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Radicalism, antiracism and nostalgia: the burden of loss in the search for convivial culture

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alastair Bonnett

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Abstract

Drawing on the example of British antiracism, I argue that nostalgia is an integral and constitutive force within the radical imagination. The first section of the paper is historical and contextual. It shows how attachments to the past and associated feelings of loss and regret (attachments and emotions which combine to form nostalgia) became marginalised and repressed within modern radicalism. The second section looks at how antinostalgia and nostalgia were mapped onto radical antiracism in Britain in the 1980s. It is suggested that the stereotype of the ‘black rebel’ concealed and cohered the tensions between a declining socialist movement and the politics of loss. The third part of the paper explores the issue of nostalgia in the company of Gilroy’s After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? My critique of After Empire is in two parts. First I look at the stereotyping and repression of themes of loss that sustain Gilroy’s account. Second, I address After Empire as a nostalgic text, burdened with a yearning for lost political potency. The essay concludes with a call for radicals and antiracists to move beyond the a priori suspicion of nostalgia.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Bonnett A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2010

Volume: 42

Issue: 10

Pages: 2351-2369

Print publication date: 22/03/2010

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Pion Ltd.

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/a41287

DOI: 10.1068/a41287


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