Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Kieran Connell's "Black Handsworth"

Kieran Connell is Lecturer in Contemporary British History at Queen’s University Belfast. He is co-editor of Cultural Studies 50 Years On: History, Practice, Politics (2016).

Connell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent book, Black Handsworth: Race in 1980s Britain, and reported the following:
I was delighted when I turned to page 99 of Black Handsworth and found a photograph. I’m not sure how this fits in with Ford Madox Ford’s famous maxim that the 99th page of a book is a guide to the overall quality of an author’s writing. But it is certainly in keeping with an approach I have taken throughout my work – in Black Handsworth, which has nineteen illustrations and a chapter dedicated to the ‘politics of representation’, and beyond. The photograph on page 99 also encapsulates the wider arguments I am attempting to make in the book. It shows a performance by an African dance troupe based in Handsworth, an inner city area of Birmingham – Britain’s second largest city and my book’s case study. The troupe was made up of local black youth, most of whom had been born in Britain but – in the context of widespread societal racism and socio-economic disadvantage in Britain’s turbulent 1980s – were going through a profound crisis in identity. African dance, I argue in this chapter, like reggae music, the styles of Rastafarianism and a more general ‘sound system’ culture, helped facilitate an encounter with the politics and cultures of diaspora – one that had a critical impact in helping this generation come to terms with the many inequalities of the locale. In turn, I suggest toward the end of the book, this helped establish the diverse nature of the diasporic tradition as a forcible presence in the everyday landscapes of post-colonial Britain – in Handsworth and far beyond.
Learn more about Black Handsworth at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue