Babylon Gets Rude: The Representation of Racial Violence in Black British Writing.

David Singh (2009). Babylon Gets Rude: The Representation of Racial Violence in Black British Writing. PhD Thesis, English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author David Singh
Thesis Title Babylon Gets Rude: The Representation of Racial Violence in Black British Writing.
School, Centre or Institute English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Leigh Dale
Dr Fiona Nicoll
Total pages 243
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines the representation of racial violence in black British literature. Long part of the black British experience, from racial murder to premeditated campaigns of harassment targeting individuals and families, and to police brutality, racial violence has curiously attracted next to no critical attention. This is particularly true of fictive representations, where black writers have sought to capture and convey the embodiment of racism and particularly the nature of what bell hooks has described as “white terror”. This thesis argues that this lacuna is a consequence of the concern to establish admixture, as expressed by terms such as hybridity, syncretism, and creolisation, as the central point of reference in discussions about black British identities. Triumphal accounts of British multiculturalism have followed the success of this paradigm, although some seek to partially solemnise the celebrations with merely passing references to the victims of real life racial murders. Abstract notions of “becoming” deflect attention from uninterrupted processes of forcible essentialisation from without, where the “other” serves as handmaiden to the formation of white subjectivities. This is the case with violent racism, where subjective violence, or physical violence, operates in tandem with symbolic violence, or racialised stereotypes, to essentialise the “victim”. In so doing the perpetrator rapidly arrives at a form of white racialised subjectivity which however must be continually refreshed through further symbolic or physical violence. As Pnina Werbner has argued, these experiences have ontological significance for the victim also and the communities for which the victim was taken be a representative. However this significance has been largely ignored, or at least bracketed, in accounts bent on celebrating “new ethnicities” and postcolonial London, an emerging disciplinary field which, in John McLeod’s words, examines the ways that the capital’s “transcultural facticity has made possible new communities and forms of culture” and which have the added effect of disrupting the “pastoral articulation of English national culture”. This thesis seeks to qualify the revelry that animates these accounts by foregrounding literary representations of racial violence and harassment. Each representation, drawn by writers who have been heralded as multiculturalism’s new baristas, serves as a reminder that multiculturalism is not without fierce contestation and that black lives, if not marked by violence, are still very much at risk of being targeted in this way. The novels examined include: Diran Adebayo’s Some Kind of Black; David Dabydeen’s The Intended; Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album ; Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore ; and Courttia Newland’s The Scholar. Writing myself into the thesis as a socially situated reader, each novel will be examined with a concern to highlight the representation of racial violence; the spatial significance of representations; responses to racial victimisation; and the “whiteness” at work in racist violence. Using interdisciplinary resources the thesis will attempt to build a theory of white subjectivity and racial violence and throughout there will be an overarching concern to determine whether these works articulate an anti-racist position and, if so, what this may be taken to say about black tenure in multicultural Britain.
Keyword britain, identity, literature, multiculturalism, racism, violence

 
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Created: Mon, 16 Nov 2009, 16:46:15 EST by Mr David Singh on behalf of Library - Information Access Service