’s Sepoy or native troops as a result of the Indian caste system and a British preference for high-caste recruitment as an explanation for the rebellion, along with widespread anger among Indians over the British annexation of Oudh in 1856; the rumour over the cartridges was thus merely a catalyst, causing more deep-seated unrest to develop into rebellion. For a complete history, see Stanley Wolpert, A New History of India ­(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 50 Richard Steadman-Jones, ‘Colonial Fiction for Liberal Readers: John ­Masters and the Savage Family Saga,’ in End of Empire and the English Novel Since 1945, eds. Gilmour and Schwarz, 75. Historians such as Piers Brendon have suggested that Reginald Dyer, the commanding officer at the Massacre of Amritsar in 1919, may have been led to act with such brutality out of a fear of another widespread ‘Mutiny’; see Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781–1997 (London: Vintage, 2008), 323. 51 Gautam Chakravarty’s The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), surveys the wealth of fiction and other publications on the Rebellion produced in the 150 years since the events themselves. 52 Some titles include: The Indian Mutiny and in Particular a Narrative of Events at Cawnpore June–July 1857 (1890) by Joseph Lee; An Unrecorded Chapter of the Indian Mutiny (1894) by R. G. Wilberforce; Memories of the Mutiny (1894) by F. C. Maude; Annals of the Indian Rebellion (1859) by N. A. Chick. 53 John McLeod, J. G. Farrell (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2007), 64. 54 McLeod. J. G. Farrell, 98–9. 55 Stanley Reynolds, ‘Obituary: George MacDonald Fraser,’ 4th January, 2008. www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jan/04/pressandpublishing.georgemacdonaldfraser [accessed 28th October, 2015]. 56 Chakravarty, The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination, 8. 57 Chakravarty, The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination, 5. 58 Farrell’s process of transposing real-life personages and events is well documented; see McLeod’s J. G. Farrell or Sam Goodman, ‘A Great Beneficial Disease: Colonial Medicine and Imperial Authority in J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur,’ Journal of Medical Humanities, 36.2 (2015), 141–56. 59 Various obituaries of Fraser call attention to the wealth and income that the Flashman series brought him; see Anon, ‘George MacDonald Fraser,’ 3rd January, 2008. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1574373/GeorgeMacDonald-Fraser.html [accessed 2nd January, 2016]. 60 Ed Milliband’s comparison of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to Flashman in 2011 and its enthusiastic reception from newspaper cartoonists is one such example of how Flashman lives on into the present. See BBC, ‘Cameron Like Bully Flashman, says Milliband,’ 11th May, 2011. www.bbc. co.uk/news/uk-politics-13363120 [accessed 30th October, 2015].

Everything Must Go  191 61 Fraser, Flashman in the Great Game, 8. 62 Fraser, Flashman in the Great Game, 236. 63 Fraser, Flashman in the Great Game, 234. 64 See Saul David, ‘Flash Man,’ The Telegraph, 16th April, 2006. www.telegraph. co.uk/culture/books/3651482/Flash-man.html [accessed 1st ­February,2016]. 65 McCracken, Pulp, 5. 66 George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World (London: Michael Joseph, 1988), 140. 67 Michael Denning, Cover Stories: Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller (London: Routlege and Kegan Paul, 1987), 2–3.

Bibliography Anon, ‘George MacDonald Fraser.’ 3rd January, 2008. Accessed 2nd January 2016. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1574373/George-MacDonald-Fraser. html. BBC, ‘Cameron Like Bully Flashman, says Milliband.’ 11th May, 2011. ­Accessed 30th October 2015. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13363120. Brendon, Piers. The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781–1997. London: Vintage, 2008. Byatt, A.S. On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays. London: Chatto and Windus, 2000. Chakravarty, Gautam. The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination. ­Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Crane, Ralph J. Inventing India: A History of India in English Language ­Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1992. David, Saul. ‘Flash Man.’ The Telegraph, 16th April, 2006. Accessed 1st ­February 2016. www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3651482/Flash-man.html. Denning, Michael. Cover Stories: Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987. English, James F. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Fraser, George MacDonald. Flashman in the Great Game. London: William Collins, 1975. ———. The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph, 1988. Gikandi, Simon. Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism. New York: Columbia, 1996. Goodman, Sam. ‘This Time it’s Personal: Reliving and Rewriting History in 1970s Fiction.’ In The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction, edited by Nick Hubble, John McLeod, and Phillip Tew, 117–44. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. ———. ‘A Great Beneficial Disease: Colonial Medicine and Imperial Authority in J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur.’ Journal of Medical Humanities 36.2 (June 2015): 141–56. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. Second Edition. London and New York: Routledge, 1989. James, Lawrence. Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India. London: Abacus, 1997.

192  Sam Goodman Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer. Heat and Dust. London: John Murray, 2003. Klaver, Claudia. ‘Domesticity Under Siege: British Women and Imperial Crisis at the Siege of Lucknow 1857.’ Women’s Writing 8.1 (December 2006): 21–58. Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. Second Edition. London: ­Routledge, 2005. McCracken, Scott. Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. McLeod, John. J. G. Farrell. Tavistock: Northcote House, 2007. Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Writing India 1757–1990: The Literature of British India. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996. Nairn, Tom. The Break Up of Britain: Crisis and NeoNationalism (London: New Left Books, 1977). Nussbaum, Felicity. The Autobiographical Subject: Gender and Ideology in Eighteenth-Century England. London: Johns Hopkins, 1995. Porter, Bernard. The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain. Oxford: University Press, 2004. Pratt, Marie-Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. ­Second Edition. London: Routledge, 2002. Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Carolina, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Reynolds, Stanley. ‘Obituary: George MacDonald Fraser.’ The Guardian 4th January, 2008. Accessed 28th October 2015. www.theguardian.com/books/ 2008/jan/04/pressandpublishing.georgemacdonaldfraser. Sainsbury, Alison. ‘Married to the Empire: The Anglo-Indian Domestic Novel.’ In Writing India 1757–1990: The Literature of British India, edited by Bart Moore-Gilbert, 163–88. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996. Samuel, Raphael. Theatres of Memory. London: Verso, 1994. Sandbrook, Dominic. State of Emergency: The Way We Were, Britain 1970–74. London: Allen Lane, 2010. Scott, Paul. Staying On. London: Granada, 1978. Steadman-Jones, Richard, ‘Colonial Fiction for Liberal Readers: John Masters and the Savage Family Saga.’ In End of Empire and the English Novel Since 1945, edited by Rachael Gilmour and Bill Schwarz, 74–91. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2015. Steinitz, Rebecca. Time, Space and Gender in the Nineteenth-century British Diary. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. Seventh Edition. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015. Strongman, Luke. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Teo, Hsu-Ming. Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels. Austin, TX: University of Austin Press, 2012. Teverson, Andrew. Salman Rushdie. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007. Thompson, Andrew, ed. Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth ­C entury. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

9 Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit Visuality and the Popular in Post-Millennial India E. Dawson Varughese This chapter’s focus is on Indian domestic book cover design, specifically four popular fiction novels by Anuja Chauhan published post millennium: The Zoya Factor (2008a, 2008b), Battle for Bittora (2010) and Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013), all by HarperCollins India, and The House That BJ Built (2015) by Westland Books. One of the ways in which we might think of Anuja Chauhan’s books as ‘popular’ is by their sales figures. Joshi writes that ‘[t]he previous “Hindu” print run of 500 copies has now been replaced by 30,000 to 1 million-plus first printings for writers such as Chetan Bhagat and Anuja Chauhan.’1 All four of Chauhan’s novels also belong to the genre of Chick Lit, meaning that they are female-centred narratives woven around a central strand of the subgenre of ‘rom-com’ and, to lesser or greater degrees, follow Stephanie Davis-Kahl’s definition of Chick Lit.2 As Chick Lit novels, they are categorised as ‘popular’ fiction and, as this chapter goes on to suggest, are part of India’s changing literary scene, which has undergone immense transformation in terms of publishing, marketing and consuming fiction in the last 15 years, changes that have been very much in line with broader socio-economic developments. For Scott McCracken, popular narratives play a significant role in facilitating such societal change. He writes, Popular narratives play a vital role in mediating social change, informing their audience of new currents and allowing the reader to insert him or herself into new scenarios in a way that can be related to her or his own experience. Its engagement in the present, in now-time, means that the political nature of popular fiction is never in doubt.3 The study of the book cover as a cultural form has often been marginalised within literary studies, the focus having been overwhelmingly on the content of the novel rather than its peritext.4 Although more recently there has been an interest in the representation of postcolonial narratives through book cover design appearing in Western markets – which has deconstructed motifs of ‘Africa’ or ‘India,’ for example – very little work has focussed on domestic publishing within such regions or countries.

194  E. Dawson Varughese Examination of the book cover designs of popular Indian novels in ­English produced within India is scarce. The fact that a significant proportion of fiction produced in India stays within its domestic or regional borders means that book cover design is generated from that domestic (or regional) geography and, most importantly, from that same sociocultural milieu. This cultural positioning becomes particularly interesting when we consider how the young Indian woman is represented through book cover design that has been generated inside India but by publishing groups whose headquarters are located outside India: HarperCollins, in the case of three of Anuja Chauhan’s novels. Throughout this chapter, I am interested in how the young Indian woman is visually represented in the genre of Chick Lit as well as in her ‘supposed’ culture; seen through Indian ‘domestic’ eyes and negotiated through specific choices of cover design. In terms of design motifs, I am interested in the ‘girly’ themes present in the book cover designs and how these interface with notions of sexual desire – with reference to the book covers of The Zoya Factor (2008a, 2008b) and Battle for Bittora (2010) in particular – as well as how the truncated or ‘dissected’ female body is employed in the design choices in order to represent both the genre and the young Indian woman. Attention is given primarily to the peritext, such as the images, font choice and embossed, textured book covers, whilst making connections with post-millennial Indian society and cultures in terms of ‘representation.’5 Hall et al., remind us of the importance of a ‘discursive approach’ when interrogating such issues: [T]he discursive approach is more concerned with the effects and consequences of representation – its polities […] how the knowledge which a particular discourse produces connects with power, regulates conduct, makes up or constructs identities and subjectivities, and defines the way certain things are represented, thought about, practised and studied.6 (Original emphasis.) This chapter therefore combines semiotic analysis with the discursive approach, producing a detailed discourse of how these signs speak to issues of female identity within post-millennial India. Much of life in New India today involves forms of cultural consumption, which are concerned with seeing. Lutgendorf tells us that, across the region, ‘“seeing” was (and continues to be) understood as a tangible encounter in which sight reaches out to “touch” objects and “take” them back into the seer.’7 Freitag, meanwhile, argues that the visual realm is a critical component in South Asian modernity because: [A]cts of seeing become acts of knowing as viewers/consumers impute new meanings to familiar images. Such agency enables a civil

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  195 society to grapple with change through indigenous sociologies of knowledge so that it can be naturalised and accommodated.8 Accordingly, new forms of seeing point ‘the way to how South Asian modes of narrativisation and their visual repertoires link directly to consumption, and beyond that to new kinds of activism – an activism focused on identity-formation and related ideological formations.’9 More specifically, it has been argued that the role of the visual in Indian culture is defining, given the concepts of darśan and drishti: ideas of seeing or gazing at the heart of Hindu modes of visuality.10 Lutgendorf translates darśan as both ‘visual dialog’ and ‘visual intercourse’ in order to emphasise the idea of communication between the gazer and the gazed upon.11 Darśan typically takes place in the context of the temple during worship and prayer, where the devotee would ‘gaze’ upon the deity, and the deity would gaze upon the devotee. This act of the ‘gaze’ immerses the devotee and deity in a visual dialogue, connecting the two intimately in what Lutgendorf calls ‘a “gaze” that is returned’ (original emphasis).12 Darśan is also enacted outside of the temple context; as Lutgendorf states, ‘Darśan may also refer to the auspicious sight of powerful places and persons; holy people and kings (politicians and filmstars) “give darśan” to those who approach them.’13 I have suggested elsewhere (Lau and Dawson Varughese, 2015) that darśan has been integral to the production and consumption of many domestic Indian book cover images on which the female face has taken on an almost goddess-like status. The traditional depiction of a Hindu goddess, according to Craven, is ‘an exceptionally beautiful crowned [female] deity, who radiates […] sensual vitality […] She is richly bejewelled, and her full, high breasts and narrow eyes combine with the tribhanga pose to suggest an almost feline movement.’14 There are, for example, echoes of the goddess Kali in Gokhale’s Paro: Dreams of Passion (1999) book cover design. In other instances, contact with the female’s eyes has communicated a strident and empowered female, often pushing social and cultural boundaries through this very act of ‘seeing’ and ‘being seen,’ and again, such a portrayal can be found on the front cover of the two 1999 Penguin India editions of Paro: Dreams of Passion. Crucially, none of the Chauhan book covers analysed here include an image of the face or eyes requisite for darśan to take place. Lutgendorf’s description of darśan as “seeing” in which sight reaches out to “touch” objects and “take” them back into the seer might prove useful when examining older forms of book cover design where the female is often depicted goddess-like, but the same is not easily argued here.15 The analysis of the four Chauhan novels that follows here is particularly interested in how her first two novels – The Zoya Factor, ­HarperCollins ­I ndia (2008a, 2008b), and Battle for Bittora, ­HarperCollins India (2010)  – are characterised by a similar design style which uses typeface and certain symbolic motifs to represent ‘young femininity’ and

196  E. Dawson Varughese ‘love.’ Her third and fourth book covers on the other hand – Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013) and The House That BJ Built (2015) – depart considerably from the style of the first two books, using snapshots of the female body and a markedly different typeface. Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013) and The House That BJ Built (2015) are published by HarperCollins India and Westland, respectively, and I suggest that, in an echo of The House That BJ Built (2015), as a sequel to Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013), the two book covers were designed to be ‘of the same narrative.’

Analysis: ‘Seeing’ the Female The particular editions of Chauhan’s books to be examined here are the following:

Figure 9.1  The Zoya Factor, HarperCollins India (2008a).

Figure 9.2  T  he Zoya Factor, HarperCollins India (2008b).

Figure 9.3  Battle for Bittora, HarperCollins India (2010).

Figure 9.4  Those Pricey Thakur Girls, HarperCollins India (2013).

Figure 9.5  T  he House That BJ Built, Westland Books Ltd (2015).

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  199

‘Girly’ and Sexual Motifs Figures 9.1 and 9.2 of the book covers for The Zoya Factor (hereafter referred to as Zoya) and Figure 9.3 for Battle for Bittora (hereafter referred to as Bittora) share a particular style and theme of design. All three covers use the following symbols: the love heart, flowers and red lips. These symbols, in particular the love hearts and flowers, make r­ eference to ‘girly’ culture: characteristically, young and overtly (stereotypically) female. The term ‘girly’ has an association with frivolous objects, silly ‘giggly’ acts and blithe conversation. It has derogatory connotations, and the phrase ‘girly-girl,’ in particular, is often used pejoratively. In contrast, the term ‘girly’ is also used to express an uber-femininity, one that conveys sexual desire, such as that expressed in the pin-ups of the early twentieth century in ‘girly magazines.’16 The red lips that feature on Figures 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3 are both ‘girly’ in being archetypically ‘female’ – they are painted red – and in being a motif of sexual appetite. The following analysis of Figures 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3 moves between these two ideas of ‘girly’ as being an overt expression of femininity in terms of ‘girlyness’ and uber-femininity in terms of sexual desire. In addition to these three motifs of the love heart, flowers and red lips, the theme of each individual novel’s narrative is also symbolised through more specific images – in the case of Zoya, a cricket bat and ball, and in the case of Bittora, two political party emblems on separate flags. Figures 9.1 and 9.3 also share a muted background design which, in both cases, is a mass of swirling decorative lines, whereas Figure 9.2 features a striking image of light projected from behind to manifest itself in bold stripes, emanating from behind the novel’s title. In Zoya (2008a), the flower motif is evidenced in Figure 9.1 as a muted green and blue flower, the kind found on Western brands of casual or beachwear (Fat Face, for example). In contrast, in Zoya (2008b), Figure 9.2 of the flower motif is made up of four classically depicted red roses of the rock music style (the type found in 1980s rock band emblems, such as that of Guns N’ Roses), typified, also, in some forms of tattoo art. The motifs of Figure 9.2 set up an ‘alternative’ cultural world, and this is further signified by two red horns that adorn a red heart, around which the four roses are arranged.17 The red is echoed through a bright red lipstick imprint on the cricket bat. The cricket bat is a striking element of the image as a whole as it is the only item on the cover to be in a light colour (it is offwhite in hue), and, set against the red and dark greens of the background colour, the image of the cricket bat is made central. If we understand the cricket bat as signifying the male protagonist Khoda in this novel, the ‘brilliant new skipper/captain’ (we are told on the back cover), and we understand Zoya, the female protagonist, to be signified through the images of the red roses and the red lipstick, then we might read this cover in its totality as representing a love story or sexual

200  E. Dawson Varughese encounter. The image of the love heart is, after all, placed firmly and centrally on the front cover (Figure 9.2). The design choice of the heart is significant as it is not a pure or romantic heart: it is blood red and has devil-like horns. Combined with the (Western) alternative-culture symbols, this completes an image that symbolises love mixed with lust and sexual longing. The red of the heart and of the roses communicates a primordial desire through its association with blood and vitality. The blood-red imprint of the lipstick on the cricket bat is also sexual in nature, suggesting that Zoya leaves her mark on Khoda, literally through the (almost) indelible lipstick mark and, more figuratively, through her (sexual) presence in his life, a presence not easily forgotten nor effaced. A more sexually orientated analysis of this book cover might suggest the cricket bat as phallic, so potent as to repel (as it would a cricket ball) any gestures of tender love which, in the context of an Indian market, might be more (stereotypically) akin to Bollywood representations of courtship and predestined romantic love (these remain subtle in their allusion to sexual acts and rarely depict them overtly). Singh writes that even within ‘Indian popular cinema, the love scene or the “bedroom scenes” are still performed in enigmatic ways, often with the screen fading into black, or alternatively, focussing on kissing birds and shaking bushes.’18 Some Bollywood films, particularly post millennium, are challenging this representation of sexual encounter, although the majority adhere to conventions such as those described by Singh. The cover’s subtle allusion to sexuality therefore fits with this more allusive relationship to sexual intercourse in Indian popular culture. Figure 9.1 of Zoya also employs the cricket bat and lipstick mark. In this case, however, the cricket bat appears less virile, positioned right to left, the opposite orientation to the bat in Figure 9.2, which runs left to right. This sense of the less virile is also achieved through the image of a cricket ball to accompany the bat, while the lipstick mark on the end of the cricket bat resembles something of a clip art or comic image of red lips, suggesting a more playful or innocent kiss when compared to the lips image on Figure 9.2. Moreover, on Zoya Figure 9.2, the lipstick mark is an imprint; the lines of the lips are visible, and the shape is more organic than the image of the red lips on Zoya Figure 9.1. The lips on Figure 9.2 are also parted, rendering the image more sexual in nature than the lips image employed in Zoya Figure 9.1. The duo of bat and ball in Figure 9.1 reinforces the strapline running across the top edge of the book: ‘All’s fair in love – and cricket!’ The ball, placed in the bottom right-hand corner of the cover, takes the reader’s eyes to the name of the author. It therefore acts as a signifier of the novel’s narrative as well as a foregrounding device for Chauhan’s name. Zoya Figures 9.1 and 9.2 do share one design feature – a small image box on the back cover. A picture of a cricket team, standing side by side, dressed in blue uniform, linked with their arms behind one another’s

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  201 backs, reveals a female figure in a short black skirt and stripy top, wedged between the players. Her arms are also placed around the backs of the players, except that her right arm has slid down the back of one of them, landing her hand neatly, and firmly, on his bottom; to be precise, her hand is resting on his right buttock. In the case of Zoya Figure 9.1, the small image box maintains the flower motif from the front cover. It creeps in from the right side of the image box on to the players standing in line, its tendril finishing at the female’s hand, which, in turn, leads our eyes to the cricket player’s right buttock. This image of the flirtatious yet surreptitious action of the female captures a moment of sexual connection between the (only) woman and a man we assume to be Khoda. The difference between the two book cover designs is most manifest through the colourways of the two Zoya book cover Figures 9.1 and 9.2, which exemplify the two facets of the term ‘girly’ presented earlier. The cool, muted colours of Zoya (Figure 9.1) – creams, light browns, pastel green and blue – signify a soft, understated, young feminine identity, whereas the colourway of Zoya (Figure 9.2), with the profuse and striking colours of yellow gold, blood red and green, speaks of another kind of feminine identity, one, I suggest, of uber-femininity in terms of sexual desire.19 The heart symbol that is part of Zoya (Figure 9.2) also features on the cover of Bittora (Figure 9.3). It is, however, a very different type of heart. The colourway of Bittora (Figure 9.3) is striking with its use of red and gold letters; the red suggesting the bloodshed of battle. As with the Zoya Figures 9.1 and 9.2, Figure 9.3 foregrounds an object by placing it in the centre of the cover’s design; this device, as with Zoya Figures 9.1 and 9.2, conveys the premise of the novel. The image of a heart made from riveted, galvanised steel signifies both loyalty (to a political cause) and, in turn, a desire to eschew all emotional or r­ elationship possibilities. It speaks of armour, thus keeping what is within the heart (true emotion) inside and, by virtue, keeping unwanted, external desires from ­entering. Furthermore, the motif of armour symbolises ideas of chastity and ­purity, a theme that runs throughout the narrative of Bittora. The heart communicates the idea of sentiment (and passion) versus reason, an idea reinforced through the strapline running along the top of the book’s front cover: ‘The story of India’s most passionate LOK SABHA contest!’ Within Indian culture, the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of Parliament) is renowned for its passionate debate. However, with the reference to Anuja Chauhan’s first novel on the bottom of the cover, ‘author of The Zoya Factor,’ and the text on the back cover reading ‘wicked humour and sexy romance,’ the heart image most strongly signifies contested love and romance. This aspect of peritext, in turn, revises the meaning of the strapline at the top of the front cover to suggest that the most passionate contest can only ever be the one between two lovers. The galvanised heart image of Bittora also reveals a small gap on its top

202  E. Dawson Varughese right-hand side, an opening made where two pieces of steel do not quite meet. This small gap symbolises a ‘chink in the heart’s armour.’ Following the idea that the armoured heart is able to maintain purity, this chink suggests that such purity is being compromised, whether that be physically or emotionally. Overall, the image’s primary semiotic is one of interior-exterior experience: emotion, desire, virtue and loyalty are all depicted through this book cover design. Furthermore, the image of the armoured heart suggests that choices are to be made: precisely what is to be revealed (publicly) and what is to be kept hidden (private) is the question that looms over the image. Chauhan’s third novel Those Pricey Thakur Girls (9.4) (hereafter referred to as TPTG) departs from the design style of the Zoya (9.1) and Bittora (9.3) cover images. Its style is replicated in The House That BJ Built (hereafter referred to as THTBB). This replication connects the two novels visually and underpins the narrative connection they share as THTBB is a sequel to TPTG. Both book covers make extensive use of photographic material. The front of TPTG (9.4) uses two images – one of a female’s legs and one of a cat – alongside two bodies of text; the title and the author’s name. The background colour of TPTG is a sandy yellow, a muted colour, against which some of the more striking colours stand out. The image of the female’s legs is set to the left-hand side; it occupies half the cover, the other half being given over to the cat image and the book’s title, with the author’s name running along the bottom. The female’s legs are shown from just above the knee with what appears to be a dress or skirt in a modern, floral fabric. The eyes are drawn to the colours on the fabric but also to the colourful beads that adorn the female’s sandals, the beads of her ankle chains and the bright yellow of the cat’s eyes. The cat image sits to the right of the female’s feet in an upright, alert, but non-aggressive position. The cat’s eyes look across the front cover to something or someone in proximity. As we are unable to see the female’s face, the cat’s eyes suggest to us that the female might also be looking in the same direction. Through this device, the cat channels a second female presence within the image. This also makes sense semiotically, given that cats are often likened to feminine identities rather than male ones (it is typically a dog – not a cat – that is known as ‘man’s best friend,’ in many Anglophone cultures at least). The keeping of cats (and dogs) as pets is predominantly a Western cultural practice, with pets in India kept only within certain echelons of society as feeding and caring for animals entails additional cost. Thapan writes that ‘the upper-class, English-speaking, educationally advantaged urban elite in India emphasises the non-traditional (contemporary), liberated (westernised) and “trendy” (modern) aspects of everyday life.’20 The book cover design of TPTG underpins these assertions through the female’s dress code, skin colour (lighter skinned) and suggested pet-owning activity.

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  203 The feline image of the cat and the semiotic of the cat as sleek, soft and attentive are echoed through the small, gold-framed image on the back cover of TPTG. This is set at the top of the back cover, centred above the text and depicts a female. The photograph is taken from behind, revealing the top of a dress, thin straps, shoulders, neck and hair, thus representing only a select part of the female body. The fabric in this image is the same fabric as the dress seen on the front cover, so a connection is automatically made. Datta concedes that this ‘dissected’ portrayal of the truncated female body is often the case in other visual media such as films and advertising, a practice that has consequently denied women a certain pleasure in the portrayal of women’s bodies.21 Through both the front and back cover images of TPTG, the gazer cannot know who the female is; she remains unidentifiable. The small image on the back cover of TPTG reveals a yellow flower in the female’s hair which contrasts with the black hair which is plaited, the plait falling forward over one shoulder. This image of the plait connects artistically with the image of the cat on the front cover. The female’s plait wraps around the back of her neck just as the cat’s tail wraps around its body. The cat’s fur and the female’s hair catch the light, both shining in the sun. Moreover, both images are compact. The cat sits upright with its feet together and tail tucked in; the female image is also neat, her arms pulled into her body and her hair neatly arranged, the plait curling around the head and neck. Here the book design straddles the modern and traditional worlds: the cover image representing a young and modern India, with the small image on the back pointing to more traditional notions of beauty and female ‘Indianness.’ As Thapan asserts, ‘[l]est the trendy and socially elite lifestyles associated with contemporary consumerism suggest the emergence of amoral or decadent choices, it becomes essential to project the Indian woman as the symbol of all that is good and yet “modern” in the national imaginary.’22 Furthermore, as Radhakrishnan identifies, contemporary Indian women inhabit a space which is found somewhere in between the two representations: Those who reject the conventional notion of a respectable woman’s place as being in the home reject it explicitly, though they cannot ignore its potential influence on their choices. Most women inhabit an ambigious space between a new, reshaped notion of respectable femininity that includes home and a ‘safe’ job that is still entrenched in global networks, and an older vision of idealized feminine domesticity. 23 The flower in the female’s hair is the only motif that is also found in the artwork for Chauhan’s other novels: both Zoya and Bittora. The image of lips and the image of a heart do not feature on the TPTG cover at all. Interestingly, the flower image that does appear on TPTG is markedly

204  E. Dawson Varughese different from the flower motifs of Zoya Covers 9.1 and 9.2. The TPTG image of the cat, the sandals, the ankle bracelet and the flower in the hair (on the back cover) symbolise a female-cum-girly identity. The sandals and the ankle bracelet are vivid blues, reds, greens and yellows, and these colours stand out against the muted creamy yellow. The fact that the ankle bracelets and the sandals match, the colours of both complementing the colours in the dress signify a considered outfit, albeit one that is casual. This balance between the considered and the casual is echoed in the female’s stance on the front cover. This is simultaneously confident and relaxed, with the crossing over of one foot on the other. The image shows the female standing in the sun in front of a wall, which suggests that she is outside, possibly in a public place. In this scenario, her presence – both in terms of her clothing and physical stance – is strong and confident within society. As a visual echo of TPTG, THTBB also features a female body set against a sandy yellow background. This female is equally unidentifiable, although we see her body as far as eye level, therefore revealing her lips, the bottom of her ears and some hair. She, like the female on the TPTG cover, stands confidently, although here she poses with a wide stance, her arms folded across her middle, communicating a sense of defiance. This young female is Indian, yet she flouts Indian tradition in the wearing of her clothes. Standing in dark green salwar (trousers), she wears a pink, short top with a crop vest underneath. The pink top buttons near her neck, leaving the bottom part of the top open like a jacket. Her midriff is visible from the front. She flouts the rules of wearing her salwar as her pink top does not cover its uppermost part, revealing the cord for tying and the iconic salwar pleats at the front. Her purply-pink lace-up trainers continue to flout the rules by their contrasting colour (to the salwar) and the fact that she is not wearing traditional jutti (Indian, leather, slip-on shoes). This female is defiant in both her stance and in her choice of fashion and, unlike the female on the cover of TPTG, she presents a boldness in her attitude. The cat on the cover of TPTG has been replaced by a male dog, albeit a puppy – this is made obvious on the cover by the way the puppy is standing – on the cover of THTBB, over which the young woman stands, her shadow falling on the dog’s side. The shift of image from cat to dog, moreover to a male dog, suggests that the female herself has changed in nature. She seems to have shrugged off a soft, feline, feminine identity to then replace it with a canine, somewhat bullish one.

Concluding Remarks: Negotiated Visualities This analysis of the Chauhan book covers suggests a significant shift has taken place in how Indian women are represented on the covers of domestic Indian fiction in English. The choices around design and

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  205 artwork are due, in part, to the marketing and distribution circuits within which these books circulate, given that HarperCollins India is a publishing group of HarperCollins LLC, located not within India but in the United States (New York City). Outside the United States, HarperCollins has publishing groups in Canada, the United Kingdom, ­Australia, New ­Zealand and India. It is evident that India, although boasting a strong English language publishing market, is the only country out of these six that is not regarded as a ‘Western’ nation. Furthermore, ­HarperCollins India is a branch of HarperCollins Publishers LLC, one of the largest English language publishing houses globally and, for this reason, ­Chauhan’s novels need to be able to travel across markets. Book covers that might be perceived as too culturally specific are therefore unlikely design choices. As this analysis illustrates, although the novels are very much anchored in contemporary India, its cultures and the urban experience of the young Indian female, the novels belong to the transnational genre of Chick Lit. The genre is manifested through strong and memorable ‘female’ design motifs and this is key, given the potential markets that Chick Lit might enter globally. A search on amazon.co.uk reveals that Bittora (2010) and TPTG (2013) are less available to buy and also much more expensive (an average of £12) than the 2008b edition of Zoya which is available for less than £1, with many more copies of this edition being available in comparison. In the case of THTBB (2015), the novel is only available as an e-book on amazon.co.uk. It should be noted that all the book covers analysed here apart from the 2008b edition of Zoya carry the price in INR and that Bittora (2010) and TPTG (2013) carry the statement ‘For Sale in the Indian Subcontinent Only’ (see back covers). 24 Such labelling suggests that these books are bound solely for the domestic market and, therefore, one might expect a more domestically orientated set of design choices which has previously been realised in part, by the depiction of the female as goddess-like. Despite the declaration that Bittora (2010) and TPTG (2013) are available in the Indian subcontinent only, HarperCollins India has facilitated any potential future dissemination more widely by avoiding a reliance on any culturally specific mode of visuality. Instead we find that Bittora (2010) and TPTG (2013) could easily be made available to Western fiction markets using their original artwork, given that these design choices already strongly signify the transnational genre of Chick Lit and that the cover design is culturally ‘neutral’ enough in terms of the ways in which they will be ‘seen’ and consumed. Interestingly, the 2008b Zoya cover carries a non-INR pricing label (it is instead priced in GBP on a sticker that neatly overlays the original INR price, matching the cover design and colourway) and on amazon.co.uk the 2008b design demonstrates its transnational marketing and selling ability, evidenced through both its affordable price and ease of availability.

206  E. Dawson Varughese The marketing of the Chauhan novels is also significantly aimed at ‘young India,’ as registered in the narrative themes that explore and depict particularly the experience of young Indian females in urban centres. The motifs of Western cultural life and signifiers of Western female identity such as the Guns N’ Roses-style artwork and the blood-red lipstick on Zoya Figure 9.2 anchor the design choices in Western ideas of alternative cultures and thus play to ideas of a globalised, young, urban India. Juluri writes on the related subject of projecting and ‘consuming’ notions of youth culture within contemporary India: [E]ven if the coming of global television to India did not mean a simple influx of Western youth culture, it has resulted in a broad transformation across the rapidly growing mediascape that is manifested as a strange worship of youthful exuberance that still has a somewhat halfhearted (sic.) place in the pantheon for family and nation. 25 Given what Juluri suggests, the question of providing or restricting opportunity for darśan to take place might be one linked to generational marketing. Sinha reports a rise in a non-religious demographic in India, quoting a 2013 survey to suggest that this is in line with global trends. Despite this correlation, it is certainly a marked departure for Indians to identify as ‘non-religious.’26 Since the election of Narendra Modi, the country is particularly engaged in a debate around belief, secularism and Hindutva (see Gupta), and thus the future may reveal that the rise in ‘non-religious’ identification wanes (or indeed, continues). 27 ­HarperCollins India seems to be mindful of the secular in its design choices as the Chauhan covers examined here not only look to maximise global sales but also look to maximise domestic sales by not propagating a need for any one particular mode of ‘seeing.’ Although a generational argument around changing forms of visuality in India may be a valid one, we should not overlook the fact that publishing groups whose headquarters are located in the West – such as HarperCollins ­I ndia – are more inclined to evoke global rather than local practices of visual expression. In the case of Anuja Chauhan’s book cover designs, the omission of darśanic visuality plays into Oriental and exoticised ideas of ‘seeing’ the Indian female as it renders her unidentifiable and, in turn, glorifies ‘parts’ of her body such as the legs, torso and hair. This results in what Lau calls the figure of ‘an Any-Subcontinental-Woman, or alternatively, of an Every-Indian-Woman.’28 On the other hand, the design choices of Zoya (Figure 9.1), Bittora (Figure 9.3), TPTG (Figure 9.4) and THTBB (Figure 9.5) appear to be domestically inclined as they portray and play to Indian notions of romantic love, East-meets-West

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  207 identities (through an urban India which is globalising at pace) and, in the case of TPTG (9.4) and THTBB (9.5), upper-middle-class ­identities– of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ middle-class identities that Radhakrishnan speaks of. 29 In the context of the marketing and distribution circuits of Harper Collins India, Chick Lit as a transnational genre and the readers of ‘Young India’, these designs nevertheless seem to revert to image-­making that Orientalises and exoticises the Indian woman. The popular is therefore understood here to be caught up in a net of complex market forces, afloat in a sea of both West and East. As has been widely documented, India has long been made accessible for the wider English-speaking world through what Huggan describes as ‘a culturally mediated view,’ which makes the continent more palatable and, indeed, more exotic for Western readerships.30 Like Huggan, Brouillette interrogates how the marketing of postcolonial novels indulges in the exoticisation, ­commodification and fetishism of the Other, and, in relation to the peritext of a novel’s identity, she concludes, ‘A work’s overall paratext is a key constraint on how it will be read and understood.’31 This is key to understanding the production and circulation of the Chick Lit novels discussed here. On the one hand, the domestic popularity of Chauhan’s novels and the success of the genre of Indian Chick Lit challenge elite (­ Western) conceptions of India’s literary appetite. Yet, on the other hand, the book covers of these narratives are bound to Western cultural narratives through the ‘accepted’ and, at best, culturally negotiated design choices of representing the Indian female.

Notes 1 Priya Joshi, ‘Chetan Bhagat: Remaking the Novel in India,’ in A History of the Indian Novel in English, ed. Ulka Anjaria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 314. 2 See Davis-Kahl (2008) for an overview of current definitions of Chick Lit, including her own: ‘modern women struggling and succeeding with work, relationships, motherhood, infertility, finances and yes, the right shoes to wear with the right dress’ (18). See also Ponzanesi (2014) for a more detailed account of the defining features of Chick Lit in her chapter ‘Postcolonial Chick Lit: Postfeminism or Consumerism?’ 3 Scott McCracken, Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 185. 4 See Dawson Varughese, in L. Lau and E. Dawson Varughese (2015) for analysis of other Indian (domestic) female-centred/Chick Lit book covers. 5 Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 6 Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans and Sean S. Nixon, eds., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (London: Sage in Association with the Open University, 2013), xxii.

208  E. Dawson Varughese 7 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ International Journal of Hindu Studies, 10.3 (2006): 231. 8 Sandra B. Freitag, ‘The Realm of the Visual: Agency and Modern Civil Society,’ in Beyond Appearances?: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India, ed. S. Ramaswamy (New Delhi: SAGE, 2003), 366. 9 Sandra B. Freitag, ‘The Realm of the Visual,’ 373. 10 Sumathi Ramaswamy, ed., Beyond Appearances?: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003), xxv. 11 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ 233. 12 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ 233. 13 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ 232. 14 Craven’s description is fairly accurate – a photograph of the same complements his writing – however, it is noted here that Craven’s own male, non-­ Indian (we might assume from the name) response to the temple art is at play in this description of the female deity. Roy C. Craven, Indian Art: A Concise History (London: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 191. 15 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ 231. 16 See Dian Hanson, History of Girly Magazines: Pin-ups from the 19th ­C entury to the 1960s (Cologne: Taschen, 2006). 17 Here one may make a connection to the ‘girly mags’ through both the sexual nature of the image but also through the marginal, alternative space that the presentation and viewing of such images (magazines) creates. 18 Jaspal Kaur Singh, Representation and Resistance: Indian and African Women’s Texts at Home and in the Diasporas (Calgary: University of ­Calgary Press, 2008), 95. 19 Colours that are commonly used in ‘girly magazines’ (see Hanson, 2008). 20 Meenakshi Thapan, ‘Embodiment and Identity in Contemporary Society: Femina and the “new” Indian Woman,’ Contributions to Indian Sociology, 38 (2004): 414. 21 Sangeeta Datta, ‘Globalisation and Representations of Women in Indian Cinema,’ Social Scientist, 28 (2000): 80. 22 Meenakshi Thapan, ‘Embodiment and Identity,’ 416. 23 Smitha Radhakrishnan, Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 157. 24 Figures accurate in October 2014. 25 Vamsee Juluri, Becoming a Global Audience: Longing and Belonging in Indian Music Television (Hyderabad: Orient Longman Private, 2003), 7. 26 Kounteya Sinha, ‘More Indians Have Stopped Believing in God: ­Survey,’ Times of India 27th May, 2013. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/MoreIndians-have-stopped-believing-in-God-Survey/articleshow/20284261.cms [­accessed 1st November, 2013]. 27 Shekhar Gupta, ‘National Interest. Secularism is Dead!’ Indian Express, 18th April, 2014. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/­nationalinterest-secularism-is-dead/ [accessed 5th November, 2014]. 28 Lisa Lau and E. Dawson Varughese, Indian Writing in English and Issues of Visual Representation: Judging More than a Book by Its Cover (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 60. 29 Radhakrishnan, Appropriately Indian, 157. 30 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins ­(London: Routledge, 2001), 80. 31 Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 2.

Consuming Post-Millennial Indian Chick Lit  209

Bibliography Brouillette, Sarah. Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Chauhan, Anuja. Those Pricey Thakur Girls. New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2013. ———. Battle for Bittora. New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2010. ———. The Zoya Factor. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India, a Joint Venture with India Today Group, 2008a. ———. The Zoya Factor. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India, a Joint Venture with India Today Group, 2008b. Craven, Roy C. Indian Art: A Concise History. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001. Datta, Sangeeta. ‘Globalisation and Representations of Women in Indian ­Cinema.’ Social Scientist 28 (2000): 71–82. Davis-Kahl, Stephanie. ‘The Case for Chick Lit in Academic Libraries.’ Collection Building 27 (2008): 18–21. Dawson Varughese, E. ‘New Indian Woman: Decision-making and Identity in Post-millennial Chick Lit.’ In The Cambridge History of the Indian Novel in English, edited by Ulka Anjaria, 324–36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. ———. Reading New India: Post-millennial Indian Fiction in English. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Freitag, Sandra B. ‘The Realm of the Visual: Agency and Modern Civil Society.’ In Beyond Appearances?: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India, edited by S. Ramaswamy, 365–97. New Delhi: SAGE, 2003. Genette, Gérard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Gokhale, Namita. Paro: Dreams of Passion. New Delhi: Penguin India, 1997. Gupta, Shekhar. ‘National Interest. Secularism is Dead!’ Indian Express, 18th April, 2014. Accessed 5th November 2014. http://indianexpress.com/article/ opinion/columns/national-interest-secularism-is-dead/. Hall, Stuart, Jessica Evans and Sean S. Nixon, eds., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage in Association with the Open University, 2013. Hanson, Dian. History of Girly Magazines: Pin-ups from the 19th Century to the 1960s. Cologne: Taschen, 2006. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Joshi, Priya. ‘Chetan Bhagat: Remaking the Novel in India.’ In A History of The Indian Novel in English, edited by Ulka Anjaria, 310–23. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Juluri, Vamsee. Becoming a Global Audience: Longing and Belonging in Indian Music Television. Hyderabad: Orient Longman Private, 2003. Lau, Lisa and E. Dawson Varughese. Indian Writing in English and Issues of Visual Representation: Judging More than a Book by Its Cover. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

210  E. Dawson Varughese Lutgendorf, Philip. ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ International Journal of Hindu Studies 10 (2006): 227–56. McCracken, Scott. Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. Ponzanesi, Sandra. ‘Postcolonial Chick Lit: Postfeminism or Consumerism?’ In The Postcolonial Cultural Industry: Icons, Markets, Mythologies, 126–227. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Radhakrishnan, Smitha. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Ramaswamy, Sumathi, ed. Beyond Appearances?: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003. Singh, Jaspal Kaur. Representation and Resistance: Indian and African Women’s Texts at Home and in the Diasporas. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2008. Sinha, Kounteya. ‘More Indians Have Stopped Believing in God: Survey.’ The Times of India, 27th May, 2013. Accessed 1st November 2013. http://­timesofindia.­ indiatimes.com/world/uk/More-Indians-have-stopped-believing-in-God-Survey/ articleshow/20284261.cms. Thapan, Meenakshi. ‘Embodiment and Identity in Contemporary Society: ­Femina and the “new” Indian Woman.’ Contributions to Indian Sociology 38 (2004): 411–44.

Part IV


10 Monster Mines and Pipelines Frankenstein Figures of Tar Sands Technology in Canadian Popular Culture Mark A. McCutcheon Enbridge […] is welding together old pipelines and new ones, reversing the flow on some and pumping up the volume on others, building their very own Frankenstein pipeline down to the Gulf coast. National Wildlife Federation, 27th September, 20121 Weather forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Sandy could merge with another weather system as it moves, bringing a ‘Frankenstorm’ to parts of Eastern Canada and the U.S. in time for Halloween. CBC News, 26th October, 20122 An intense firestorm in Canada’s boreal forest […] has engulfed large parts of Fort McMurray, Alberta – a frontier town that serves as the base for the province’s oil sands region […] ‘The beast is still up. It’s surrounding the city,’ said fire chief Darby Allen […] Fire is a natural part of the boreal ecosystem, but what’s happening in Fort McMurray isn’t natural […] We’ve reached an era where all weather events bear at least a slight human fingerprint, which, as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the New Yorker, means ‘we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno.’ Eric Holthaus, Slate, 6th May, 20163

Cultural representations of the Alberta tar sands industry demonstrate the pivotal role that Canadian adaptations of Frankenstein – a popular English fiction with enduring global power – have played in constructing and popularising a globalised discourse of technology. By a globalised discourse of technology, I mean both the global distribution of a ­discourse that figures technology as a factitious monster run amok and a discourse that establishes the global as the ground for this figure. As I have argued elsewhere, what Chris Baldick identifies as the ‘technological reduction’ of Shelley’s novel – its popularity as ‘an uncanny prophecy of dangerous scientific inventions’ that has made it a ‘modern myth’ – has proven globally popular, largely because of the representation of technology per se as a threat whose monstrosity is its global scale.4 From

214  Mark A. McCutcheon malware to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), nuclear weapons to climate change, many crises are at once technological and global. This analysis develops my larger argument: that the ‘modern myth’ of ­Frankenstein has shaped the discourse of globalised technology, and popular cultural Frankenstein adaptations, particularly Canadian adaptations that include and derive from the work of Marshall McLuhan, have textured the uses of ‘technology’ in everyday English language use.5 My analysis here builds on Timothy Morton’s idea of ‘Frankenphemes’ and Christopher Baldick’s theory of Frankenstein’s modern myth as well as Pedro Javier Pardo García’s argument for expanding the scope and vocabulary of Frankenstein adaptation studies. Baldick theorises ­Frankenstein as a modern myth and thus as a paradox: a text that is at once modern and a critique of modernity as well as a household name imbued with mythic symbolism.6 Frankenstein’s modern mythology emerges from its two-part ‘skeleton story,’ as Baldick calls it. This skeleton story we know well: first, the researcher assembles a living creature from dead matter, then this creature turns on him and runs amok.7 Baldick shows how this skeleton story is fleshed out through two main lines of popular interpretation: a psychological interpretation in which the creature represents the ‘return of the repressed’ and a ‘technological reduction’ of the story as ‘an uncanny prophecy of dangerous scientific inventions.’8 Moreover, while these reductive popularisations constitute practices of creative adaptation, they also represent strategies of interpretive control and closure, as illustrated by the fixing of the creature’s image in Boris Karloff’s iconic film portrayal.9 As Jay Clayton writes, Frankenstein has become an ‘obligatory reference in any attempt to challenge the technological pride of the modern era.’10 This dominant, popular technological interpretation of Frankenstein is therefore important because Frankenstein has contributed powerfully to the modern meaning of technology. Baldick’s argument is resolutely and productively materialist; he ­argues that the Frankenstein myth manifests in the material accumulation of all the ‘adaptations, allusions, accretions, analogues, parodies, and plain misreadings, which follow upon Mary Shelley’s novel.’11 The inclusion of allusions is significant here. Baldick’s analysis of ­Frankenstein’s legible impact on nineteenth-century writing and rhetoric is preoccupied with what Linda Hutcheon calls ‘palimpsestic intertextuality’: the layering and modulation of textual referents, and their sometimes recognised, sometimes latent links with one another that produce, in audiences, ‘intertextual expectations about medium and genre, as well as about [a] specific work.’12 But while Hutcheon reserves these ‘multilaminated’ receptions for extensive, acknowledged adaptations, Baldick excavates some of this specific work’s more ephemeral references and esoteric reworkings.13 He attends, for instance, to the first documented use of Frankenstein as an ‘object of political allusion,’ which occurred

Monster Mines and Pipelines  215 in British parliamentary debates over abolition.14 As Baldick argues, the ‘kind of connection’ found in tracking such a widely popular text as Shelley’s is not always ‘one between a given writer and a literary “source”’ but more often a Foucauldian genealogy of ‘subterranean and invisible diffusion in the cultures which adopt them.’15 The ‘subterranean’ circulation of Frankenstein’s central characters and ‘skeleton story’ in adaptations as extensive as film series and as ephemeral as allusions finds an apt encapsulation in Morton’s concept of the ‘Frankenpheme’: ‘Frankenphemes’ is the name I have chosen to give to those elements of culture that are derived from Frankenstein, but that are less than a work of art in completion or scale. Some kernel of an idea derived from Shelley’s novel has been repeated in another medium. […] They demonstrate the extent to which the novel has permeated the ways in which we see the world.16 Morton’s examples of ‘Frankenphemes’ include TV commercials, movie scenes and allusive portmanteaus like ‘Frankenfoods,’ which emerged to frame debates over GMOs in agribusiness.17 The coinage, then, encapsulates the intertextual and appropriative practices of condensation and encoding that further the popular dispersal of Frankenstein’s modern myth in allusions, quotations, piecemeal or fragmentary adaptations and other miscellaneous ephemera that abound in popular culture. Paying attention to nuances and implications of allusive and other non-extensive adaptations through the lens of adaptation studies means scrutinising forms of adaptation that are reduced to ‘skeleton stories,’ condensed in allusions and encoded as memes; such non-extensive adaptations occupy a shifting analytic shore between the field of adaptation as it has been conventionally theorised and the ocean of open-ended intertextuality and heteroglossia. Frankenphemes may not qualify as extensive, acknowledged adaptations, but they can be intensive, complex and sometimes profoundly rich in meaning. If the tradition in adaptations of Frankenstein, including ‘Frankenphemes,’ suggests that Frankenstein casts an influential shadow over the modern meaning of technology, then Canadian adaptations of ­Frankenstein help us to understand the globalised spread of this modern discourse, a spread we can attribute in large part to Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan. As I have outlined elsewhere, M ­ cLuhan consistently represents technology as a Frankensteinian figure – a ­Frankenpheme – throughout his most widely read texts: from his suggestively titled first book The Mechanical Bride (1951) to the field-defining study Understanding Media (1964/2003) and its lay-audience counterpart The Medium is the Massage (1967/2001) as well as publicity work,

216  Mark A. McCutcheon like his Playboy interview (1969/1995).18 McLuhan has been widely but mistakenly represented as an enthusiastic ambassador of new media technologies. In fact, as he openly admitted, he viewed technological change ‘with total personal dislike.’19 He couched many of his major statements on technology and media in the Frankenstein imagery of ­violent dismemberment and machines run amok, arguing that ‘[w]ith the arrival of electric technology, man extended, or set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system itself […] a development that suggests a desperate and suicidal autoamputation.’20 In the process, ­McLuhan also consistently positioned technology in a totalising, globalising context, that of his famous ‘global village’: [W]e have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness. 21 However, despite McLuhan’s profound technological anxiety, his experimental writing style, dramatic oratory and curiosity about subjects deemed unworthy of scholarly study in the 1960s earned him a great deal of popularity – and his vocabulary a great deal of currency – with big business and counterculture alike. Having developed a discourse of technology that dramatised its Frankensteinian pretext and globalised its scope, McLuhan and his theory have, in turn, been popularised by the early cyberpunk fictions of William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984) and David Cronenberg’s film Videodrome (1983), by the masthead of Wired, by the international scholarly receptions of scholars like Friedrich Kittler and Neil Postman and by the popular cultural representations of tar sands industry and technology discussed later. 22 In these ways, both McLuhan’s own work and adaptations (especially Canadian ones) of McLuhan’s discourse of monstrous, globalised technology have popularised this Frankensteinian sense of the word ‘technology’ and installed it in the discourse of globalisation. The global popularisation of ‘technology’ as a kind of Frankenpheme has thus arisen in a complex postcolonial genealogy of cultural adaptation and appropriation. Pertinent to the present discussion is the interdependence, even the mutual constitution, of technology and globalisation discourses: neither term would mean entirely what it does today without being echoed in the other. This argument works with an understanding of globalisation as an intensification of international flows of money and labour, whose chief beneficiaries are multinational corporations. 23 Globalisation theory privileges technology in its models of transnational political and cultural economy chiefly for facilitating the mobile exploits of capital. 24 Jonathan L. Beller reads the technological imperative as a core value of globalisation in the popular Frankensteinian image of the cyborg, which

Monster Mines and Pipelines  217 he describes as ‘the intersecting of the human being from anywhere in the world […] and the technology (military, industrial, and informational) endemic to transnational capitalism.’25 Thus, globalisation is also important for understanding the popular discourse of technology: virtually any technological risk or threat is represented as an intrinsically global threat. The popular understanding of technology in a global sense is prefigured in Shelley’s novel as Victor Frankenstein imagines the ultimate result of his research as being a ‘race of devils [that] would be propagated upon the earth.’26 Since then, Frankenstein has been invoked to sound the alarm over technologies typically understood as global in their reach and risks, from nuclear power to file-sharing:27 ‘digital piracy is Hollywood’s own digital Frankenstein,’ writes one film industry observer. 28 Even the chief agent of globalisation itself, the modern corporation, has attracted Frankenstein analogies and figurations since the Great Depression. Mitchell Dawson’s 1930 magazine article ‘Frankenstein, Inc.’ expresses the author’s thoroughgoing suspicion of corporations in most sectors, such as ‘the gigantic press Frankensteins which now control the news and public opinion.’29 Dawson envisions ‘the corporate Frankenstein’ inaugurating an age in which ‘law and government will be nullified,’ an age that scholars and critics have analysed as that of present-day economic globalisation. 30 Frankensteinian representations of corporate business after the Depression resonate profoundly today, not just in Canadian culture but around the world. Canadian Frankenstein adaptations, like Canadian popular culture more generally, invite a postcolonial perspective. As I have argued elsewhere, the popular culture and literature of the white, Anglophone mainstream ‘has tended not to figure as prominently in postcolonial analyses of Canadian nation-building […] as have the subjects of indigenous, diasporic, and other racialised and minoritised literatures.’31 Redirecting postcolonial attention to Canadian popular culture intends ‘neither to contest nor to dismiss the growing and critically self-reflexive foci on diasporic and indigenous literatures’ – these foci remain urgently important.32 Rather, the purpose of paying postcolonial attention to Canadian popular culture is to rethink Canada’s mobilisations of popular culture for political economic projects in nation-building and globalised capital (which government policy in the age of neo-liberalism has increasingly considered to be the same thing). What postcolonial attention to Canadian popular culture can provide is a way of ‘doing the national differently,’ articulating connections among Canadian culture, Canadian policy and the transnational corporate interests that pressure and, arguably, colonise them. 33 While Canadian literary studies have rightly focussed on indigenous, diasporic and otherwise minoritised literary production, cultural and media studies have paid more attention to postcolonial contexts of

218  Mark A. McCutcheon Canadian popular culture. Oliver Boyd-Barrett theorised the ‘­media ­imperialism’ thesis with reference to the presiding dominance of ­Canada’s culture and entertainment markets by United States-produced media texts and products.34 The media imperialism thesis has been challenged for its deterministic model of unilateral cultural power (thus neglecting the oppositional appropriations of ‘imperial’ media products by its target audience ‘colonies’). Nevertheless, I think that a postcolonial approach to analysing Canadian cultural production, amidst the perennially high-pressure state of United States-Canadian trade relations and their implications for Canadian sovereignty, warrants a critical retrieval of the media imperialism thesis, which not only describes a model for cultural exportation but suggests that such trade is intimately connected to political takeover. However, in advocating a postcolonial perspective on popular culture in Canada, it is crucially important not to misrecognise or misrepresent Canadian colonialism by positing its white settler majority as a ‘victim’ of cultural imperialism, that is, as the colonised. This majority actually constitutes the coloniser, in the political economy of Canada as an immigration-based resource extraction colony, established through the systemic segregation and dispossession of Canada’s First Nations. Canadian popular culture is dominated by the neo-­imperialism of mainly United States-imported cultural productions and technologies, but the Canadian political economy is characterised by its own neo-imperial projects of capital – of which there is perhaps no better exemplar than the tar sands industry in question here. 35 The ­Canadian nation state furnishes a significant postcolonial context for theorising popular culture and cultural adaptation practices because Canada comprises not just a target of cultural imperialism but also a rapacious agent of neo-imperialist capital. Key to this postcolonial approach to Canadian popular culture is a retrieval of Maurice Charland’s idea of technological nationalism: at once a national discourse and an infrastructure policy that ties ‘a ­Canadian identity, not to its people, but to their mediation through technology.’36 Arthur Kroker took up the term and developed it extensively in his 1984 book Technology and the Canadian Mind. Kroker identifies an ‘original, comprehensive, and eloquent discourse on technology’ in the work of George Grant, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, a discourse that Kroker sees reflected in Canadian culture generally, from the fiction of Margaret Atwood to the brutalist-futurist architecture of urban ­Canada, like Toronto’s iconic CN tower. 37 Reading technological nationalism less as a nation-building ideology and more as a widely diffused cultural discourse, Kroker finds in this discourse notes of ambivalence and anxiety.38 He posits technological nationalism as ‘the essence of the Canadian state and […] the Canadian identity,’ an effect of Canada’s geo-historical position ‘between […] the “technological imperative” in American empire and the classical origins of the technological dynamo

Monster Mines and Pipelines  219 in European history.’39 In its positioning of Canadian nation-building amidst the cross-border proximity of the United States, the transatlantic reach of Europe and the emergent regime of globalisation, technological nationalism is a nascent theory of Canadian postcolonialism, avant la lettre. The ‘Canadian discourse on technology,’ according to Kroker, ‘thrusts us into the centre of a debate of world significance’ over issues of ‘neotechnical capitalism’ and ‘global media system[s],’ that is now widely recognised as integral to postcolonial globalisation.40 A postcolonial critique of Canadian popular culture echoes earlier enquiries into the applicability of postcolonial theory to the United States as a white settler colony and to the ‘new imperial studies’ approach to Britain.41 The need for such a critique of majority and settler cultures also accords with Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice’s more generalised observation that ‘popular culture is one of those neglected domains of enquiry for postcolonial studies’ and their consequent assertion that popular culture and postcolonial critique matter profoundly to each other.42 Identifying the globalised capitalist world system as (among other things) a legacy of colonialism, they write: Popular culture today is of significance for postcolonial studies as it is the terrain of struggle between a dominant capitalist force […] and resistances to it […] popular culture provides the ground for constituting forms of resistance to hegemonic (often nationalist) power structuring social and political relations, and cultural expression, in the wake of colonialism.43 In the particular context of Canada’s resource extraction-based economy and its nation-building cultural policy toolkit (e.g., Canadian content quotas and public investment supports for cultural production across media), positioning Canadian popular culture postcolonially means outlining Canadian popular culture’s investments in, and involvements with, cultural and economic globalisation.44 This postcolonial contextualisation of popular culture amidst ­globalisation – and, more specifically, its resource-extraction industries – resonates with similar postcolonial studies of popular and dominant cultures. It also relates to current research on the cultural aspects and effects of globalisation, development and energy, like the Warwick Research Collective’s materialist approach to reconceiving world literature, and the emergence of the energy humanities.45 Moreover, the present study – in finding an abundance of cultural representations of oil in Canada alone – answers and tempers Imre Szeman’s claim that ‘our fiction of energy surplus appears to be so completely shielded from view as to be hardly named in our literary fictions at all.’46 He sees energy infrastructure and especially oil as a ‘dearth […] in contemporary fiction,’ pointing to works like Upton Sinclair’s Oil! (1927) as

220  Mark A. McCutcheon exceptions to this rule. Szeman focusses on ‘literary fictions’ and gives only a nod to s­ cience fiction, a genre that is central to cultural images of oil. For Szeman, Avatar (2009) illustrates science fiction’s fantastic, clean energy futures, a curious misreading of the film that seems to miss its tar sands allegory, as I will discuss.47 Today, the Alberta tar sands industry, located northeast of M ­ cLuhan’s hometown Edmonton, represents a significant and symptomatic site of technology as a Frankenstein trope. It is the world’s biggest industrial project, capital’s most hubristic gamble with climate change catastrophe.48 In 2016, the region where it is located suffered a catastrophic and prolonged wildfire dubbed ‘The Beast’ by firefighters and described by Naomi Klein (evoking the Frankensteinian rhetoric of galvanism) as being a result of ‘El Niño supercharged with climate change.’49 An extraction business of enormous scale and unprecedented destructiveness, the tar sands literalise David McNally’s observation that ‘the idea that something monstrous is at work in the operations of global capitalism is never far from the surface today.’50 Accordingly, technologically reductive articulations of Frankensteins have emerged to represent the tar sands – and the climate change that the oil business is now known to accelerate. Allusion, adaptation and other modes of cultural appropriation can as readily serve strategies of interpretive closure as those of openness and ambiguity.51 Frankenstein references often function as sensational rhetoric designed to thwart serious, reasoned discussion. The figure of Frankenstein stalks contemporary journalism and commentary on oil and the tar sands, among critics and supporters. A 2009 United States advertising campaign by the environmental advocacy group Forest Ethics warned about ‘the dirtiest oil on earth,’ and described ‘the Tar Sands’ as ‘a Frankenstein of local and global environmental hazards.’52 In 2012, the National Wildlife Federation described Enbridge’s proposed pipeline expansion in a flurry of Frankenstein images: ‘If Keystone XL is the ‘zombie pipeline’ that won’t die, it’s pretty clear the Enbridge expansion is the ‘Frankenstein’ of tar sands. The patchwork, 2,600 mile pipeline is right out of a mad scientist’s dream.’53 Conversely, the oil lobby Energy Tomorrow also invoked Frankenstein to refute criticisms of diluted bitumen, or ‘dilbit,’ the tar sands’ product: ‘dilbit isn’t some ­Frankenstein-like product and lots of care goes into shipping it.’54 References like these are more rhetorical moves than aesthetic ones, although the availability of Frankenstein to both sides of this debate reflects the ambivalence of Mary Shelley’s text itself. Across different media and genres, Canadian cultural texts exhibit a range of reductive and ambiguous uses for Frankenstein’s story of technological backfire to represent oil business, energy crisis and climate crisis. Take McLuhan, for instance: his work does not address energy as extensively as media, but references to energy industries furnish

Monster Mines and Pipelines  221 contextual bookends for the first and last chapters of Understanding Media. This devotes a chapter to the car, imagined according to the same Frankenstein allusion that titled his first book, ‘Motorcar: The Mechanical Bride’55 – a figure that evokes Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass (1923), the robot of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). For McLuhan, the car is a cyborg technology, described in terms as Frankensteinian as those with which he describes new media generally. ‘It was the electric spark that enabled the gasoline engine to take over from the steam engine,’ he writes, ‘[t]he crossing of electricity, the biological form, with the mechanical form was never to release a greater force.’56 As an ‘extension of man’ – that is, as a m ­ edium – the car ‘turns the rider into a superman’; thereby also becoming a weapon, a ‘misguided missile’ whose destructive power is its drastic environmental impact and social transformation. 57 For McLuhan, ‘cars have become the real population of our cities, with a resulting loss of human scale.’58 A suggestive text, from about the same time as McLuhan’s heyday, that represents the oil business and extraction technology in Frankensteinian terms is Richard Rohmer’s early 1970s trilogy of novels that imagine a Canada threatened with United States annexation for its Arctic oil and gas reserves. The first of these, Ultimatum, published in 1973, also ­includes a subplot concerning First Nations protests over territorial and resource rights – and a controversial pipeline, no less, giving it an uncanny timeliness and even prescience concerning today’s ‘Frankenstein pipelines,’ and growing interest in Arctic fuel sources. Rohmer’s novel takes the energy crisis quite seriously, and the story envisions a near-­ future oil boomtown in Resolute Bay. Much of the plot action takes place over the phone as the United States president and the Canadian prime minister engage in extensive and exhausting negotiations to resolve the crisis and stave off the United States’ invasion of Canada. This may seem odd for a techno-thriller (and, well, less than thrilling) but it belongs to a distinctly Canadian and McLuhanesque tradition of integrating media, their effects and their environments into not only the setting but also the action of a story. 59 In an early scene in Ultimatum, as the United States President arrives in Resolute Bay to tour its undersea drilling operation, the narrator supplies some backstory that is also foreshadowing: ‘[i]t was right about here that the first big gas discovery was made in January. It came up under such enormous pressure that it blew. […] No one had the know-how or the technology then to cope with high-pressure finds like that.’60 Ironically, then, the operation that the President inspects subsequently ruptures and blows. Although the Arctic’s fossil fuels have turned Resolute Bay into a boomtown, the ‘know-how and technology’ for extracting and distributing them remains sketchy at best, subject to backfire as well as sabotage, all while the threat of neo-imperial war hangs on the phone wire between the state leaders’ offices.

222  Mark A. McCutcheon

Figure 10.1  E dward Burtynsky, Alberta Oil Sands #6. Photo © Edward ­Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto.

Turning to more contemporary work, the Canadian visual artist ­ dward Burtynsky’s work has drawn public and critical attention to E the tar sands. His photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’ play with scale and perspective, for instance, by using elevated or aerial vantage points to suggest the enormity of infrastructural technologies and their social effects. Images of industrial enormity, of ‘the rise of the machine’ have, since Marx, included a tradition of Frankensteinian references that ­Burtynsky has played on and extended in his revealing photographic work.61 An exemplary photo is Alberta Oil Sands #6 (Figure 10.1). On the horizon, only ‘darkness and distance.’62 In the middle distance, an oil sands refinery sprawls, like Archibald Lampman’s ‘city at the end of things.’63 From the middle distance to the foreground stretch two flat, rectangular areas that disrupt the industrial realism of the composition; they are fields of unnatural yellow and rust hues, like lakes of fire in hell. These areas – which are sulphur collection beds – convey Burtynsky’s signature ability to turn documentary into defamiliarisation, confronting us with the kind of detail that prompts us to ask if it is Photoshopped. The book OIL itself uses Frankensteinian language in how curator Paul Roth frames Burtynsky’s work: ‘[w]e see no simplistic villainy in Burtynsky’s

Monster Mines and Pipelines  223 picture – no industrial Golem, no homicidal Frankenstein. Rather, we see the ordering force of man, and the chilling, corrosive, penultimate threat that lies at the black heart of our rationalism.’64 Roth’s reference to Frankenstein to disavow its relevance still conjures its association with technology and is suggestively worded. That ‘we see’ no Frankenstein may not merely deny the monstrous horror of Burtynsky’s images but may instead implicate ‘us,’ the viewers, in the ‘ecological devastation’ that these photos document.65 That is, we may understand ourselves as Frankensteins, or, at least, as accomplices to Big Oil’s Frankensteinian work – like Walton aboard the icebound ship, who first hears the stricken scientist’s story but ultimately assumes an active role in it. Turning to popular music, the Albertan country singer-songwriter Corb Lund approaches the petroculture of his home state from a libertarian perspective. The grim, apocalyptic song ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain,’ from Lund’s 2012 album, Cabin Fever, features an odd arrangement of juxtaposed acoustic plucking and growling electric bass, over which Lund opens the lyrics with this ominous refrain, ‘When the oil stops, everything stops.’66 What follows is like a lyrical three-­minute version of Cormac McCarthy’s desolate post-apocalyptic fiction The Road (2006): images of gridlock, supply shortages and starvation, punctuated by pointed, pedagogical questions to the listener about survival skills. ‘Can you break the horse, can you dig the well? […] Hope you tend a good garden.’67 In the chorus, the song’s persona shares his own plan: ‘Don’t wanna be around when the shit goes down, I’m going to ground on the mountain.’68 The song is a musical version of the peak oil thesis whose proponents are characterised by the bunkered, embattled survivalism conveyed here in lines like ‘Brother can you pass the ammo?’69 The song emphasises its premise in the precariousness of the oil-based economy; both the first and the last verses start with the same line: ‘When the oil stops, everything stops.’ 70 The lyrics’ present-tense and interrogative wording make the imagined scene less an extrapolation than a foregone conclusion: the future present. In the backfire of this single technology – the unanticipated unsustainability of fossil fuel dependence – Lund reads the ripping of ‘the social fabric’: peak oil is a man-made monster in its overinvested valuation as everything that keeps men from acting like monsters to one another. In the tone with which it represents the oil business, this song contrasts sharply with ‘The Roughest Neck Around,’ from Lund’s 2002 album Five Dollar Bill. ‘Roughest Neck’ is an upbeat ode to the oil patch worker: the ‘roughest neck around.’ 71 He is larger than life, a superhuman Everyman characterised by hard work, technical expertise and devotion to family and society; ‘he brings power to the people.’ 72 And yet he is figured in grotesque, almost monstrous terms. ‘He’s got a ‘real long reach,’ with ‘the power in his hands to pull the dragons from the ground.’73 He is the oil industry’s globalised product as much as its

224  Mark A. McCutcheon producer: ‘He’s been all around the world,’ and he’s got both ‘power in his heart’ and ‘dragons in his chest.’ 74 Musically too, the swinging roadhouse blues of ‘Roughest Neck’ contrast with the halting, plodding rhythm of ‘Getting’ Down.’ These two songs about oil production contrast each other in tone but not in overall ethos; both appeal, albeit in different ways, to more right-wing discourses of individual responsibility and self-making. Thus, their Frankensteinian images complement each other: the former figures the oil worker as monstrous superman, the latter posits peak oil as a single technology that harbours a threat of global catastrophe and the shadow of Frankensteinian technological backfire looms over both. Several recent plays by Alberta theatre companies have turned to the tar sands for dramatic subject matter.75 One allusive and suggestive production is Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein, which premiered in 2006 at the Keyano Theatre in Fort McMurray. This Frankenstein is an extensive, acknowledged adaptation (on Hutcheon’s model), and it uses many of the key points of Shelley’s original plot: the ­Frankenstein family servant Justine is tried for the murder of the boy William; ­Frankenstein destroys the ‘bride’ he promises to the creature, who then murders his betrothed; in the middle of the story, the creature confronts F ­ rankenstein on a glacier and tells its ‘origin story’ among the Delacey family; ­Frankenstein is accused of murdering his friend Henry Clerval. Catalyst’s stage version also makes significant changes: Justine is young ­Victor’s science tutor and mentor; Walton’s frame narrative is replaced by a loose chorus of narrators who introduce, interrupt and look on the main action; ­Frankenstein completes and animates the ‘bride’ before destroying it; and the play ends with Frankenstein incarcerated in an institution for the mentally ill, where the creature visits him in the final scene. The script dialogue and narration are largely structured by rhyming couplets, and the costumes and props are highly stylised according to a stark Expressionist aesthetic: all the costumes and props are paper, paper-surfaced or papier-mâché, and mostly all white, with only a very few accents of colour, which tend instead to be produced by lighting effects and makeup. The rhyming script and musical numbers, together with the striking, monochromatic visual effects, lend the play a surreal period atmosphere. The abundance of paper, its use to create an Expressionist visual vocabulary reminiscent of silent film and its presence in a stage play all make for a self-reflexive commentary on dramatic form and established media like writing and live performance, at a time when reminders for audiences to turn off mobile devices have become as routine as the inevitable disruptions said devices cause. In its script and its staging, Catalyst’s Frankenstein mounts a self-consciously theatrical, pointedly low-tech production. The script’s opening is particularly noteworthy for relating the play to its site of production in Fort McMurray and thus to the tar sands with which the town is popularly

Monster Mines and Pipelines  225 identified. The introduction sets the scene for the story it unfolds against a ­backdrop of ‘strange signs’ seen in ‘strange times’ that could be either Shelley’s period or the present: Nick:  These

are strange days we live in. Strange days to be alive! Who knows where we’re heading? Or how long we may survive? Nancy:  For five hundred days a poisonous haze Has spread across the sky. Tim:  Perhaps it’s a sign of the sickening times… Sarah:  Something’s gone terribly wrong in this world, Something beyond repair. […] Tim:  Another strange, malignant plague Annihilates ten thousand men. Sarah:  Another record-breaking storm Claims a hundred thousand more.76 The suggestion of ‘strange days’ precedes a litany of unusual – and ­globalised – phenomena and crises. The ‘poisonous haze’ alludes to the ‘Year without a Summer,’ 1816, which saw temperatures fall across ­Europe as a result of an Indonesian volcano eruption; this was the unseasonable summer that Shelley spent with her circle of friends in ­Switzerland, when they made their famous agreement to write ghost stories, Shelley’s being Frankenstein. But ‘poisonous haze’ also alludes to the pollution produced by the oil sands, visible in the vicinities of Fort ­McMurray and Edmonton, and a subject of perennial news coverage and scientific study.77 Similarly, the ‘plague’ could refer either to the significant cholera outbreaks of Shelley’s time (which inspired her 1826 novel The Last Man) or to any number of global disease outbreaks today, such as the 2014 Ebola scare. But among these ‘signs,’ the ‘record-breaking storm’ seems decidedly more about the present than about the past. The term ‘record-breaking’ is a construction of modern usage, and the image of a monster storm – a ‘Frankenstorm,’ as Hurricane Sandy got called, or ‘the Beast’ of the Fort McMurray fire – is an emphatically contemporary image and one increasingly understood in close relation to the climate change caused by widespread fossil fuel use.78 The relevance of Catalyst’s Frankenstein to the tar sands, especially in its relation to Fort McMurray and its apocalyptic script, has not been lost on those involved in staging the play. Dov Mickelson, an actor who plays several roles (including Frankenstein’s father and younger brother), has said: [C]ertainly it has present day implications. We first performed this show in Fort McMurray (in -40 February!) and what is going on

226  Mark A. McCutcheon there with the oil sands and the environment had an eerie resonance. It made me wonder if it was the same for the author 200 years earlier and the onslaught of the industrial revolution as a backdrop to what was going on.79 The play’s apocalyptic sense of foreboding and looming catastrophe gets put in a significantly – and symptomatically – global context, in the aforementioned opening lines ‘Something’s gone terribly wrong in this world.’ From these first lines onward, the play consistently connects the local to the global, the personal tragedy of Frankenstein to the broader catastrophes of the world, often through the invocation of a collective ‘we’; in this way, Frankenstein’s ‘first irreversible blunder’ is universalised, the cause of a global ‘terrible mess’ that encompasses ‘us’ in its querying of responsibility and complicity: ‘How did we come to this point? […] The time will come to face our fears […] We close our eyes, we cover our ears,/We know the end is drawing near.’80 If there were ever a global, technological and ecological crisis in which ‘we’ are implicated as a collective, it is certainly that of the capitalist world-system’s structural dependence on oil. The last (but not least) example I want to analyse in detail is the 2009 blockbuster film Avatar. One of the most successful Hollywood movies to date, Avatar is also a powerful representation of the tar sands, which has been mobilised for activism against the tar sands by NGOs, indigenous groups and its own director, the Canadian James Cameron.81 Among the many appropriations and critiques of Avatar, an overlooked narrative aspect is that its plot is a Frankensteinian story of technological backfire. The uncanny ‘native alien’ body that the disabled soldier Sully learns to occupy is a lab-grown body. As a host for Sully’s projected consciousness, the avatar enacts a doubled role, making Sully his own doppelgänger. The avatar body is also gigantic and blue – as were most nineteenth-century stage performances of ­Frankenstein’s monster.82 The scene in which Sully first ‘wakes up’ in his avatar body echoes the typical ‘creation scene’ in F ­ rankenstein films as the creature awakens to cause a ruckus in the lab and breaks its restraints. Avatar’s plot is one of technological malfunction as the transformed Sully rebels against his masters, abandoning his mission to join the oppressed Na’vi in resisting the military-industrial colonists. The success of the Na’vi’s resistance forces the decolonisation of Pandora; while this is a Hollywood happy ending, it is also a dramatisation of what George Slusser calls ‘the Frankenstein barrier,’ the science fiction plot in which contingencies of ‘the present, lurking all along, rise up to avenge the sins of [an] uncreated future.’83 Here, the Na’vi cut off Earth’s staple fuel source; this contingency effectively forecloses on the planet’s future.

Monster Mines and Pipelines  227 What especially enabled the adoption of Avatar for activism over ‘the Avatar sands’ are the early establishing shots that show the colonists’ mining operation on Pandora. The resemblance of these shots to the tar sands is openly acknowledged by Avatar’s art director, Alberta-born Todd Cherniawsky: ‘What was going on in Alberta,’ he says, ‘was hugely informative in building and designing this environment.’84 The first view of the Pandora mine appears through the landing spacecraft’s windshield as the co-pilot says ‘the mine is in sight’ (Figure 10.2).85 This line places a subtle script emphasis on making visible an extraction industry characterised as ‘uniquely occluded.’86 The next shot shows the fuller vista of the mine in the middle distance and the refinery in the background; this shot strongly resembles Burtynsky’s distinctive aerial-angle, panoramic photographs of the Alberta tar sands operations. The camera then pans and cuts to a shot that details the operation: loaded dump trucks and soldiers traversing a narrow access road, behind which a massive bucketwheel excavator sends up dust as it chews into the earth (Figure 10.3). Significantly, in this shot the bucketwheel excavator appears so gigantic that it exceeds the frame, as does the big truck in a subsequent shot where the protagonist stops as the truck drives past, revealing a number of arrows that have been shot into its tires. The script for this scene invokes the discourse of technology explicitly: ‘The neolithic weapons are jarring amid all the advanced technology.’88 The bucketwheel image itself is suggestively critical: the bucketwheel excavator was discontinued in the 1990s, so it appears

Figure 10.2  ‘The Mine is in Sight.’ Author’s artistic rendering of scene at runtime 00:03:59 from Avatar (2009).87

228  Mark A. McCutcheon

Figure 10.3  Bucketwheel excavator. Author’s artistic rendering of scene at runtime 00:04:07 from Avatar (2009).

here as an obsolete icon of extraction machinery as if to signal the unsustainability and ultimate failure of the Pandora mine and to suggest the combined obsolescence and rapacity – the living death – of fossil fuel technology in general.89 Across a range of different media and genres, then, Canadian representations of the tar sands invoke Frankenstein to depict and question this industry’s scale, danger and obsolescence. In the process, they demonstrate how Canadian culture and industry have both popularised the general discourse of technology as human-made global monstrosity and promoted public awareness of the causal relation between fossil fuel use and climate change. Taken as a group, these texts also provide a grotesque critical vocabulary of images for both Canada’s tradition of technological nationalism – which the oil business restructures as a transnationalism – and for its postcoloniality: if Canada is sometimes positioned as a ‘dutiful daughter’ of Empire, or a victim of the cultural imperialism of United States popular culture, texts like those analysed here articulate and dramatise how the resource extraction industry anchored in the tar sands has made Canada a neo-imperial economic leader in its own right, with all the predictable failures of democratic integrity and environmental stewardship that such leadership tends to confer.90 Taken together, these texts tell a story – which itself may trade in the oversimplifying interpretive closure of ‘technological reduction’ that has fuelled Frankenstein’s global popularity – in which the tar sands are the mad scientist and climate change its monster.

Monster Mines and Pipelines  229 And in a further Frankensteinian irony, the climate change exported by Canada’s tar sands has accelerated a polar melting that now brings Big ­ rankenstein Oil to the Arctic for exploration and extraction.91 Recent F scholarship reflects this trend: Arctic exploration was in the news at the time Mary Shelley was working on her novel, much in the same way that the circumpolar region is in the news in our own time due to global warming. It is probably for this very reason that most of the articles on Mary Shelley’s Arctic have been published within the last ten years as we become conscious of and concerned with Arctic issues once again.92 Like Mary Shelley’s novel, Big Oil’s own Frankenstein story of technological backfire is destined to press north from the tar sands, towards greater hubris and atrocity; and it will all too likely end, as well, in self-destructive conflagration.

Notes 1 Peter LaFontaine, ‘A Monster Rises: Enbridge’s Tar Sands Frankenstein,’ Wildlife Promise: Blogs from Around the Federation 27th September, 2012. http:// blog.nwf.org/2012/09/a-monster-rises-enbridges-tar-sands-frankenstein/ [accessed 16th March, 2013]. 2 CBC News staff, ‘‘Frankenstorm’ May Be Headed for Eastern Canada, U.S.,’ CBC News 26th October, 2012. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/10/26/ frankenstorm-us-canada-sandy.html [accessed 15th March, 2013]. 3 Eric Holthaus, ‘We Need to Talk about Climate Change: Tragedies Like the Fort McMurray Fire Make It More Important, Not Less,’ Slate 6th May, 2016. www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/05/the_mcmurray_fire_is_worse_because_of_climate_change_and_we_need_to_talk. html [accessed 24th June, 2016]. 4 For more on this see Mark A. McCutcheon, The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology (Athabasca University Press, 2018), 3–7; Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 7. 5 McCutcheon, The Medium Is the Monster, 7–8. See also Mark A. ­McCutcheon, ‘Frankenstein as a Figure of Globalization in Canada’s ­Postcolonial Popular Culture,’ Continuum 25.5 (2011): 731. 6 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 1. 7 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 3. 8 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 7. 9 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 5. 10 Jay Clayton, Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the ­Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 128. 11 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 4. 12 Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation (New York: Routledge, 2006), 22. 13 Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, 21. 14 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 60.

230  Mark A. McCutcheon 15 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 9. 16 Timothy Morton, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 2002), 47–8. 17 Timothy Morton, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Sourcebook, 48. 18 The larger argument, which details the postcolonial provenance of this popular discourse of monstrous technology can be found in McCutcheon, The Medium Is the Monster. 19 Marshall McLuhan, ‘The Playboy Interview,’ in The Essential McLuhan, ed. Eric McLuhan (Toronto, ON: Anansi, 1995), 267–8. 20 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Corte Madeira: Ginkgo Press, 1964/2003), 65. See also Olivia Harvey, ‘Marshall McLuhan on Technology, Subjectivity and the “Sex Organs of the Machine World,”’ Continuum, 20.3 (2006), 331. 21 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 5. 22 Gary Wolf, ‘The Wisdom of Saint Marshall, the Holy Fool,’ Wired 4.1 (1996), http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive//4.01/saint.marshal.html?person= marshall_mcluhan&topic_set=wiredpeople [accessed 1st June, 2015]; See Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. G. Winthrop-Young and M. Wutz (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999 [1986]) and Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage, 1993). 23 My theorisation of globalisation draws on two relatively early critical articles on the subject: Arjun Appadurai, ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,’ Theory, Culture and Society, 7 (1990): 295–310 and Saskia Sassen, ‘Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization,’ Public Culture, 12.1 (2000): 215–32. 24 Arjun Appadurai, ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,’ 297. 2 5 Jonathan L. Beller, ‘Desiring the Involuntary: Machinic Assemblage and Transnationalism in Deleuze and Robocop 2,’ in Global/Local: ­C ultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary, eds. Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 195. 26 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), eds. D.L. MacDonald and Kathleen Scherf (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 1999), 190. 27 Timothy Morton, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Sourcebook, 56. 28 Robert C. Sickels, The Business of Entertainment: Movies (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009), 22. 29 Mitchell Dawson, ‘Frankenstein. Inc.,’ The American Mercury, 19th March, 1930, 276. 30 Mitchell Dawson, ‘Frankenstein. Inc.,’ 279. 31 Mark A. McCutcheon, ‘“Come on Back to the War”: Germany as the Other National Other in Canadian Popular Literature,’ University of Toronto Quarterly, 78.2 (2009), 765. 32 Mark McCutcheon, ‘“Come on Back to the War”: Germany as the Other National Other in Canadian Popular Literature,’ 766. 33 Donna Palmateer Pennee, ‘Literary Citizenship: Culture (Un)Bounded, ­Culture (Re)Distributed,’ in Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy and Canadian Literature, ed. Cynthia Sugars (Ottawa, ON: University of ­Ottawa Press, 2004), 83; Chris Hedges, ‘Colonized by Corporations,’ Truthdig 14th May, 2012. www.truthdig.com/report/page2/colonized_by_ corporations_20120514/ [accessed 16th March, 2016, 2013].

Monster Mines and Pipelines  231 34 Oliver Boyd-Barrett, ‘Media Imperialism: Towards an International Framework for the Analysis of Media Systems,’ in Mass Communication and Society, ed. James Curran, Michael Gurevitch and Janet Woollacott (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 116. 35 Paul Kellogg, ‘The Tar Sands: A Made-in-Canada Problem,’ PolEcon.net 4th January, 2013. www.polecon.net/2013/01/the-tar-sands-made-in-­canadaproblem.html [accessed 15th March, 2013]. 36 Maurice Charland, ‘Technological Nationalism,’ Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 10.1 (1986): 197. 37 Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant (Montreal, QC: New World Perspectives, 1984), 7, 8. 38 Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant, 9, 11. 39 Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant, 10, 7. 40 Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant, 18. 41 Jenny Sharpe, ‘Is the United States Postcolonial? Transnationalism, Immigration, and Race,’ Diaspora, 4.2 (2003): 181; Antoinette Burton, After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 4. 42 Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, ‘Introduction: Postcolonial Popular ­Cultures,’ Continuum, 25.5 (2011): 687. 43 Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, ‘Introduction: Postcolonial Popular ­Cultures,’ 690. 4 4 For an excellent critical introduction to the ‘curious economics’ of popular cultural production that necessitate national cultural investment policies like Canada’s, see Peter S. Grant and Chris Wood, Blockbusters and Trade Wars: Popular Culture in a Globalized World (Vancouver, BC: Douglas and McIntyre, 2004). 45 See Warwick Research Collective, Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015); Dominic Boyer and Imre Szeman, ‘The Rise of the Energy Humanities,’ University Affairs 12th February, 2014. www.universityaffairs.ca/ opinion/in-my-opinion/the-rise-of-energy-humanities/ [accessed 14th February, 2016]. 46 Imre Szeman, ‘Literature and Energy Futures,’ PMLA, 126.2 (2011): 324. 47 Imre Szeman, ‘Literature and Energy Futures,’ 325. 48 Tzeporah Berman, ‘Washington Is Right: Canada Must Confront Its Climate Neglect.’ Globe and Mail 19th February, 2013. www.theglobeandmail. com/commentary/washington-is-right-canada-must-confront-its-climateneglect/article8798658/ [accessed 15th March, 2013]. 49 Eric Holthaus, ‘We Need to Talk about Climate Change: Tragedies Like the Fort McMurray Fire Make It More Important, Not Less’; Naomi Klein, ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate,’ Big Thinking Lecture Series, Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary, 29th May, 2016, emphasis added. 50 Merle Patchett, ‘From On High to The Roadside: Scalar Aesthetics and the Canadian Oil Sands,’ Imaginations, 3.2 (2012): 142; David McNally, Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires, and Global Capitalism (Chicago, IL: Haymarket, 2011), 9. 51 Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 5.

232  Mark A. McCutcheon 52 Will Craven, ‘Full-Page USA Today Advertisement Warns Obama about Canada’s Controversial Tar Sands Oil,’ Common Dreams: Building Progressive Community, Forest Ethics, 17th February, 2009. www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/02/17 [accessed 16th March, 2013]. 53 Peter LaFontaine, ‘A Monster Rises: Enbridge’s Tar Sands Frankenstein,’ Wildlife Promise: Blogs from Around the Federation, National Wildlife Federation, 27th September, 2012, http://blog.nwf.org/2012/09/a-monsterrises-enbridges-tar-sands-frankenstein/ [accessed 16th March, 2013]. 54 Mark Green, ‘Bitumen, “Dilbit” and Pipelines – Just the Facts, Please.’ Energy Tomorrow 22nd August, 2012, http://energytomorrow.org/blog/­bitumendilbit-and-pipelines-just-the-facts-please/#/type/all [accessed 15th March, 2013]. 55 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 291. 56 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 296. 57 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 297, 300. 58 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 293. 59 Mark McCutcheon, The Medium Is the Monster, 109 60 Richard Rohmer, Ultimatum (1973), in A Richard Rohmer Omnibus ­(Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2003), 118. 61 Paul Roth quoted in Edward Burtynsky, OIL, ed. Paul Roth (London: Steidl, 2011), 169; David Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 54. 62 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 244. 63 Archibald Lampman, ‘The City at the End of Things,’ in The Poems of ­Archibald Lampman, ed. Duncan Campbell Scott (Toronto, ON: George N. Morang, 1900), 179. 64 Paul Roth quoted in Burtynsky, OIL, 169. 65 Michael Truscello, ‘The New Topographics, Dark Ecology, and the Energy Infrastructure of Nations: Considering Agency in the Photographs of Edward Burtynsky and Mitch Epstein from a Post-Anarchist Perspective,’ Sighting Oil, 190. 66 Corb Lund, ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain,’ Cabin Fever (New West ­Records, 2012). 67 Corb Lund, ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain.’ 68 Corb Lund, ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain.’ 69 Corb Lund, ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain.’ 70 Corb Lund, ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain.’ 71 Corb Lund, ‘The Roughest Neck Around,’ Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (Stony Plain Records, 2002). 72 Corb Lund, ‘The Roughest Neck Around.’ 73 Corb Lund, ‘The Roughest Neck Around.’ 74 Corb Lund, ‘The Roughest Neck Around.’ 75 J. Kelly Nestruck, ‘The Oil Sands’ Latest Byproduct: Cutting-Edge Theatre,’ Globe and Mail 11th February, 2012. www.theglobeandmail.com/ arts/­theatre-and-performance/the-oil-sands-latest-byproduct-cutting-edgetheatre/article545406/ [accessed 20th June, 2015]. 76 Jerome Christenson, director and writer, Frankenstein. Fort McMurray: Catalyst Theatre, Keyano Theatre, 2006. 77 See for example: Abha Parajulee and Frank Wania’s 2014 study of ­pollution in the Athabasca oil sands region. Abha Parajulee and Frank Wania, ‘Evaluating Officially Reported Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon ­Emissions in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region with a Multimedia Fate Model,’ PNAS Early Edition 2nd January, 2014. www.documentcloud.org/

Monster Mines and Pipelines  233

78 79

80 81 82 83 84


86 87

88 89 90



documents/1012653-pnas201319780-vwtwnf-ap-with-proof-corrections. html [accessed 20th June, 2015]. CBC News staff, ‘‘Frankenstorm’ May be Headed for Eastern Canada, U.S.’ Dov Mickelson quoted in Miriam Cross, ‘Dov Mickelson on the Fantastical World of Frankenstein,’ Shalom Life 14th May, 2010. www.shalomlife.com/ culture/12600/dov-mickelson-on-the-fantastical-world-of-frankenstein/ [accessed 20th June, 2015]. Jerome Christenson, Frankenstein, 65–66, emphases added. Tanner Mirrlees, Globalized Entertainment Media (London: Routledge, 2013), 7. Steven E. Forry, Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), 10, 143. George Slusser, ‘The Frankenstein Barrier,’ in Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative, eds. George Slusser and Tom Shippey (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1992), 71. Todd Cherniawsky quoted in Tom Radford and Niobe Thompson, dirs. ­Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands, Clearwater Media and CBC, 2011. www.cbc.ca/documentaries/natureofthings/video.html?ID=1769597772 [accessed 15th March, 2013]. James Cameron. Avatar script. Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, 2007. http:// vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/jamescameronsavatar/images/f/f5/JamesCameronAVATAR.pdf/revision/latest?cb=20100826145259 [accessed 12th ­February, 2016], 8. Sheena Wilson and Andrew Pendakis, ‘Sight, Site, Cite: Oil in the Field of Vision,’ Sighting Oil, 3.2 (2012): 5. This chapter uses the author’s artistic renderings of the referenced scenes from Avatar, rather than original still-frame images from the film itself, because the fee requested by 20th Century Fox for permission to reprint the still-frames was prohibitively expensive (whereas artistic renderings constitute fair dealing for purposes of research and criticism). The studio quoted the author a fee of $500 USD per still-frame, with additional requirement that the author obtain the consent of any actors depicted. The irony of this situation is twofold: first, as a globally popular film, Avatar is already familiar to many readers, rendering the use of still-frames, however illustrative, superfluous for some; second, as a Google search for ‘Avatar unobtainium mine’ shows, digital screenshots of the scenes in question are abundantly available on the internet. James Cameron. Avatar script (Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, 2007), 8. Mike Gismondi and Debra J. Davidson, ‘Imagining the Tar Sands 1880–1967 and Beyond,’ in Sighting Oil, 97. For an extensive, multifaceted critique of the adverse impact of oil business on democratic governance, see Meenal Shrivastava and Lorna ­Stefanick, eds. Alberta Oil and the Decline of Democracy in Canada (Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2015). Al Jazeera staff, ‘Carving up the Arctic,’ The Stream, Al Jazeera English, 6th December, 2012, http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/carving-arctic-0022427 [accessed 15th March, 2013]. See also Guy Chazan, ‘Cold Comfort: Arctic Is Oil Hot Spot,’ Wall Street Journal 24th July, 2008. Jacob Bachinger, ‘The Arctic and “Other Spaces” in Mary Shelley’s ­F rankenstein,’ At the Edge 1 (2010): 162. http://journals.library.mun.ca/ojs/ index.php/ate/article/view/95/50 [accessed 18th February, 2013].

234  Mark A. McCutcheon

Bibliography Al Jazeera staff. ‘Carving up the Arctic.’ The Stream. Al Jazeera English, 6th December, 2012. Accessed 15th March 2013. http://stream.aljazeera.com/ story/carving-arctic-0022427 Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.’ Theory, Culture and Society 7 (1990): 295–310. Avatar. DVD. dir. James Cameron. (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2009). Bachinger, Jacob. ‘The Arctic and “Other Spaces” in Mary Shelley’s ­F rankenstein.’ At the Edge 1 (2010): 158–74. Accessed 18th February 2013. http://journals.library.mun.ca/ojs/index.php/ate/article/view/95/50. Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and ­Nineteenth-Century Writing. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987. Beller, Jonathan L. ‘Desiring the Involuntary: Machinic Assemblage and Transnationalism in Deleuze and Robocop 2.’ In Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary, edited by Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake, 193–218. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996. Berman, Tzeporah. ‘Washington Is Right: Canada Must Confront Its ­Climate Neglect.’ Globe and Mail, 19th February, 2013. Accessed 15th March 2013. www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/washington-is-right-canada-mustconfront-its-climate-neglect/article8798658/. Boyd-Barrett, Oliver. ‘Media Imperialism: Towards an International Framework for the Analysis of Media Systems.’ In Mass Communication and Society, edited by James Curran, Michael Gurevitch and Janet Woollacott, 116–35. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. Boyer, Dominic and Imre Szeman. ‘The Rise of the Energy Humanities.’ University Affairs, 12th February, 2014. Accessed 14th February 2016. www. universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/the-rise-of-energy-humanities/. Burton, Antoinette, ed. After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. Burtynsky, Edward. OIL. London: Steidl, 2011. Cameron, James. Avatar script. Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, 2007. Accessed 12th February 2016. http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/­jamescameron savatar/images/f /f5/JamesCameron AVATA R.pdf /revision / latest?cb= 20100826145259. CBC News staff. ‘“Frankenstorm” May Be Headed for Eastern Canada, U.S.’ 2012. CBC News, 26th October, 2012. Accessed 15th March 2013. www. cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/10/26/frankenstorm-us-canada-sandy.html. Charland, Maurice. ‘Technological Nationalism.’ Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 10.1 (1986): 196–220. Chazan, Guy. ‘Cold Comfort: Arctic Is Oil Hot Spot.’ Wall Street Journal, 24th July, 2008. Accessed 15th March 2013. http://online.wsj.com/article/ SB121683690003077857.html. Christenson, Jerome. Director and writer, Frankenstein. Fort McMurray: ­Catalyst Theatre, Keyano Theatre, 2006. Clayton, Jay. Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Craven, Will. ‘Full-Page USA Today Advertisement Warns Obama about ­Canada’s Controversial Tar Sands Oil.’ Common Dreams: Building

Monster Mines and Pipelines  235 Progressive Community, Forest Ethics, 17th February, 2009. Accessed 16th March 2013. www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/02/17. Cross, Miriam. ‘Dov Mickelson on the Fantastical World of Frankenstein.’ Shalom Life, 14th May, 2010. Accessed 20th June 2015. www.shalomlife.com/ culture/12600/dov-mickelsonon-the-fantastical-world-of-frankenstein/. Dawson, Mitchell. ‘Frankenstein. Inc.’ The American Mercury, 19th March, 1930: 274–80. Devadas, Vijay and Chris Prentice. ‘Introduction: Postcolonial Popular Cultures.’ Continuum 25.5 (2011): 687–93. Forry, Steven E. Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989. García, Pedro Javier Pardo. ‘Beyond Adaptation: Frankenstein’s Postmodern Progeny.’ In Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship, edited by Mireia Aragay, 223–42. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Gismondi, Mike and Debra J. Davidson. ‘Imagining the Tar Sands 1880–1967 and Beyond.’ Imaginations 3.2 (2012): 68–103. Gordon, Jon. ‘Rethinking Bitumen: From “Bullshit” to a “Matter of Concern.”’ Imaginations 3.2 (2012): 17–87. Grant, Peter S. and Chris Wood. Blockbusters and Trade Wars: Popular Culture in a Globalized World, Vancouver, BC: Douglas and McIntyre, 2004. Green, Mark. ‘Bitumen, “Dilbit” and Pipelines – Just the Facts, Please.’ Energy Tomorrow, 22nd August, 2012. Accessed 15th March 2013. http://­ energytomorrow.org /blog /bitumen-dilbit-and-pipelines-just-the-factsplease/#/type/all. Harvey, Olivia. ‘Marshall McLuhan on Technology, Subjectivity and “the Sex Organs of the Machine World.”’ Continuum 20.3 (2006): 331–44. Hedges, Chris. ‘Colonized by Corporations.’ Truthdig, 14th May, 2012. Accessed 16th March, 2013. www.truthdig.com/report/page2/colonized_by_ corporations_20120514/. Holthaus, Eric. ‘We Need to Talk about Climate Change: Tragedies Like the Fort McMurray Fire Make it More Important, Not Less.’ Slate, May 6, 2016. Accessed 24th June 2016. www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/­ science/2016/05/the_mcmurray_fire_is_worse_because_of_climate_change_ and_we_need_to_talk.html. Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Kellogg, Paul. ‘The Tar Sands: A made-in-Canada problem.’ PolEcon.net, 4th January, 2013. Accessed 15th March 2013. www.polecon.net/2013/01/ the-tar-sands-made-in-canada-problem.html. Kittler, Friedrich. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, translated by G. Winthrop-Young and M. Wutz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999 [1986]. Klein, Naomi. ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate.’ Big Thinking Lecture Series. Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary, 29th May, 2016. Kroker, Arthur. Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant. Montreal, QC: New World Perspectives, 1984. LaFontaine, Peter. ‘A Monster Rises: Enbridge’s Tar Sands Frankenstein.’ Wildlife Promise: Blogs from Around the Federation. National Wildlife

236  Mark A. McCutcheon Federation. 27th September, 2012. Accessed 16th March 2013. http://blog. nwf.org/2012/09/a-monster-rises-enbridges-tar-sands-frankenstein/. Lampman, Archibald. ‘The City at the End of Things.’ The Poems of Archibald Lampman, edited by Duncan Campbell Scott, 179–82. Toronto, ON: George N. Morang, 1900. Lund, Corb. ‘Gettin’ Down on the Mountain.’ Cabin Fever. New West Records, 2012. ———. ‘The Roughest Neck Around.’ Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer. Stony Plain Records, 2002. McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Knopf, 2006. McCutcheon, Mark A. ‘“Come On Back to the War”: Germany as the Other National Other in Canadian Popular Literature.’ University of Toronto Quarterly 78.2 (2009): 764–81. ———. ‘Frankenstein as a Figure of Globalization in Canada’s Postcolonial Popular Culture.’ Continuum 25.5 (2011): 731–42. ———. The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. Athabasca University Press, 2018. McLuhan, Marshall. ‘The Playboy Interview.’ In The Essential McLuhan, ­edited by Eric McLuhan, 233–69. Toronto, ON: Anansi, 1995. ———. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Corte Madeira: Ginkgo Press, 2003 [1964]. McLuhan, Marshall and Quentin Fiore. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera: Gingko Press, 2001 [1967]. McNally, David. Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires, and Global Capitalism. Chicago, IL: Haymarket, 2011. Mirrlees, Tanner. Globalized Entertainment Media. London: Routledge, 2013. Moretti, Franco. Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms. London: Verso, 1983. Morton, Timothy. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2002. Nestruck, J. Kelly. ‘The Oil Sands’ Latest Byproduct: Cutting-Edge Theatre.’ Globe and Mail, 11th February, 2012. Accessed 20th June 2015. www. theglobeandmail.com/arts/theatre-and-performance/the-oil-sands-latestbyproduct-cutting-edge-theatre/article545406/. Nye, David. American Technological Sublime. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994. Parajulee, Abha and Frank Wania. ‘Evaluating Officially Reported Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region With a Multimedia Fate Model.’ PNAS Early Edition, 2nd January, 2014. Accessed 20th June 2015. www.documentcloud.org/documents/1012653pnas201319780-vwtwnf-ap-with-proof-corrections.html. Patchett, Merle. ‘From On High to The Roadside: Scalar Aesthetics and the Canadian Oil Sands.’ Imaginations 3.2 (2012): 141–54. Pennee, Donna Palmateer. ‘Literary Citizenship: Culture (Un)Bounded, Culture (Re)Distributed.’ In Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy and Canadian Literature, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 75–85. Ottawa, ON: University of ­Ottawa Press, 2004. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage, 1993.

Monster Mines and Pipelines  237 Radford, Tom and Niobe Thompson, dirs. Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. Clearwater Media and CBC, 2011. Accessed 15th March 2013. www. cbc.ca/documentaries/natureofthings/video.html?ID=1769597772. Rohmer, Richard. Ultimatum (1973). In A Richard Rohmer Ombinus. Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2003. Sassen, Saskia. ‘Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization.’ Public Culture 12.1 (2000): 215–32. Sharpe, Jenny. ‘Is the United States Postcolonial? Transnationalism, Immigration, and Race.’ Diaspora 4.2 (2003): 181–99. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (1818). Edited by D.L. MacDonald and Kathleen Scherf. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1999. Shrivastava, Meenal and Lorna Stefanick, eds. Alberta Oil and the Decline of Democracy in Canada. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2015. Sierra Club Canada. ‘AVATAR SANDS Ad.’ SierraClub.ca, 4th March, 2010. Accessed 15th March 2013. www.sierraclub.ca/en/tar-sands/avatar-sands-ad. Slusser, George. ‘The Frankenstein Barrier.’ In Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative, edited by George Slusser and Tom Shippey, 46–71. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Szeman, Imre. ‘Literature and Energy Futures.’ PMLA 126.2 (2011): 323–25. Truscello, Michael. ‘The New Topographics, Dark Ecology, and the Energy Infrastructure of Nations: Considering Agency in the Photographs of Edward Burtynsky and Mitch Epstein from a Post-Anarchist Perspective.’ Imaginations 3.2 (2012): 188–205. Turney, Jon. Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science, Genetics and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Yale University Press, 1998. Videodrome. dir. David Cronenberg. CDFC/Criterion, 1983. Warwick Research Collective. Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015. White, Brittany, Heather Castleden and Anatoliy Gruzd. ‘Talking to Twitter Users: Motivations behind Twitter Use on the Alberta Oil Sands and the Northern Gateway Pipeline.’ First Monday 20.1 (2015). Accessed 4th ­January, 2016. http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5404/4196. Willmott, Glenn. ‘O Say, Can You See? The Handmaid’s Tale in Novel and Film.’ In Various Atwoods: Essays on the Later Poems, Short Fiction, and Novels, edited by Lorraine York, 167–90. Toronto, ON: Anansi, 1995. Wilson, Sheena and Andrew Pendakis. ‘Sight, Site, Cite: Oil in the Field of Vision.’ Imaginations 3.2 (2012): 4–5. Wolf, Gary. ‘The Wisdom of Saint Marshall, the Holy Fool.’ Wired 4.1 (1996). Accessed 1st June 2015. http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive//4.01/saint. marshal.html?person=marshall_mcluhan&topic_set=wiredpeople.

11 African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry The Spoken Word Platform Word N Sound Series Ricarda de Haas1 Word N Sound The Word N Sound Series, originating in Johannesburg, defies hierarchical Western classifications of poetry.2 Through the Word N Sound platform, spoken word poetry involving live, audience-driven performance continues to evolve, and is disseminated, through a process of audience/creator interchange via the increasingly accessible virtual world of the internet. With its cross-cultural influences and activist roots, the Word N Sound Series reflects a new generation of artists creating their own multi-simultaneous, globalised canon, which facilitates cultural and political exchange. Describing themselves as ‘Africa’s biggest digital Live Literature Production and Development Brand,’ the organisation is certainly one of the most important, lively and innovative communities of spoken word poets in South Africa.3 Founded in 2010 by Afurakan Mohare, Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu and Kgaugelo Blast Serote, with its beginnings in a small studio, the platform has spread out across the city, with a number of regular events currently being held. Apart from the main show, which takes place at the Market Theatre Lab in Newtown, there is a monthly ‘Word N Sound Next Generation’ event at Kingston Club in Melville, the weekly ‘Word N Sound Poetry Corner’ at the Lighthouse on Seventh Street and a number of festival activities on a national and international scale. Word N Sound’s main live show takes place once a month and asks for moderate R50.00 at the door.4 The first part features an outstanding poet who, after his/her performance, engages in a lengthy question and answer session. The second part is reserved for the competitive Open Mic Poetry League, which elects the Queen or King of the Mic, based on the judges’ scores. During the break, stalls offer food and beverages, Word N Sound merchandise, DIY accessories as well as books and audio CDs by the poets. The stalls usually provide gifts for the winners, who also get their share of the entrance fee. In contrast, new shows like ‘Word N Sound Next Generation’ and ‘Word N Sound Poetry Corner’ are non-competitive spaces for budding poets who still need to develop their skills. Workshops on creative writing or performance skills are also offered (Figure 11.1).

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  239

Figure 11.1  Word N Sound Live Literature Co. Homepage, September 2016. Permission courtesy of Thabiso Steven Mohare and Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu CEOs.

Contexts Any researcher working on African contemporary performance poetry, spoken word, slam poetry or rap is immediately faced with stereotypes and prejudices towards such work, which is seen as either exclusively subcultural or simply dismissed as popular. In some cases, these forms are not seen as literature at all.5 As Pim Higginson cautions, the very notion of culture within European traditions has tended to place ‘Africa at its outer edge, making the continent the border dividing the inside and outside of culture’; against such contexts, the ascription of cultural value is always already loaded.6 Accordingly, when discussions of popularity are applied to the continent, issues arise. Western notions of the popular tend to deal with mass cultures based in, or emerging from, industrialised zones, whereas, according to Karin Barber, popular cultures in Africa are not exclusively urban due to the ‘multiplex linkages and mutual dependencies’ between the city and the country.7 Moreover, links between traditional poetic expression and contemporary forms mean that many of the continent’s popular cultures can ‘be read either way – as a mutating tradition, or as a new popular form that has ingested a lot of the older

240  Ricarda de Haas repertoire.’8 Notwithstanding such concerns, this essay makes a case that spoken word and slam poetry are both popular and culturally valuable forms, countering the view that artistic practices can either enjoy popular success and economic viability or be intellectually and culturally innovative. In the case of Word N Sound, their work draws on both oral and literary South African cultures, as well as literatures in English, and fuses these with global ‘music genres such as jazz, house music and Hip-Hop,’ in line with Barber’s characterisation of the ‘emergent field’ of the popular as ‘open, stretching out in all directions, with no marked boundaries, but with centres of activity, hot spots, sites of generativity.’9 Crucial to my argument here, though, is the extent to which the organisation uses internet technologies to reach, attract and engage with new audiences. South African performance poetry events and spoken word venues commonly feature different genres and subgenres on the same stage, borrowing ‘from various disciplines ranging from the performing and visual arts to music, literature, and orality’ as well as the fine arts.10 As indicated by this reference to orality, such poetry is deeply rooted in a well-established (black African) culture of oral poetics, ranging from Izibongo, Workers’ poetry, Sowetan dub and Black Consciousness poetry through to African Hip-Hop.11 In particular, today’s young urban spoken word artists are strongly influenced by poets from the Black Consciousness movement, with Raphael d’Abdon describing how: In his 2001 Biko Memorial Lecture, Zakes Mda defines ‘raising consciousness poetry’ as a self-empowering poetry performed by young South African spoken word artists, young ‘conscientized’ poets who [often] operate at the margins of mainstream industries of culture. Mda calls these young artists the ‘children of Biko,’ thus identifying the members of this fluid community as today’s heirs and innovators of the Black Consciousness leader’s unforgotten tradition.12 Despite this legacy, this new crop of urban spoken word artists express themselves ‘in ways very different from the generations with first-hand experience of apartheid.’13 Poetic modes that specifically address the needs of the young are prioritised, with language, rhythm, movement and style being in dialogue with global youth cultures such as Hip-Hop. In fact, contemporary South African performance poetry is strongly engaged with global black poetry scenes. Such connections are not, in themselves, new – in the late 1970s, for example, Jamaican dub poetry was adopted by poets in the Black Consciousness movement14 – but they have been revitalised with the advent of the internet, and even more so through the opportunities arising from social media based on mobile phone technology, which is often accessible even in remote areas.15 These global influences can be seen in content as well as in form in the

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  241 topics discussed: black identity, authenticity or (homo)sexuality, for example, but also in the development of new media-based aesthetics. Contrary to this richness of poetic expression, ‘South African poetic history has largely been that of the Western tradition of print.’16 Due to the racist politics of apartheid, which ghettoised education, culture and the media, poetry as performed by black African artists was either neglected or classified as ‘protest art’ rather than analysed as a finely nuanced creative form.17 Even today, those who are labelled as performance poets ‘tend to be under-represented in South African literary spaces and in the South African curriculum.’18 Young black poets therefore feel the need to create spaces where they can explore alternative poetics and subvert the influence of the dominant Western literary tradition – which, of course, is commonly labelled ‘high culture’ – as indicated by the following assertion from an interview with Afurakan Mohare (CEO of Word N Sound) (Figure 11.2): [I]t’s also rebellion against traditional forms of poetry […] I mean we dropped in high-school into [...] reading Shakespeare and John Donne, a lot of English or UK literature. And for a lot of young people there was this rebellion from high school: why am I not doing African poetry, why am I not doing African literature, why am I forced to do Shakespearean or even Victorian literature. And now, with slam, they’re finding new ways of expressing themselves, so that rebellion is still there.19

Figure 11.2  W  ord N Sound Live Literature Co. Permission courtesy of Thabiso Steven Mohare and Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu CEOs.

242  Ricarda de Haas

‘Mediatized Performances’ and Word N Sound In common with Susan Somers-Willet, Adam Haupt and others, I argue that the global success of poetic movements such as slam poetry and Hip-Hop is directly linked to the simultaneous emergence of the internet, especially the opportunities offered by social media such as YouTube, Blogs and Facebook. Digital technologies are having an increasing influence on contemporary African oral literature, especially when performed by the younger generation of urban poets. As Annel Pieterse attests, ‘[i]n South Africa, a small but growing number of poets of diverse cultural and language groups are making use of new electronic media technologies in the performance of their work.’20 This is borne out by Word N Sound’s CEO, who describes the organisation as: [A] product of social media, of the digital space […] That’s where we’re born, and I think that’s where a lot of our success is going to come from. That’s how we know about Strivers Row who are from the US or we know about Leeds Young Writers […] Word N Sound as a brand is pretty much entrenched in the digital space. Then the shows become the physical manifestation of that brand. 21 From the very beginning, Word N Sound used social media tools to announce their shows and to present mediatised versions of live performances by means of video clips, stills or lyrics. The multitude of video documentation available on YouTube and Word N Sound’s Blog provides a comprehensive archive of spoken word performances shown in Johannesburg between 2010 and 2016. Moreover, a strong bond between poets, organisers and audiences has been created through the Word N Sound Blog, Facebook and Twitter, which allow for close contact between the people involved, regardless of physical presence. As poet Sibusiso ‘Conelius Jones’ Simelane describes, We are sort of dedicated to social media while we have the shows, so while we’re having the event there is someone who is tweeting about, let’s say a poet just went up on stage and they’re doing a really good poem, so there’s somebody that is tweeting about that, someone that is posting pictures of that, and people interact. 22 Here, the boundaries between written, oral and mediatised forms become increasingly blurred as video recordings, websites and Blogs enable a permanent (re)writing of the production and (re)presentation of the poetic. In this sense, the performances can be seen as artistic practices that merge old media, such as live performances or printed poems, with new media, such as video recordings or social media tools, in accordance with Russel Kaschula’s description of how:

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  243 The interaction between orality and literacy is now more complex than one would expect, as it now also involves various technologies, from video cameras, digital cameras, ipods, MP3 players, kindle as well as the Internet. It would seem to be dependent on the individual performer and where they find themselves on the oral-literacy-techno-continuum. 23 In order to make sense of this blurring of poetic and technological boundaries, I borrow the term ‘mediatized performances’ from Philip Auslander, who describes how the term: ‘indicate[s] that a particular cultural object is a product of the mass media or of media technology. “Mediatized performance” is performance that is circulated on television, as audio or video recordings, and in other forms based in technologies of reproduction.’24 This terminology builds on the work of Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, who established the idea that every medium is representing another medium in a complex process of remediation: Digital media can best be understood through the ways in which they honor, rival, and revise linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, and print [...] What is new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media. 25 Yet Auslander’s reflections on the correlation between live and ‘mediatized performances’ focus more on entanglements than clear-cut boundaries. He stresses: Through an examination of what may be called the ontological characteristics of live and mediatized performances [...] I will argue against intrinsic opposition and in favour of a view that both emphasizes the mutual dependence of the live and the mediatized and challenges the assumption that the live precedes the mediatized. 26 It is precisely this interrelation between the live and the mediatized that I claim is characteristic of the work of Word N Sound.

Spoken Word Performance as Forum for Artists In her study of slam poetry in UK contexts, Helen Gregory puts forward a definition of the dual nature of slam as both an ‘artistic form’ and a ‘forum for artists.’27 This description of a ‘forum’ has much utility with regard to Word N Sound’s practice. It highlights the core distinction between poetic performance and other forms of poetic expression (such

244  Ricarda de Haas as reading print poetry aloud) by drawing upon the artist’s experience. To concentrate on the forum means understanding how poets support each other and how they create a specific space that matches their needs in terms of artistic expression. For Word N Sound performances, this is partly enabled by the fact that performance poetry requires little or no equipment; it is easily accessible for anyone who is interested enough to participate. It therefore corresponds with Wendy Willems’s claim that ‘popular culture can be seen as a public space where ordinary Africans are able to debate issues and bring up matters of concern.’28 The role of the audience is also key here. For example, Somers-Willet describes how ‘[a]udiences don’t merely listen to a poem; they react to an entire performance of verse, at times performing right back through applause, spiteful hissing, or comments shouted to the poet.’29 In addition, the fact that many poets share the stage, creates a serial performance, contributing towards an atmosphere which is ‘highly interactive, theatrical, physical, and immediate,’ with orality being ‘but one component in a poem’s presentation.’30 Just as each performance is unique, so too, therefore, is the experience of every forum. This understanding of performance as relational is mirrored by Auslander’s definition of the two major characteristics of performative work, namely ‘its existence only in the moment’ and ‘its putative ability to create community among its participants.’31 Drama theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte has coined the term ‘bodily co-presence of actors and spectators’ to describe this situation of immediacy and interaction, where performer and audience are present at the same time within the same space.32 Both ‘community’ and ‘co-presence’ echo and expand on the notion of a ‘forum.’ Furthermore, Pamela Dube’s work on South ­A frican performance poetry sheds light on the importance of community for any kind of oral performance, irrespective of whether traditional or contemporary. As she understands it, the audiences’ presence is required for the very process of creation: In contemporary performance poetry, although the audience is often surprised, disapproving or simply fascinated by the performer’s individual creativity [...] it is still the community’s grievances or feelings that are addressed. The performer still acts as a mouthpiece of the community and a shared communal activity takes place.33 In the case of Word N Sound, their young, South African poets confidently express issues that matter to their generation, such as social hardship, sexual violence, issues with the ANC elite and the apartheid legacy. As founder, Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu, describes: Once poets feel comfortable in a space, that’s when they can go deeper […] the moment I get up on stage, and I’m telling you that

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  245 I am lesbian, already I know that there are people in the audience who might not take too kindly to it. Also in South Africa there is corrective rape or there is homphobic violence. So something like that is a very brave thing to do […] I also remember listening to that poem and thinking that this is quite a moment in the Word N Sound story, the moment that someone can get up on stage and get the response that she did! There was a girl in the back who had her hands up and she was in church she was like preaching […] And that’s really what’s important about poetry, it’s about going there and hearing your story, someone comes and gives words to your stories, and it makes a bit more sense or you realise that you are not alone. 34 By creating such a ‘forum,’ the Word N Sound poets enable the transformation of (black) experience into (black) representation. As Stuart Hall phrases it, ‘[i]t is only through the way in which we represent and imagine ourselves that we come to know how we are constituted and who we are.’35

Space at the Word N Sound Series Fischer-Lichte also identifies three central aspects for the analysis of performance: namely body/embodiment, sound and space. 36 Not unlike the idea of the ‘forum,’ ‘space’ refers to the contact between artists and audience, the corporeal presence of actors and audience in the same space at the same time. It is therefore something constituted and reconstituted in a permanent and varying feedback process. 37 Fischer-Lichte makes an additional distinction between the ‘geometrical space’ and the ‘performative space.’38 The ‘geometrical space’ is a given entity, defined by architecture, interior and other details that can’t be changed. In contrast, the ‘performative space’ is permanently created and re-created by performers and audiences alike. It may also be shaped by any activity that influences the reception of space, such as sound, light or movement. The permanent enactment of the ‘performative space’ within the ‘geometrical space’ creates spatiality, which is, according to Fischer-Lichte ephemeral and transitory by definition. My concern here then, is in how these aspects of spatiality relate to Word N Sound and, what happens when they are transferred into the digital realm? The Market Theatre Lab that hosts the Word N Sound Series’ main show is a remarkable place in many ways. It is situated within an area formerly known for its lively local subculture – until it was reconstructed to give way to the Newtown Cultural Precinct, an attempt to gentrify the inner city of Johannesburg.39 The building itself was originally designed to house tram repair sheds, hence its glass and brick structure gives off an air of industrial power tamed. On the inside, this vast hall creates a

246  Ricarda de Haas void that is filled with the actual theatre at its far end. As in many public places in Johannesburg, a security desk is situated at the entrance, which signals control/safety, while also excluding ‘inappropriate’ audiences. In contrast to the hall, which is ablaze with natural light, the theatre itself is a windowless square room designed for small audiences. This strongly influences the ‘performative space’ created. When I attended the shows in 2013, the audience had already outgrown the theatre. On first impression, the space was crowded and raucous. Every seat was taken, with children sitting on parents’ laps and people standing in the aisles. Poets entered and exited the stage to audience encouragement and the whole atmosphere seemed chaotic and unpredictable. Yet, as soon as a performance started, the audience’s attention was focussed on the stage, in an atmosphere of intense concentration, with the majority of audience sounds being reactions to the poem in question or the performance of it. Attending a show in June 2013, I watched the first part of the session seated in one of the boxes that were reserved for the technical staff so as to film proceedings. However, I soon became aware of my own exclusion from the sense of performance, so decided to watch the second part from the stalls. I stood amidst the crowds in the aisle and soon found myself reacting to the performance like everyone else. Yet, when I watched the footage back later, I realised that it was almost unusable as the sound of the audience drowned out the poets’ voices, while the images were distorted due to the angle shot from. On the other hand, the footage of the first part was, indeed, perfectly executed, despite the fact that it did not fully represent the atmosphere. This short description sheds light on the importance of spatiality for the live performance as well as for the mediatised version. While the experience of the live performance can only be appreciated when one takes part in it, the mediatised version seems to require different qualifications for it has to match other needs.40 Its main purpose commonly lies in providing ‘a material record of the performance’ in order to secure ‘extralinguistic elements which are often lost in the transmission of orality into literacy.’41 Poets themselves also value the technology for its ability to create an artefact that – unlike the live performance – can be copied, sold, uploaded or shared with people who didn’t attend the live session. As Pieterse puts it, ‘[t]he poet can therefore “produce” a polished product using different media,’ in contrast to audience members ‘with a video recording device on their cell-phone or camera’ who ‘can also record a live performance and disseminate it via various information media.’42 Yet many scholars who specialise in oral performativity have been highly critical of technology, focussing on its limitations rather than opportunities. With regard to poetry screenings, Dube argues that the mediatised version is only a fixed documentation of the original performance. By excluding the audience from the experience of the performance, the

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  247 ‘communal sharing’ is missed, making the performance ‘an isolated event that is happening out there.’43 As Dube therefore cautions, As diverse as the responses to technological documentation of performance poetry are, what seems to hold is that all kinds of documentation succeed only if the community concerned feels that its concerns are addressed and the norms and values that provide for its stability are constantly perpetuated.44 However, unlike televisual representations of performance (Dube’s primary concern), the use of social media does enable the re-creation and representation of community, albeit transposed to virtual reality. In order to bridge the gap between live performance and the mediated experience of social media, for example, Word N Sound not only post recordings of performances, but they publish interviews with the poets and encourage audience feedback via Twitter and Facebook on both the live performance and the screened version alike. Through such processes, the reticular structures of social media enable communication of the ‘many to many’ variety instead of ‘one-to-many’ (which was used by ‘old’ professional media such as radio, television or newspapers). Rather than just one live venue that can be attended monthly, there become many spaces in the virtual sphere that may be attended simultaneously. Despite the seeming difficulty of applying Fischer-Lichte’s ideas on ‘geometrical space’ versus ‘performative space’ to the virtual realm, some correlation is possible.45 For example, each web-based application has certain features that cannot be changed by their users: the Blog is run by an editorial board, whereas Facebook and Twitter can be used by everyone who is part of the community as well as by a global audience. Nevertheless, what happens within that given, boundaried, space is a performative activity that involves poets and audiences alike. Moreover, Fischer-Lichte’s concept of ‘bodily co-presence,’ which relies on time as well as space, is also an important feature of social media. Even though there is no bodily presence in the virtual space, there is virtual co-presence of poets and audiences, which depends on the poets’ ability to attend those spaces in time. In this way, the forum of artists is modified through technology: the audience that attended the original performance might have been cut out of the video recording – that is, the artistic form – but it can still be part of the virtual forum. Despite the fact that an anonymous global audience can also engage, the primary target group of the mediatised online performance is the very local audience that attends the live performances. Given the multifaceted reality of the virtual space that is performatively inhabited by the Word N Sound Series, as well as the variety of live venues the community regularly uses, the spatiality that is created constitutes a complex literary landscape. By providing such a ‘forum for artists,’ the poets of Word N Sound performatively create and

248  Ricarda de Haas re-create one of those ‘few and grossly underfunded’ spaces that Stuart Hall had in mind when musing on those ‘cultural strategies’ that ‘can make a difference and can shift the dispositions of power.’46

Notes 1 This article draws on my doctoral thesis on South African and Zimbabwean Performance Poetry, written in German: Ricarda de Haas, Spoken Word Goes Digital. Performance Poetry und Social Media in Harare (Simbabwe) und Johannesburg (Südafrika). Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2018. 2 The South African ‘Word N Sound Series’ was recently renamed ‘Word N Sound Live Literature Company.’ Since this essay is based on research from 2011 to 2013 in Johannesburg, the name that was used throughout that period will be applied. However, this renaming does shed light on the volatility that is one of the markers of performance cultures. 3 Word N Sound Twitter Account. https://twitter.com/WordNSound [accessed 14th September, 2016]. 4 The entrance fee matches the usual for professional spoken word events, whereas tickets for cinema, theatre or literature events at bookshops range from R 90-200. 5 The term ‘spoken word’ is often debated by authors and researchers alike, for it is used as a synonym for performance poetry, slam poetry, dub poetry or even open mic performances. My preferred terminology is ‘performance poetry,’ however, as this emphasises both poetic and performative aspects (albeit that each of the aforementioned genres has its own unique characteristics). When I do use ‘spoken word,’ it is mainly with reference to the Word N Sound Series as it is their chosen designation. In addition, ‘dub poetry’ in this article usually refers to Sowetan dub, which is an offshoot of Caribbean dub. Equally, ‘slam poetry’ originates in the United States and is a competitive form of performance poetry. 6 Pim Higginson, ‘Positively Popular: African Culture in the Mainstream: Introduction,’ Research in African Literatures, 39.4 (2008): vii. 7 Karin Barber, ‘Foreword,’ in Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday, eds. Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome (New York: Routledge, 2013), xvi. 8 Karin Barber, ‘Foreword,’ xvi. 9 Anon, ‘About’ section, Word N Sound Live Literature Company website. https://wordnsound.wordpress.com/about-2/ [accessed 12th September, 2016]; Karin Barber, ‘Foreword,’ xvi. 10 Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa: A Comparative Study of the Main Motifs and Poetic Techniques (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH, 1997), 38. 11 Izibongo or traditional praise poetry deals with public praise related to the values of a certain community. It also gives license to the performer to criticise the leader of that community as long as the critique stays part of the performance; Jamaican dub poetry spread to the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the eastern Caribbean and to South Africa, with Soweto being one of its main hubs. See Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa: A Comparative Study of the Main Motifs and Poetic Techniques (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH, 1997), 26 and 23. BC poetry (also known as Soweto poetry) ‘enjoyed mass popularity in the 1970s and 1980s especially through live performances at township community meetings, political rallies and memorial

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  249


13 14 15

16 17

18 19 20

21 22 23

24 25 26

services’ becoming ‘the imaginative medium of the Black Consciousness Movement’ and ‘the rallying cry for black solidarity.’ See Dobrota Alz̆ beta Pucherová, The Ethics of Dissident Desire in Southern African Writing (Trier: WVT, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 18. African Hip-Hop such as South-African Kwaito and others is distinguished from its American origins by the increasing use of indigenous languages, the terms of its social critique, its role in allowing young Africans to assume an identity simultaneously black and cosmopolitan. See Tobias R. Klein, ‘African Hip-Hop,’ in Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, ed. Stephen Ross (London: Routledge, 2016). www.rem.routledge.com/articles/african-hip-hop [accessed 12th September, 2016]. Zakes Mda is a well-known, and critically acclaimed, South African novelist, playwright and poet. Raphael d’Abdon, ‘Raising-consciousness Art in Post-apartheid South Africa: An Exploration of Selected “Subversive” Texts by Young South African Spoken Word Artists and Songwriters,’ Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa, 11.1 (2014): 78. David B. Coplan, ‘God Rock Africa: Thoughts on Politics in Popular Black Performance in South Africa,’ African Studies, 64.1 (2005): 9. Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa, 23. Russel Kaschula, ‘Southern African Languages, Globalisation and the Internet,’ in African Languages in Global Society: Papers Read at the Symposium ‘Text in Context: African Languages Between Orality and Scripturality’ eds. Thomas Bearth, Jasmina Bonato, und Karin Geitlinger (Köln Bern: Rüdiger Köppe, 2009), 454. Duncan Brown, Oral Literature and Performance in Southern Africa ­(Oxford: James Currey, 1999), 5. Deborah Seddon. ‘Written Out, Writing In: Orature in the South African Literary Canon,’ English in Africa, 35.1 (2008): 138; Pumla Gqola, ‘Pushing Out from the Centre: (Black) Feminist Imagination, Redefined Politics and Emergent Trends in South African Poetry,’ XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, 21/22 (2009): 3. Annel Pieterse, Language Limits: The Dissolution of the Lyric Subject in Experimental Print and Performance Poetry (PhD diss., Stellenbosch University, 2012), 149. Afurakan Thabiso Mohare. Interview by Ricarda de Haas. Video recording. Personal Interview. Johannesburg, 18th July, 2013. Annel Pieterse, ‘The Troubled Coughs of History’s Echoes: Feedback, Echo and Static in South African Oral/Techno Poetics’ in Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa-the Step Forward, eds. ­Daniela Merolla, Jan Jansen and Kamal Naït-Zerrad (Vienna: LIT Verlag, 2012), 39. Afurakan aka Thabiso Mohare. Interview by Ricarda de Haas. Sibusiso ‘Conelius Jones’ Simelane. Interview by Ricarda de Haas. Video recording. Berlin, 10th June, 2014. Russel Kaschula, ‘Technauriture: Multimedia Research and Documentation of South African Oral Performance’ in Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa: The Step Forward, eds. Daniela Merolla et al. (Wien: LIT Verlag, 2012), 320. Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture ­(Abingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2008), 5. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 15. Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, 11.

250  Ricarda de Haas 27 Helen Gregory, ‘(Re)presenting Ourselves: Art, Identity, and Status in U.K. Poetry Slam,’ Oral Tradition, 23/2 (2008): 204. 28 Wendy Willems, ‘Interrogating Public Sphere and Popular Culture as Theoretical Concepts on their Value in African Studies,’ Africa Development, 37.1 (2012): 21. 29 Susan, Somers-Willett, The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 17. 30 Susan Somers-Willett, The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry, 4, 17. 31 Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, 4. 32 Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (New York: Routledge, 2008), 38. 33 Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa, 40. 34 Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu. Interview by Ricarda de Haas. Video recording. Johannesburg, 18th July, 2013. 35 Stuart Hall, ‘What Is This “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ in Black Popular Culture, eds. Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992), 30. 36 ‘Sound’ refers to the actual reciting of the poem but also to the responding noises of the audience, while ‘body’ includes all the corporeal activities enacted by the poet on stage, although Fischer-Lichte also distinguishes between the actual body of the poet and the character that they embody in order to express a particular poem. See: Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ästhetik des Performativen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2004). 37 Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ästhetik des Performativen, 59. 38 Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ästhetik des Performativen, 187. 39 Raphael d’Abdon and Natalia Moletbatsi, ‘Behind the Scenes: An Exploration of the Process of Creation, Self-Production and Performance in the All-Female Spoken Word Poetry Show Body of Words,’ scrutiny2, 16.2 (2011): 58. 40 For an in-depth analysis of how video technology shapes, reframes and changes the production and reception of poetic performances see: Ricarda de Haas, ‘Spoken Word Goes Digital: New Forms of Literary Expression in Southern Africa,’ in Kuvaka ukama: a Tribute to Flora Veit-Wild, eds. Julius Heinicke, Hilmar Heister, Tobias R. Klein and Viola Prüschenk (Heidelberg: Kalliope-Paperbacks, 2012), 109–19. 41 Annel Pieterse, ‘The Troubled Coughs of History’s Echoes,’ 39; Russel ­Kaschula, ‘Technauriture: Multimedia Research and Documentation of South African Oral Performance,’ 320. 42 Annel Pieterse, ‘The Troubled Coughs of History’s Echoes,’ 39. 43 Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa, 48. 4 4 Pamela Dube, Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa, 48. 45 Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ästhetik des Performativen, 187. 46 Stuart Hall, ‘What Is “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ 24.

Bibliography Auslander, Philip. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. Abdingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2008.

African or Virtual, Popular or Poetry  251 Barber, Karin. ‘Foreword.’ In Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday, edited by Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome, xv–xxii. New York: Routledge, 2013. Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, reprint. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000. Brown, Duncan. Oral Literature and Performance in Southern Africa. Oxford: James Currey, 1999. Coplan, David B. ‘God Rock Africa: Thoughts on Politics in Popular Black Performance in South Africa.’ African Studies 64.1 (2005): 9–2. d’Abdon, Raphael. ‘Raising-consciousness Art in Post-apartheid South Africa: An Exploration of Selected “Subversive” Texts by Young South African Spoken Word Artists and Songwriters.’ Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa 11.1 (2014): 78–89. d’Abdon, Raphael and Natalia Moletbatsi. ‘“Behind the Scenes”: An Exploration of the Process of Creation, Self-Production and Performance in the All-Female Spoken Word Poetry Show Body of Words.’ Scrutiny 16.2 (2011): 56–61. de Haas, Ricarda. ‘Spoken Word Goes Digital: New Forms of Literary Expression in Southern Africa.’ In Kuvaka Ukama: A Tribute to Flora Veit-Wild, edited by Julius Heinicke, Hilmar Heister, Tobias R. Klein and Viola Prüschenk, 109–19. Heidelberg: Kalliope-Paperbacks, 2012. ———. Interview with Afurakan aka Thabiso Mohare. Personal Interview. Video Recording. Johannesburg, 18th July, 2013. ———. Interview with Qhakaza Mbali Mthembu. Personal Interview. Video Recording. Johannesburg, 18th July, 2013. ———. Interview with Sibusiso ‘Conelius Jones’ Simelane. Personal Interview. Video Recording. Berlin, 10th June, 2014. ———. Spoken Word Goes Digital. Performance Poetry und Social Media in Harare (Simbabwe) und Johannesburg (Südafrika). Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2018 Dube, Pamela. Contemporary English Performance Poetry in Canada and South Africa: A Comparative Study of the Main Motifs and Poetic Techniques. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH, 1997. Fischer-Lichte, Erika. Ästhetik des Performativen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2004. ———. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge, 2008. Gqola, Pumla. ‘Pushing Out from the Centre: (Black) Feminist Imagination, Redefined Politics and Emergent Trends in South African Poetry.’ XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics 21/22 (2009): 1–22. Gregory, Helen. ‘(Re)presenting Ourselves: Art, Identity, and Status in U.K. Poetry Slam.’ Oral Tradition 23/2 (2008): 201–17. Hall, Stuart. ‘What Is This “Black” in Black Popular Culture?’ In Black Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Wallace and Gina Dent, 21–33. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992. Haupt, Adam. Stealing Empire: P2P, Intellectual Property and Hip-Hop Subversion. Cape Town: Human Science Res Council, 2008. Higginson, Pim. ‘Positively Popular: African Culture in the Mainstream: Introduction.’ Research in African Literatures 39.4 (2008): vii–x.

252  Ricarda de Haas Kaschula, Russel. ‘Southern African Languages, Globalisation and the Internet.’ In African Languages in Global Society: Papers Read at the Symposium ‘Text in Context: African Languages Between Orality and Scripturality University of Zurich, October 18–20, 2001,’ edited by Thomas Bearth, Jasmina Bonato and Karin Geitlinger, 449–62. Köln Bern: Rüdiger Köppe, 2009. ———. ‘Technauriture: Multimedia Research and Documentation of South African Oral Performance.’ In Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa - The Step Forward, edited by Daniela Merolla, Jan Jansen, und Kamal Naït-Zerrad, 1–20. Wien: LIT Verlag, 2012. Klein, Tobias Robert. ‘African Hip-Hop.’ In Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Stephen Ross, London: Routledge, 2016, Accessed 14th September, 2016. www.rem.routledge.com/articles/african-hip-hop. Pieterse, Annel. ‘The Troubled Coughs of History’s Echoes: Feedback, Echo and Static in South African Oral/ Techno Poetics.’ In Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa - the Step Forward, edited by Daniela Merolla, Jan Jansen and Kamal Naït-Zerrad, 39–47. Vienna: LIT Verlag, 2012. ———. ‘Language Limits: The Dissolution of the Lyric Subject in Experimental Print and Performance Poetry.’ PhD. thesis, Stellenbosch University, 2012. Pucherová, Dobrota Alz̆ beta. The Ethics of Dissident Desire in Southern ­African Writing. Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011. Seddon, Deborah. ‘Written Out, Writing In: Orature in the South African Literary Canon.’ English in Africa 35.1 (2008): 133–50. Somers-Willett, Susan. The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009. Willems, Wendy. ‘Interrogating Public Sphere and Popular Culture as Theoretical Concepts on their Value in African Studies.’ Africa Development 37.1 (2012): 11–26.

12 The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era Wendy Knepper

Contemporary popular culture is consumed by stories about the perils and possibilities of technology. The Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, the high-tech thrillers of James Bond and Jason Bourne, the superheroes of DC and Marvel comics, and the perilous gaming experiences of Halo and Assassin’s Creed number among the popular bestsellers of the global cultural marketplace. Such works are also deeply implicated in the sort of popular culture that Stuart Hall describes as a political ‘struggle for and against the powerful.’1 They investigate imperial technologies, speculate on the implications of scientific discovery and explore the consequences of technocapitalism (efforts to extract profit from technology’s applications, tools and intangibles, such as creativity and knowledge). 2 Bringing a postcolonial critique of technoscience to bear on such works yields fresh insights into ‘the turbulence and uncertainty of contemporary global flows of knowledge and practice,’ as Warwick Anderson expresses it, but I am most interested in a popular postcolonial culture that seeks to enact global cognitive justice and represent technology’s history from below, especially by staking claims on behalf of technology’s peripheral innovators, labourers and users.3 Specifically, this chapter considers the role of the geek in global culture, investigating his/her efforts to acts as postcolonial spokesperson and scribe – a coder/decoder – for technology’s role in world history. As will be seen, the postcolonial geek unearths hidden histories of technology, sheds light on the inequalities that have shaped knowledge production, gives voice to silenced or repressed postcolonial technocultures and strives to awaken decolonised technological publics that move ‘beyond selfish individualism, governmental privatization, and state corruption.’4 In an era of technocapitalism, Luis Suaraz-Villa argues that we need to acknowledge creativity as ‘a public resource with global scope’ that ‘transcends individual and corporate contexts to become part of the commons, owned by no one and belonging to everyone.’5 I suggest that postcolonial representations of the geek strive to reconstitute the histories and horizons of global knowledge production and technological innovation along more equitable, inclusive and participatory lines, especially as they gesture towards the sublime, still unknowable possibilities

254  Wendy Knepper of human creativity, unfettered by capitalist exploitation and imperialistic violence. Central to my analysis is an understanding of popular culture as an open ‘problem’ about culture’s relation to the people it addresses, represents or excludes. According to Daniel Chandler and Rod Munday, the term ‘popular culture’ may refer to four distinct ideas, including popular genres/forms that enjoy commercial success in the global literary marketplace, folk or vernacular culture, the productive ways in which audiences interact with pervasive cultural currency and the role of mass-media content in generating a particular concept of the people.6 Together, these definitions inform my analysis of a popular postcolonial representation of technology in our global era. I begin by considering the geek’s shifting role and significance in a popular world culture structured by capitalism and empire before moving on to consider how accounts of the postcolonial geek by Kamau Brathwaite, Junot Díaz and Vikram Chandra serve to decolonise and democratise culture on a planetary scale.

From the Margins to the Centre: The Mainstreaming of Geek Subculture The contested and shifting cultural values surrounding the geek are reflective of transformations in popular culture that have been shaped by uneven development. In America, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the term ‘geek’ referred to a comic performer who bit the head off a chicken or snake for entertainment in a carnivalesque ‘freak show’ tradition. This meaning continues to resonate in Bob Dylan’s countercultural ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ (1965), Geek Love (1989) and, more recently, the TV show American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014–15). This ‘freak show’ performer may seem quite distinct from the later, and now more commonplace idea, of the geek as a person obsessed with a particular field of knowledge, such as computing or science, who is often seen as socially inept, maladjusted and unfashionable. However, the image of geek as freak remained intact until the 1990s, when attitudes started to shift towards technology, particularly internet and personal computing technologies, and the widespread acknowledgement of the transition to a knowledge-based economy. In the post-milllennial era, the geek has emerged as a driver and arbiter of a globalised popular culture. As Neil Feineman observes, ‘[a]fter years and years of persecution, ridicule and never, ever getting the girl (or guy), geeks are finally, irrefutably, certifiably chic.’7 Popular cultural works have promoted this shift, exemplified in the transformation of Neo from geek to chic (thanks in no small part to the tutelage of Trinity) in The Matrix trilogy (1999/2003) or the allure of Stieg Larrson’s post-punk, gothic hacker, Lisbeth Salander, in

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  255 The Millennium Trilogy and related film adaptations (2009 and 2011). Such popular works ‘re-package’ the geek as a cool and chic figure, and represent him/her as an agent of justice. The geek’s once subcultural enthusiasm for spec-fic/science fiction, gaming, comic books, the latest technology, social networking and the internet are no longer peripheral but popular. In The Geek Handbook (2012), Alex Langley cites the high ratings achieved by TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Lost and Dr Who as evidence of the trendiness of geek culture: ‘Geek is chic; it’s now, it’s it baby.’8 Today, geeks are ubiquitous figures in cinema, TV and popular culture, with representations ranging from scientists, technologists, forensic experts, hackers and computer programmers to an array of ordinary characters who routinely ‘geek out’ over the implications of advanced science and uses of new technologies in everyday life. The ubiquity of the geek and the consecration of his/her ‘nerdy’ cultural activities are endemic to a global culture driven by technocapitalism. Seen as a gatekeeper or agent for the new global economy, the geek plays an influential, perhaps even determining, role in our uncertain global future.9 Hegemonic geeks, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, are not immune to popular critique. Facebook inspired ­David Fincher’s account of an obsessive and egotistical geek in The ­Social Network (2010), while Jobs has been the subject of two biopics, including Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (2015), with its controversial and less than flattering representation of the entrepreneur. Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs (1995) and Hari Kunzru’s Transmission (2004) demonstrate that not all geeks are equal in the uneven world of technological development and production, while Dave Eggers’s The Circle (2013) offers a dystopian view of the mass implications of social networking and surveillance technologies, especially in terms of democratic representation. Postcolonial popular culture represents a subaltern class of peripheral geeks, especially those coders, implementers, diagnosticians and support staff who labour in the service of technocapitalism. In popular culture, representations of racial/ethnic hierarchies and stereotyping within geek culture are symptomatic of enduring inequalities within a global technoculture that has tended to exploit (semi)peripheral labour and knowledge, as evidenced by the treatment of characters in popular TV series, such as Rajesh Ramayan ‘Raj’ Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) in The Big Bang Theory (2007-), Maurice Moss (Richard Ayodade) of The IT Crowd (2006–10) and Lester Patel (Vikram ‘Vik’ Sahay) of the ‘Nerd Herd’ in Chuck (2007–12). These popular works offer ambivalent representations of the geek’s positioning in technoculture, often playing upon stereotypes for comic effect, even when they also resist such categorisations. Postcolonial and/or minority authors are working to decolonise the geek’s preferred genres and cultural forms, including in the science fiction/ speculative fiction/fantasy novels of authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Tobias Buckell, Tananarive Due

256  Wendy Knepper and, soon, Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James (with his plans for a Dark Star fantasy trilogy). Meanwhile gaming has come under attack for its racist and sexist tendencies, notably through the Twitter controversy on #GamerGate, which later prompted Intel to launch a 300 million dollar ‘Diversity in Technology’ programme.10 Comic book culture recognises greater diversity, as exemplified by X-Men’s Dust and Storm characters; the relaunch of Ms. Marvel as Kamala Khan, the story of a geeky Muslim-American teenager/shape-shifting heroine living in Jersey City, which draws in part on the life experiences of one of its creators, Sana Amanat; the Luke Cage Netflix series (2016-); and the recent Black Panther series (2016) - scripted by the African American author Ta-Nehisi Coates - and film (2018).11 This popular postcolonial geek culture intervenes in an unequal world cultural field, working to critique systemic inequalities and decolonise the popular cultural imaginary.

The Postcolonial Geek as Scribe/Coder: Kamau Brathwaite’s ‘Letter Sycorax’ With reference to postcolonial writing, I want to consider a few examples of the geek as a decoder/coder of technology’s role in popular culture and world development. Michael Denning claims that cultural studies ‘needs to be rooted in the exploration of the social construction of cultural value, the history of hegemonic formation, and the investigation of the material investments and constraints implied by various cultural forms.’12 In the close readings that follow, I argue that postcolonial representations of the geek’s role engage in just these kinds of sharply attuned interventions, working through technoculture’s inequalities to interrogate the systemic pressures of technocapitalism and empire. In the words of Stuart Hall, these postcolonial geeks’ accounts negotiate ‘[t]he changing balance and relations of social forces throughout […] history [as they] reveal themselves time and time again in struggles over the forms of culture, traditions and ways of life of the popular classes.’13 By representing the geek’s efforts to mediate various constructions of technology, these fictions are popular in their efforts to elicit an inclusive and equitable field for creativity and knowledge production. Such fictions interrogate the ends and means of technology, posing challenges to its instrumental uses and role in capitalist accumulation. As an advocate for nation language and vernacular culture, Kamau Brathwaite is one of the Caribbean’s most important creative practitioners and cultural critics. His work may not be popular in commodity terms, but it demonstrates its populism through a poetics that actively employs vernacular and popular cultural codes to disrupt the binaries of high/low culture. Brathwaite’s ‘Letter Sycorax’ from Middle Passages updates Shakespeare’s Caliban, representing him as a contemporary technogeek, a writer/coder of a freshly reconstituted popular

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  257 global technoculture.14 This letter from Caliban to his mother Sycorax inaugurates an innovative aesthetic, now known as the ‘Sycorax Video Style,’ which manipulates computing codes and typeface to disclose new critical perspectives and spaces for discovering shared knowledge and meaning. In his opening gambit, Caliban stakes his challenge to technocapitalism: ‘I writing yu dis letter […] pun a computer o/kay? / like i jine de mercantilists.’15 Writing in nation language, Brathwaite’s geek employs a language that arose during a period of mercantile capitalism and under colonialism to open up a critique of the long history of world technoculture under empire that eschews a linear history by punning upon the meanings of the colonial curser, Prospero, and the computer cursor.16 In Freedom Time, Anthony Reed observes that Brathwaite’s poem puns upon historical figures of technology as discovery and branding/commodification of such discoveries: ‘Pascal is both Blaise Pascal and the computer language; Cobalt is the CAD programme and the mineral mined from central Africa; Apple is the computer company and the putative inspiration for Newton’s discovery of gravity.’17 Reed argues that such techniques implicate the ‘use of the computer within a much larger history and more complicated geopolitical present.’18 Caliban brings popular culture into the mix: for ‘wid dis X,’ before one can say ‘rt-d2’ (an allusion to the Star Wars robot R2-D2), a text can be quickly composed on the computer as an ‘obeah bloX.’19 Here the popular culture of Star Wars mixes with Obeah’s folk culture in a creolised account of computing that challenges a dominant technoculture. Caliban’s popular poetics and history politicise the struggles between two rival technocultures: one driven by an instrumental logic and the other open to creative discovery and questioning. I suggest that Brathwaite’s approach to technology and culture is complementary to Martin Heidegger’s views as expressed in ‘The Question Concerning Technology,’ in which he considers the distinction between instrumental and revelatory approaches to technology. In opposition to instrumental uses of technology, Heidegger argues for ‘techne’ as a form of ‘poesis,’ as an art of revealing or a way of ‘bringing-forth’ that discloses hitherto concealed truths. 20 It is closely linked to the role of inquiry or questioning the ends and means of technology: opening up a dialogue between its application and the social construction of its meaning and value. Like Heidegger, Brathwaite highlights the opposition between an instrumental technocapitalist history of incorporation and ‘techne’ as a set of creative practices open to discovery and revelation. Brathwaite’s preference for the revelatory is exemplified in a distinctive recoding of geek culture through the representation of the personal computer as an ‘obeah bloX.’21 Throughout the poem, ‘X’ marks the spot of disruptive meanings conveyed by ‘dis ya obeah bloX,’ a new technology of writing that mobilises the vernacular traditions of Obeah as technology that is both sacred and profane in its influences. For instance, the geek as

258  Wendy Knepper scribe expresses his delight at ‘writin in light/like i is a some. is a some. is a some/body. a X / pert or some / think like moses oa aaron or one a dem / dyaam isra / light.’22 The writer as decoder/recoder emerges as a prophet, a space-/time-traveller and coder who can ‘hack/in out hack/ in hack/in’ all sorts of backed up information from ‘all part/icles a de gal, / aXy.’23 Brathwaite’s geek revels in the creative and revelatory possibilities afforded by new personal technologies of writing for exploring the universe and engaging in world-creating capacities of his own. This geeky discourse recombines scientific discovery, popular cultural references to the technologies of empire and the vernacular culture of technoscience to evoke a freshly envisioned field for technoculture. In the field of culture, such an understanding of ‘techne’ as an art can be usefully linked with Jacques Rancière’s claim that the politics of literature and art lies in its disruptive capacity to generate spaces of audibility and visibility that return technology to the domain of political dissensus: ‘[f] iction is a way of changing existing modes of sensory presentations and forms of enunciation; of varying frames, scales and rhythms; and of building new relationships between reality and appearance, the individual and collective.’24 With the reference to the computer as an ‘­Obeahblox,’ Kamau Brathwaite’s postcolonial geek, Caliban, renews the folk art and practice of Obeah in an era of computing technologies.25 In popular postcolonial culture, Prince Buster and the All Stars’ ‘Science’ (released by Melodic M ­ usic as a 45 RPM record in 1971) refers to Obeah as a folk technocscience that challenges the distinctions between the scientific and the supernatural: ‘Some call it science / Some call it necromancy / Some call it plain obeah’ (1972). Dating back to the history of slavery, Obeah is understood as a form of popular ‘science’ within the vernacular culture in the Caribbean. In the introduction to Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack (a ­narrative that depicts Obeah in a plantation context), Srinivas ­Aravamudan observes that ‘Obeah becomes a term for resistant knowledge […] Obeah is about demonstration of metaphysical and technological mastery.’26 Used as a form of medicine and harnessed for resistance to slavery, it was also associated with technologies of terror as torture was practiced upon Obeah men and women to force them to admit the superiority of Western technology over his or her sacred practices/beliefs.27 Richard Allsopp’s Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage confirms the vernacular understanding of the Obeah as an applied science or technology: [S]ci-ence n. 1. (CarA) [AF/IF] Technique; a required skill in doing. Let me show you; there’s a science in it: You have to catch the lock with the key, pull it out a bit and then turn. (– Tbgo) 2. (Guyn, Jmca, Trin) [IF] Occult science; OBEAH or practices related to it. She was using all the science she knew to win back Benoit. But Benoit was a man of science too. ‘Science versus science,’ said Maisie and derided Mrs Rouse and Benoit and their traffic with the occult. – JMA: 101. 28

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  259 Where Western technologies are positioned as instrumental forms of mastery and exploitation, the Caribbean technology of Obeah is associated with a sacred communal politics of resistance, healing and revelation. Brathwaite confronts the terrors and hopes surrounding the oppressive and revolutionary dimensions of the ‘technological sublime.’ Whereas the sublime of the eighteenth century was located in nature and associated with the terrors of the French Revolution, many critics have argued that those feelings are now associated with technology. For Doug Davis, the technological sublime is ‘a triumphalist discourse in which new technologies and technological spaces convey emotional experiences once reserved for nature;’ furthermore, he observes that it refers to ‘a historical parade of technologies with purportedly transcendent powers.’29 David Nye explains that the ‘technological sublime’ involves an eruption of feelings, such as astonishment, awe, terror and psychic distance, which technology induces as it briefly overwhelms reason, but ‘ineffable surplus of emotion’ is also subject to recontainment.30 Fredric Jameson claims that the presence of the technological (or hysterical) sublime is symptomatic of the failure to comprehend the unimaginable complexity of advanced technology in an era of multinational capitalism. 31 Caliban is attuned to all of these understandings of the technological sublime, seeking as he does to understand the totality of technology and his role as a creative participant in (re)coding a global technoculture. Caliban’s Obeah-inspired codes reroute the technological sublime in a radical postcolonial direction because his poem strives to reveal and create a technoculture beyond violence. The use of interactive codes, with the Sycorax Video Style, prompts readers/users to interact and p ­ articipate in the ‘techne’ of discovery through engagements with puns, neologisms and the meaning of the code designated by the ‘X’ in the poem. Commenting on the meaning of ‘X’ in Brathwaite’s work, Ted Chamberlin observes that ‘“x” is routinely used in algebra both as an unknown  – something you will discover; and as a variable, a symbol for whatever you want it to be – something you will invent.’32 The X designates a matrix of reconstituted meanings, but it is also the placeholder for a subject and community to be discovered. Even as the poem unleashes a horizon of specific cultural meaning, invoking the possibility of a reconstituted community, it inaugurates a new form of cultural mathematics, an open problem that may yield different codes in different instances as it draws from the totality of possible cultural configurations. Caliban’s geeky code signals the emergence of what Giorgio Agamben refers to as ‘a coming community’ (‘la communitá que viene’), which is ‘not mediated by any condition of belonging […] nor by the simple absence of belonging […] but by belonging itself.’33 The interactive and virtual dimensions of Brathwaite’s poem enable a new kind of community to come into being through the ‘techne’ or art of shared discovery.

260  Wendy Knepper Caliban may be writing to his mother Sycorax, but Brathwaite is adopting new technologies to disseminate popular hopes of social transformation to a world audience. Brathwaite’s poem calls upon readers to act as fellow decoders, fellow geeks participating in an unprecedented world technoculture. Through both its form and content, it elicits a new space of possibility for technoculture as a virtual reality that might transform our own. Virtual reality has been defined as ‘a medium composed of interactive simulations that sense the participant’s position and actions and replace or augment the feedback with one or more senses, giving the feeling of being mentally immersed in the simulation (a virtual world).’34 By prompting readers to interact with a Caliban as a kind of avatar in a newly designated field of technoculture, Brathwaite’s poem elicits new spaces of audibility/visibility and exchange, which call for a reawakened politics. Brathwaite’s postcolonial geek aesthetic advances popular culture by extending its creative codes and practices to the reader as a fellow geeky collaborator. By openly sharing this ‘techne’ with others, the poem disseminates new cognitive mappings, critical perspectives and world literacies for decoding / recoding the popular culture within and beyond the Caribbean. The postcolonial geek aesthetic is performative and creative, mobilising the codes of a creatively remediated technoculture to generate and expand new world literacies. In so doing, it calls for a wider understanding of the public or commons, such as that designated by Silva Federici when she observes: If commoning has any meaning, it must be the production of ourselves as a common subject. This is how we must understand the slogan ‘no commons without community.’ But ‘community’ has to be intended not as a gated reality, a grouping of people joined by exclusive interests separating them from others, as with communities formed on the basis of religion or ethnicity, but rather as a quality of relations, a principle of cooperation and of responsibility to each other.35 Through the transmission of multiple codes to readers, Brathwaite’s postcolonial geek aesthetic opens up a new kind of postcolonial sublime in the form of a ‘coming community’ or act of communing, which emerges through creativity as a public resource with global scope.

Junot Díaz’s Coming Community in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao With its references to comic books, science fiction, fantasy and online forums, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is widely acknowledged as bringing geek culture to bear on the diasporic history

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  261 of the Dominican Republic, mobilising it as a vehicle for postcolonial resistance.36 Where Brathwaite’s geek text bridges the divides of vernacular and high culture, Díaz’s novel is commodity-fiction with radical intent, working between a mainstream popular culture of fantasy and the Latin American dictator novel. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize, which boosted its sales and readership. More generally, Diaz is an active participant in technoculture, using Facebook and other social media to disseminate his postcolonial critique. The blending of popular and vernacular codes may well suggest a hybrid form of populist resistance in opposition to high culture. Yet it can also encode a certain ambivalence about a dominant (Western) popular culture shaped by technocapitalism and Empire. Where Brathwaite’s postcolonial geek suggests a largely affirmative and resistant cultural politics, Díaz is altogether more sceptical and critical about the possibilities for challenging technocapitalisms old and new. Two competing codes of geekdom shape Díaz’s novel: one emergent from within Dominican vernacular traditions and the other stemming from a dominant Western technoculture, the latter inscribed both in the imperial histories of technology and the popular culture of geekdom. Yunior recounts the life history of his geeky friend, nicknamed Oscar Wao, situating intimate events within an epic history of violence and terror dating back to colonial conquest. Like Brathwaite, Díaz’s vernacular technoculture defies binary oppositions of the sacred/profane, countering the terrors of the technological sublime with the folk’s powerful counterspell. Yunior suggests that the totality of violence under colonialism, dictatorship and neo-liberal economic globalisation can be understood as a sublime force for evil called ‘fukú,’ which can nevertheless be challenged through the narrative performance as a counter-spell or ‘zafa.’37 The novel’s final evocation of ‘the beauty! the beauty!’ (a reversal of Conrad’s ‘the horror, the horror’ in Heart of Darkness), words uttered by Wao, bears witness to love in defiance of terror. While both Yunior and Wao are geeks, the former distances himself from Oscar on several occasions. For instance, Yunior observes: I’m not entirely sure Oscar would have liked this designation. Fuku story. He was a hardcore sci-fi and fantasy man, believed that was the kind of story we were all living in. He’d ask: What is more sci-fi than Santo Domingo? What more fantasy than the Antilles? But now I know how it all turns out, I have to ask, in turn. What more fuku?38 Where Yunior aligns himself with the supernatural dimensions of vernacular culture, he positions Oscar as someone who cannot distinguish between popular cultural fantasies and the realities of Dominican life. In contrast to Oscar’s Americanised popular imaginary, Yunior introduces

262  Wendy Knepper a vernacular perspective, often critical of American’s own history of technocapitalistic violence. But Yunior’s story is also a retrospective account, the result of a sustained effort to interrogate the discourses and practices of a globalised technoculture whose long history has ultimately engulfed and destroyed the life of his friend. By framing this as a tale of rival geek scribes, Díaz’s novelistic discourse celebrates, distances itself from and extends the interests and enthusiasms of its two postcolonial geeks, including both the nerdy Oscar and his cool geeky counterpart, Yunior. The postcolonial sublime, as will be seen, emerges through the interplay of perspectives as well as the complication of the narrative, which ultimately exceeds the perspectives of either of its geeks. Mixing voices, genres and popular/vernacular forms, the novel generates various and shifting cognitive mappings of the technologies of terror, ranging from the inaugural colonial conquest to contemporary scenes of devastation through acts of terrorism and war. The opening chapter situates multiple histories of violence in a symbolic ‘Ground Zero of the New World.’39 Yunior expands upon a global culture of terror, which includes colonial conquest, the violence of the Trujillo regime, American Occupation in the Dominicans, American neo-imperialism in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War, and Mobutu Sese Seko’s authoritarian regime, among others.40 These sites of violence are imagined alongside the ‘realities’ of empire in imagined worlds, such as through the world of DC Comics’ Darkseid villain and Morgoth of Tolkien’s Simarillon as well as Herculoids, Space Ghost and Planet of the Apes, and the virtual space of discussion threads in the DR1 (Dominican Republic) online forum.41 One might argue that this is a way of bridging the vernacular histories of the Caribbean and (neo) colonies with a commoditised narrative strategy that is likely to appeal to a world readership. While this may be true, this strategy also serves a political purpose, providing a kind of ‘zafa’ through its cognitive mapping of a global technoculture of militarised violence. Díaz’s novel interrogates the uncritical forms of magical thinking that lead Wao to cast himself as a hero taking a last stand on the fantasy island of the DR (a Dominican Republic whose realities have to some extent been obscured by the overlay of popular culture). Where Oscar Wao risks his life by living as a ‘hardcore sci-fi and fantasy man,’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao investigates how Oscar the GhettoNerd as a would-be scribe becomes, both literally and symbolically, caught up in the crossfire between competing codes and cultures of technology.42 The novel tracks the dominant influence of technoculture on his childhood imaginary: ‘[i]n these apocalyptic daydreams [shaped by fears about nuclear bombs during the Cold War era well as sci-fi accounts of alien invasion and genocide] he was always some kind of plátano Doc Savage, a supergenius who combined world-class martial artistry with deadly firearms proficiency.’43 As an adult, this understanding of

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  263 popular culture plays a determining role in his performance of masculinity and romance. His death in the plantation fields represents an ironic reversal of his popular cultural fantasies as he is unable to perform the role of a Doc ­Savage who rights wrongs and overcomes the injustices of plantation/slave culture and its legacies. In the canefields, when his murderers falsely promise to let him go if he can translate the word ‘fuego,’ Oscar blurts out the word ‘fire’ and thus seals his own death by giving a militaristic command.44 Through its remediation of popular and vernacular cultural sources, the novel highlights technocapitalism’s sustained violence through a long history that extends from colonial conquest (through neocolonialism, dictatorship and postcolonial transition) to the contemporary era of neo-liberal globalisation. Yet, even as the novel shows that the world fails to conform to Oscar’s popular fantasies, the narrative discourse deftly manipulates the codes of popular culture and multiple modes of subjective representation to elicit an alternative and open social space of critique and hope. Significantly, Yunior calls upon popular cultural resources to interrogate its own capacity to disclose the truth about the periphery, acknowledging that he has ‘thrown a lot of fantasy and sci-fi in the mix’ of a ‘true account.’45 The fantastical truths of the narrative are presented in the familiar form of a popular film and multivariant game in global technoculture: ‘This is your chance, if blue pill, continue. If red pill, return to the Matrix.’46 While the historical narrative of trauma under dictatorship has already been presented as verifiable, Oscar’s narrative is projected in the form of marginalia to Watchmen’s never-ending realities.47 His manuscript containing the ultimate truth, ‘the cure to what ails us,’ has been lost in the mail, thus deferring the possibility of narrative resolution.48 By leaving its narrative open to the reader as a kind of collaborative game, dream or incomplete text, Díaz elicits what George Landow refers to as the ‘wreader’ or reader as an empowered scribe in the collaborative coding of the world/text.49 This scribal practice calls for ‘radial reading’ as an act of ‘decoding one or more of the contexts that interpenetrate the scripted and physical text, thus prompting the reader to re-­negotiate the pre-scribed relationship between technology, text and world.50 Such techniques can be seen as political in several senses, registering an awareness of a world readership that may know little about the vernacular context, while also attempting to engage such readers to expand their knowledge about the world and its cultures. For readers in the know already, such texts may well express the realities of a globalised consciousness and hybrid sense of participating in a popular culture that traverses hegemonic/peripheral positioning. Narrated from a post-9/11 context, The Brief Wondrous Life of ­Oscar Wao negotiates the cultural histories and legacies of culture in an age of three worlds because it explores the conflictual and combined relations between the capitalist first world, the communist second world

264  Wendy Knepper (in this instance, with a focus on the Cold War and American opposition to communism) and the decolonising third world, suggesting the need to confront the enduring impact of these three worlds. Through its decolonising struggle for justice in a global era, the ungraspable dialogue among codes, genres and subjects, the novel elicits a new kind of fractured communalism, bringing its readers into a newly envisioned space of popular world technoculture. This example of the postcolonial sublime works on behalf of a postcolonial community to confront the terrors and trauma of the (neo)colonial past and highlight the wonders and beauty of a world beyond violence. But that experience is woven into a wider inscription of imperial violence on a global scale, reinscribing the vernacular within the wider field of popular culture. Consequently, it works to localise a globalised popular culture by positioning it within a Dominican context, even as it elicits the hope of a creative commons that might overcome the violent fractures of technocapitalism’s old and new imperialisms. Through the postcolonial geek’s representation of world culture, the novel lays bare a coming community within and beyond the text, extending the work of popular culture to reader through the story as a space of communing. Like Brathwaite’s virtualised textuality, Díaz’s discourse elicits a virtual sphere, which in this instance functions like an online forum, opening from the DR to a world technoculture. The experiences of Oscar Wao, Yunior and his sister, Lola, among other voices, combine to create a transgender, transhistorical sense of subjectivity and community. Here again we find an expression of Agamben’s ‘coming community.’ While the narrative of Oscar is conveyed by the seemingly hyper-masculinist, Yunior, as the narrative progresses it becomes clear that Yunior’s voice has been saturated and pre-scribed by the narrative vocalisations of both Oscar and his sister, Lola. Yunior’s discourses are both feminised and ‘geekified’ such that they defy authorial and authoritarian postures. By radically reconstituting the postcolonial geek as a pluralistic and shifting subject, the novel evokes a new collective consciousness. Moreover, the fiction quite self-consciously designates its position as art of collective world-making: for the final words of Oscar Wao, a would-be writer, are lost in mistranslation and transmission. The future is laid open to fresh translations and transmissions by its readers, the participants in a popular culture yet to be articulated.

Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime: The Codes of Global Cognitive Justice Like Brathwaite and Díaz, Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime Writing Fiction, Coding Software (2014) adopts a long historical approach to scribing/coding technology. This personal memoir/history of science and technology functions as a treatise on the aesthetics of the technologies of

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  265 coding and writing, thus working to expand and extend the idea of literacy for a global era. Geek Sublime is a kind of hybrid genre, mixing the memoirs of a coder with wider reflections on the history of technology and role of codes in fictional and non-fictional works. As Chandra notes, there is a tension between the popular image of a geek and the ‘largely opaque, alien, unknown’ processes and cultures that have led to computing and software developments.51 This gap or dichotomy informs the opening to his text, which starts with a few lines of code to generate the greeting ‘Hello, World!’, thus initiating an interactive aesthetic, like that of Brathwaite and Díaz. Like them, his work takes the geek as its focal point for popular technology: ‘[a] geek hunched over a computer tapping frantically at the keyboard, neon-bright lines of green code sliding up the screen—the programmer at work is now a familiar staple of popular entertainment.’52 Diverting as this figure is, Chandra demonstrates that a more encompassing understanding of world culture ought to return technoscience to the people whose inventions and labours have shaped its long formation. Chandra investigates the forms of creativity and cognition that both writing and coding entail, seeking to lend new visibility to the arcane knowledge and obscured histories that have shaped popular culture. He provides the reader with a kind of introduction to computing, the work of the compiler and binary operations, noting that the underlying architecture of computing has not changed radically in the last half-century. Most of the changes have been in the human interface and usability, thanks in large part to improved storage and processing capabilities. Commenting on the ‘stack of languages,’ he observes, ‘the purpose of each layer is to shield the user from the perplexing complexities of the layer just below.’53 This account of coding as a combination of a popular interface/underlying arcane knowledge serves as a kind of metaphor for Geek Sublime, which mobilises popular techno-cultural references to explore the unevenly combined technologies and knowledges that have come to shape ordinary uses and applications of technology in everyday life. His book ends with an ‘Application. Restart ()’ as ‘code moves,’ like art and ‘changes the world.’54 Chandra explores various constructions of the technological sublime, ranging from terror to awe at its unknowable possibilities. Chandra’s geek sublime takes the form of a world-making activity that is mystical in experience and whose outcomes are not fully knowable: ‘I work inside an orderly, simplified hallucination, a maya that is illusion and ­non-illusion – the code I write sets off other subterranean incantations, which are completely illegible to me, but I can cause objects to move in the real world, and send messages to the other side of the planet.’55 While such codes may be wondrous, they are also terrifying. He observes ‘[t]hat software algorithms are now running our whole world means that software faults or errors can send us down the wrong highway, injure

266  Wendy Knepper or kill people, and cause disasters.’56 To back up his claims, he cites the examples of French Ariane 5 rocket that self-destructed due to processing errors, the deaths resulting from the malfunction of Therac-25 radiation therapy machine and the Flash Crash of 2010 when the Dow Jones plunged and recovered as a result of automated exchanges. 57 Chandra re-embeds the technological sublime in history, meaning that coding is represented as a polticised form of world-making activity. The postcolonial textual sublime may be understood as an effort to represent the unrepresentable – to elicit new spaces/places of existence or a new kind of world historical imaginary – by acknowledging hidden histories and disavowed knowledges of technology’s long history. Chandra’s Geek Sublime performs multiple acts of global cognitive justice by moving beyond the popular stereotypes of the ‘Indian mafia’ in Silicon Valley to uncover a genealogy of linguistic, aesthetic and computational logic dating back to premodern times. In the present, he bears witness to the violent histories of erasure that accompany technological transformation, noting, for instance, the masculinisation of the IT industry, which has effectively written women out of the dominant history of computing (an issue that has also recently been highlighted by the gamergate controversy). He traces the influence of the codes of beauty associated with Anandavardhana and Abhinavaupta, which reframe global knowledge production and creative expression in the process. Specifically, he traces the genealogical influence of the Ashtadhyahi (500 BCE) on Panini’s descriptive and generative linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure’s and ­Leonard Bloomfield’s structural linguistics, and, finally its influence on modern computing languages in the twentieth century.58 Like Brathwaite and Díaz, Chandra’s popular postcolonial aesthetic aims to act upon the reader and the world. For Chandra, coding software and creative writing are common practices: both initiate actions through language, which operate at a distance, moving through time and space to evoke, both for sender and receiver, a common yet singular experience of consciousness itself, one which is both subjective and universal. 59 His aesthetics of coding/writing shares much in common with Brathwaite’s interactive ­Sycorax Video Style, Díaz’s communal discourse and Chandra’s consensual hallucination as it works to reconstitute subjectivity and community. In Chandra’s view, this capacity is expressed though the rasa-dhavani, a concept that shaped T.S. Eliot’s idea of an objective correlative, because of its ability to draw subjects together in collective world-making.60 ‘Rasa is sublime,’ Chandra observes, because it provides a way to savour emotion and experience afresh: ‘Rasa is a recognition, a re-cognition of what you have forgotten, that you are blissful consciousness itself.’61 It is also a way to confront the limits of self because it requires inhabiting multiple cognitive modes.62 As a poco geek scribe, Chandra offers a counter-history of technoculture that challenges the consolidations of power and erasures of knowledge associated with the technologies of

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  267 capitalism and empire. In fact, his sublime and the materialist critiques conjoin in a call to address the big data problem of preserving ancient Sanskrit manuscripts that are disappearing daily through the effects of age and erosion.63 In this way, he calls attention to the universality, singularity and transmissions of world culture, offering a vast and sublime reconstruction of writing/coding as a practice and art of revelation. But his work is pragmatic as well in seeking to preserve and popularise cultural works, both high/low, of the people. For Chandra, as for Brathwaite and Díaz, the postcolonial geek challenges the dominant popular imaginary of contemporary technoculture, repositioning it within an expanded world culture of knowledge production and technological innovation. This populist world-culture bears witness to the inequalities of the world-system, as highlighted by Franco Moretti in his conjectures on world literature or theorised by the Warwick Research Collective in their analysis of combined and uneven development.64 But it also indicates an emancipatory intent in the sense suggested by Pascale Casanova when she refers to a world literary history of ‘incessant struggle and competition,’ and which therefore demands a political awareness of ‘the unequal status of the players in the literary game and the specific mechanisms of domination are manifested in it.’65 A popular postcolonial geek literature exercises creative freedoms in the arena of technoculture to stake claims for a new commons. Through the technologies of writing, the postcolonial geek narrative returns technology to ‘techne’ as an art for disclosing an unknowable totality: the text is not just a product of technology but a virtual source for more ethical and just articulations of collective world realities. Consequently, the postcolonial geek narrative takes on a new populist dimension as it seeks to disseminate technology’s repressed codes, marginalised or forgotten cultures and subordinate histories, acting with (and on behalf of) its peripheral innovators, labourers, coders, and users and wider publics.

Another World Is Possible: Postcolonial Perspectives on Creativity and the Commons To conclude, postcolonial representations of global technoculture can contribute to the decolonisation and democratisation of the world. As the close readings of Brathwaite, Díaz and Chandra have demonstrated, a popular postcolonial culture actively traverses the divides of global technoculture to think through and beyond its unevenly combined cultures of knowledge and discovery. The postcolonial geek intervenes as a mediator who inscribes new relations among peripheral and mass culture, working to enact cognitive justice by mobilising repressed cultural resources to decode/recode the prevailing global technoculture. This popular postcolonial culture stakes claims for a plurality of popular cultural knowledges. Such works seek to popularise global technoculture

268  Wendy Knepper by returning it to the peoples who have participated in its long history: they seek to do justice to the long history of knowledge production, labour and technological innovation by disclosing the repressed stories, cultures and insights of those who have been included/excluded by a dominant global technoculture under empire and capitalism. Popular postcolonial works critique inequality in global technoculture and reframe creativity as a collective capacity and resource for collective world-making. These popular postcolonial representations of the geek employ writing as ‘techne’ to engage readers as fellow decoders of history and participants in the communal and collaborative art of world-building. Through their unevenly combined popular cultural negotiations, they seek to communicate and disseminate what Federici has described as ‘a principle of cooperation and of responsibility to each other.’66 These world-making fictions disseminate the technocultures of a given postcolonial public as well as to engage their readers as participants in reconstituting, critically and creatively, the histories of knowledge and ends/means of technology through a more expansive and representative popular cultural that is universal in scope. Consequently, popular postcolonial fictions can further global justice, especially when they engage readers as active participants in communing with others through a collaborative world-making process, where creativity, knowledge and technology serve as capacities and ‘tools’ to which all the peoples of the world have an equal right and share. Such fictions point the way forward for the ongoing decolonisation of the digital humanities and technoscience in our global era. Recently, Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette and David Golumbia have described the field of the digital humanities as a symptom of neo-liberal incursions into scholarship and the ‘corporatist restructuring of the humanities.’67 However, these arguments overlook the fact that postcolonial creative writers, activists and scholars have already been active participants in creating an alternative global technoculture through the postcolonial digital humanities. Initiatives to preserve, archive and disseminate peripheral texts, knowledges and resources are on the rise (Figures 12.1 and 12.2).68 The ‘Postcolonial Digital Humanities’ website and Facebook page includes online comics that represent the postcolonial geek as scholar, theorist, activist or scribe/coder in a digital age.69 These postcolonial comics highlight the need for cross-disciplinary and wider public engagements to advance a more representative understanding of world technoculture. There is a vital need to popularise our collective understanding of the history and processes of knowledge production and technology on a planetary scale. In an era of incomplete decolonisation and predatory technocapitalism, peripheral and vernacular accounts of global technoculture

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  269

Figure 12.1  P  ostcolonial DH. NO. 10 by kind permission of Adeline Koh.

Figure 12.2  Postcolonial DH. NO. 2 by kind permission of Adeline Koh.

might shed new light on the possibilities for popularising creativity as a collaborative art and collective practice. Rather than reject the digital humanities, we need to expand our understanding of technology: opening both to popular postcolonial and alter-globalist articulations of knowledge, historical understanding and collective debate.

270  Wendy Knepper

Notes 1 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, ed. John Storey (London: Pearson, 2009), 453. 2 Luis Suarez-Villa argues that technocapitalism emerges in the twentieth ­century as a distinctive synthesis of economic development and technological innovation. Luis Suarez-Villa, Globalization and Technocapitalism: The Political Economy of Corporate Power and Technological Domination ­(Farnham: Ashgate, 2012). See also Invention and the Rise of Technocapitalism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2000), 1 and 41. I propose that contemporary technocapitalism should be analysed more closely in relation to a long historical process of transformation, attentive to different phases and cycles of capitalism, the role of empire and premodern influences. 3 Warwick Anderson, ‘Introduction: Postcolonial Technoscience,’ Social Studies of Science, 32.5/6 (2002): 644; Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014), viii. 4 Zillah Eisenstein, Global Obscenities: Patriarchy, Capitalism, and the Lure of Cyberfantasy (New York: New York University Press, 1988), 6. Recent examples include: Florian Stadtler, Ole Birk Larsen and Brian Rock, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 49.5 (2013): 503–623; Radhika Gajjala and ­Venkataramana Gajjala eds., South Asian Technospaces (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008); and Claire Taylor and Thea Pitman, Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 2007). 5 Luis Suarez-Villa, Globalization, 228. 6 Daniel Chandler and Rod Monday, ‘Popular Culture,’ in A Dictionary of Media and Communication. Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). 7 Neil Feineman, Geek Chic (London: Thames and Hudson, 2005), 1. 8 Alex Langley, The Geek Handbook: Practical Skills and Advice for the Likeable Modern Geek (Iola, KS: Krause Publications, 2012). 9 Neil Feineman, Geek Chic, 11. 10 Hannah Jane Parkinson, ‘Intel pledges $300m for Diversity in the Tech Sector,’ The Guardian 7th January, 2015. www.theguardian.com/­technology/2015/ jan/07/­intel-pledges-300m-diversity-tech-sector [accessed 1st October, 2016]. 11 Dust (Sooraya Qadir) first appears in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men #133 (New York: Marvel Comics, December 2002), while Storm (Ororo ­Munroe) debuted in Len Wein’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 (New York: Marvel Comics, May 1975). Following her first appearance in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s ­C aptain ­M arvel #14 (New York: Marvel Comics, August 2013), Kamala Khan gained a feature role in the Ms Marvel comic book series (New York: M ­ arvel ­Comics, 2014–15), authored by G. Willow Wilson. Marvel Comics also worked with Netflix to produce the Luke Cage broadcast series (created by Cheo Hodari Coker, 2016), which stars Mike Colter and tells the story of an ­African American superhero created through forced participation in scientific experimentation. 12 Michael Denning, Culture in the Age of Three Worlds (London: Verso, 2004), 114. 13 Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular,”’ 442. 14 Kelly Baker Josephs discusses the original and subsequent versions of this poem in ‘Versions of X/Self: Kamau Brathwaite's Caribbean Discourse,’ ­Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, 1.1.4 (2003): 1–15. 15 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages (New York: New Directions, 1992), 95. 16 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages, 107. 17 Anthony Reed, Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2014) 76. 18 Anthony Reed, Freedom Time, 76.

The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  271 19 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages, 98. 20 Martin Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology,’ in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translated by William Lovitt (New York: Harper, 1977), 10, 12. 21 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages, 98. 22 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages, 116. 23 Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages, 100. 24 Jacques Rancière, Dissensus, translated by Steve Corcoran (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), 141. 25 Marcel Danesi argues that both popular and folk cultures are recreational, but folk culture differs in its ritualistic aspects, with the latter ‘exemplifying an unconscious need to engage in profaine forms of culture alongside sacred forms.’ See: Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. Second Edition (Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield, 2012), 4. 26 Srinivas Aravamudan, ‘Introduction,’ in William Earle, Obi, Or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack (Peterborough: Broadview, 2005), 26. 27 Aravamudan, ‘Introduction,’ 26–27. 28 Richard Allsopp, ed. Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2003), 491. 29 Doug Davis, ‘The Technological Sublime in the Fiction of the New South,’ Southern Quarterly, 48.3 (2011): 71. 30 David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994), 282. 31 Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991), 36–8. 32 J. Edward Chamberlin, Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies (Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 190. 33 Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, translated by Michael Hardt (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 85. 34 William R. Sherman and Alan B. Craig, Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface, Application, and Design (San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufman, 2003), 13. 35 Silvia Federici, ‘Feminism and the Politics of the Commons,’ The Commoner 24th January, 2011, npag. http://commoner.org.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2011/01/federici-feminism-and-the-politics-of-commons.pdf [accessed 10th September, 2016]. 36 See for example Jennifer Harford Vargas, ‘Dictating a Zafa: The Power of Narrative Form in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,’ MELUS, 39.3 (2014): 8–30; Daniel Bautista, ‘Comic Book Realism: Form and Genre in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,’ Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, 21.1 (2010): 41–53; Monica Hanna, ‘“Reassembling the Fragments”: Battling Historiographies, Caribbean Discourse, and Nerd Genres in Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,’ Callaloo, 33.2 (2010): 498–520; Joy Sanchez-Taylor, ‘“I was a Ghetto Nerd Supreme”: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Latina/o Futurity in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,’ Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, 25.1 (2014): 93–106 and Tim Lanzendörfer, ‘The Marvelous History of the Dominican Republic in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,’ MELUS, 38.2 (2013): 127–42. 37 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao (London: Faber and Faber, 2008), 7. 38 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 6. 39 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 1. 40 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 1, 3, 4–5, 5–6, 16, 3. 41 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 6, 14, 15, 6. 42 Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 6.

272  Wendy Knepper 43 4 4 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 6 4

65 66 67



Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 27. Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 322. Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 285. Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 285. Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 331. Junot Díaz, Oscar Wao, 333. George Landow, ‘What’s a Critic to Do? Critical Theory in the Age of Hypertext,’ in Hyper/Text/Theory, edited by George Landow (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 14. Jerome McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 119. Vikram Chandra, Geek Sublime: Writing Fiction, Coding Software (­London: Faber and Faber, 2014), 1. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 1. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 40. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 217, 221. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 43. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 136. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 136. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 96–101. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 230. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 207–8; 206–7. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 113, 175. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 214. Vikram Chandra, Geek, 190–92. Franco Moretti, Distant Reading (London: Verso, 2013), 46; Warwick Research Collective. Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015). Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, translated by M.B. ­Debevoise (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 12, 352. Silvia Federici, ‘Feminism and the Politics of the Commons,’ npag. Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, David Golumbia, ‘Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities’ in LA Review of Books (1st May 2016). https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/neoliberaltools-­archives-political-history-digital-humanities/#! [accessed 1st August, 2016]. Examples include: ‘The Postcolonial Literature and Culture Web’ (www. postcolonialweb.org/), The Early Caribbean Digital Archive (http://omekasites.northeastern.edu/ECDA/), the 1947 Partition Archive (www.1947partitionarchive.org/) and the ongoing postcolonial feminist initiative to re-write Wikipedia (http://dhpoco.org/rewriting-wikipedia/). See http://dhpoco.tumblr.com/tagged/comics.

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The Postcolonial Geek and Popular Culture in a Global Era  275 Steve Jobs. DVD. dir. Danny Boyle (Universal City: Universal Pictures, 2016 [2015]). Film. Suarez-Villa, Luis. Invention and the Rise of Technocapitalism, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2000. ———. Globalization and Technocapitalism: The Political Economy of Corporate Power and Technological Domination. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Taylor, Claire and Thea Pitman, eds. Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 2007. The Big Bang Theory. Original Broadcast, dir. Mark Cendrowski (Los Angeles: Chuck Lorre Productions, 2007–). The Girl Trilogy. DVD, dir. Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [Stockholm: Yellow Bird Films, 2009]) and Hans Daniel Björn Alfredson (The Girl Who Played with Fire [Stockholm: Yellow Bird Films, 2009] and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest [Stockholm: Yellow Bird Films, 2009]) (Toronto, ON: Entertainment One, 2013). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. DVD, dir. David Fincher (Culver: Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2011). The IT Crowd: Complete Series 1–4. DVD, dir. Graham Linehan (London: Channel Four, 2010 [2006–2010]). Television. The Social Network. DVD, dir. David Fincher (Los Angeles: Columbia Pictures, 2011 [2010]). Warwick Research Collective. Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015. Wilson, G. Willow. Ms. Marvel. New York: Marvel Comics, vol. 3 #1–19, 2014–15.