I was talking to a friend of mine about the violence in London, and thought back to my research – for those interested in getting a more complex/complete picture of London, I’m including some books – these all deal with issues that arise from events like this: race, religion, poverty, class even gender. Some of the books are theory, but some are fiction, as well.
These are books I use in my research and will be used in my PhD research as well – if I can get into a PhD program.
There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation by Paul Gilory – Gilroy’s one of my favorite theorists, and this was invaluable to my work. He’s wonderful at discussing the power of language and the nature of rhetoric when looking at the national race discourse. What is great about Gilroy’s book is that no one gets a pass from him: both liberal and conservative points of view are dissected. Gilroy writes critically about the current state of multiculturalism and the woeful state of trying to teach multiculturalism. It’s not an easy ready and I had to read it a few times to unpack Gilroy’s sometimes-dense writing, but he’s challenged every perception of race I’ve had up until then.
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid by Hanif Kureishi – Really most of Kureishi’s work would be appropriate in light of what’s going on right now in London, but his one specifically deals with characters as they make their way around London’s inner-city during explosive unrest among the residents and the police. Kureishi writes his characters as allegories and the people that populate Sammy and Rosie Get Laid all in some way represent an aspect of British society that is trying to come to terms with multiculturalism and its messiness. There is a lot of humor in the screenplay as well, so it’s an enjoyable read.
Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer – Fryer has the unenviable task of trying to squeeze in the history of black people into one book – this is obviously a starting point, and you should look at books specifically on the subject you’re interested in, but for a good overview, Fryer’s book is incredibly informative. He recounts the riots that plagued London post WWII, and provides an incredible historical context for the racial tensions that inflamed the riots. There’s a lot of information and history to go through with Fryer’s book, but because he includes the history of black people in Britain before the 20th Century, readers get a good sense of the foundation for what would eventually lead into racial discourse as we see it today.
The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher – I found Thatcher’s memoirs interesting because readers were able to hear the former prime minister’s personal feelings on the race riots – they don’t take up a whole lot of space in her book, but what she does include, exposes a fascinatingly cold and unsympathetic voice, regarding the violence.
Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips – this is probably the best book I’ve found on black Britain – Phillips writes about the Windrush generation – the folks who came to London right after WWII – and talks about the evolution of multi-cultural Britain, and the changes that occured throughout the years since the late 1940’s. He of course, covers the riots, as well, and writes about them in a passionate voice, decrying the violence, but also reported on the circumstances and situations that allowed for such violence to happen.
This is just a short list – I’ve also included in my research work on the growing influence of anti-Muslim attitudes in London as well as the repurcusions of 9/11 and the July 7th terrorist bombings of London. Still these are great books to read to get a better understanding of just what sort of environment London can have, and just how violence like rioting can occur.