Ben Alderson-Day

This chapter begins with the story of Leven Brown, who rowed from Cadiz to Tobago. The author talks to Leven to understand more about the link between endurance and presence. There is a dearth of accounts of experiences that sound like presence for extended pursuits done solo: ultrarunners, free divers, long distance swimmers and sailors, for example. But what drives that connection? Is it just isolation, leading us to conjure companions? Is it about people being pushed to the extremes of their limits, mentally and physically? Or is it something more individual than that, something unique to the people who have these experiences? Some of the encounters reported are similar to the classic ‘Third Man’ experiences discussed in chapter 2. They come about in adverse situations, but they occur more in continuity with everyday life. The author is left with some questions: is it stress or adversity that prompts these experiences, or do they tend to occur for a certain kind of person? Do you have to be someone extraordinary already to enter this realm? And if you do need to be a certain kind of person, how can the experience ever be separated from the individual?

in Presence
Madelaine Moore

This chapter explores how water grabbing (as expropriation) operated within two accumulation regimes. This becomes a window onto water expropriation as capital’s unit of analysis, which, through each case’s specifics, rendered the category a historically and geographically specific process. Water expropriation is one facet of a wider political project that necessitated the enclosure of water, an enclosure that underpins the current water crisis; the reimagining of water as commodity was not natural, but the outcome of historical and political processes. Following the 2007 financial crisis, global capitalism was in crisis, yet the commodification of nature and social reproduction infrastructure remained profitable. In each case, capital reimagined water as commodity to service the interests of transnational capital. In Australia, a socio/nature relation allowed nature to be understood as outside human beings, and a ‘free gift’ to be put to economic use. This was further embedded within logics of private property, and the taming of the frontier through white commodity frontier expansion. In Ireland, a business-friendly institutional formation articulated public services as potential sites for accumulation, transforming water from a common good into a capitalist resource, externalising the social consequences of water provision and scarcity onto working-class communities.

in Water struggles as resistance to neoliberal capitalism
A time of reproductive unrest

Drawing on the rich history of social reproduction theory (SRT), the book situates struggles over water within an account of capitalism that emphasises the continuing relevance of expropriation. Via an engagement with the Irish water charges protests and resistance to unconventional gas in Australia, the work explores the tension between life-making and profit-making that defines the new water commodity frontier. Struggles over water, as Moore shows, are about more than access or management of a resource. What is at stake are the social relations and institutions that allow water grabs to occur. Taking up David Harvey’s conception of a spatial fix and reading it through SRT, Moore develops the notion of a spherical fix to show how crises move through the conditions that make capitalist accumulation possible. The spherical fix highlights the dependency of accumulation on the expropriation of nature and socially reproductive labour, key dynamics of the global water crisis. The depletion of capital’s conditions of possibility are, however, only one part of the story. A central question raised is how class emerges in and beyond the points of contradiction that mark water’s commodification. What Moore finds are multiple labour powers that contain the potential to be world-making. Working at the points of contradiction, struggles over water both interrupt processes of capitalist reproduction and open a space for subversive rationalities. In Australia and Ireland, what has emerged is a time of reproductive unrest.

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Ben Alderson-Day

This chapter describes how digital interaction differs from physical – the feeling of being there with someone, sharing a common space, is lost. To comprehend how and why digital interactions feel so different, the author aims to understand how presence works in the virtual world. There is a specific definition that is applied to presence when it comes to virtual reality (VR): the sense of ‘being there’ in a computer-based environment. The author concludes by describing how ideas, methods and findings are changing fast in this field, as is the level of conversation about this experience. To understand felt presence in psychosis, we are ultimately going to need to explore both of these paths: of the body and the mind. There is not just one presence – there are others.

in Presence
Political responsibility in The Remains of the Day
Sara Upstone

Moving away from the Japanese setting of his early works, Sara Upstone’s chapter ‘“An inevitable course”: political responsibility in The Remains of the Day’ offers a re-evaluation of Ishiguro’s most celebrated novel. In the first part of the chapter, Upstone draws on Derrida to advance the notion of ‘nonresponsibility’, suggesting that Stevens, as a butler, struggles to move beyond conditional hospitality and claim personal responsibility when confronted with socio-political events beyond his remit. Developing this line of thought, the second half of the chapter goes on to consider the fruitful consequences of rereading the novel in light of the 2016 British EU referendum, where questions of accountability are brought to the fore, forming parallels with Shaw’s reading of The Buried Giant in the process. For Upstone, then, Stevens functions as ‘a synecdoche for the British voting public and its emergent political consciousness’, with the fateful Brexit vote not an aberration but rather ‘an inevitable course that has its roots in twentieth-century attitudes towards political responsibility’. In this sense, The Remains of the Day emerges as a prescient novel which taps into the early stirrings of an exclusive English nationalism and Britain’s wider desire for a more accountable politics. However, Upstone provides a delicate balance by also acknowledging Ishiguro’s claim that the novel is work of fabulism, rather than direct political commentary, gesturing to the novel form’s more general function ‘as an abstract space for applicable meaning’: a quality that assumes a fresh piquancy in Ishiguro’s later works.

in Kazuo Ishiguro
Turning a ‘colonial science’ on Britain itself
Katherine Ambler

Anthropology struggled to escape its colonial heritage and find a place for itself in the era of decolonisation. Faced with losing access to colonial field sites, anthropologists at the University of Manchester sought to establish the applicability of anthropological theory to modern Britain throughout the 1950s and 1960s. They aimed to demonstrate how their expertise, which was derived from the study of Africa and other colonial regions, could be applied to labour, community or social relations in Britain. This work sought to position anthropologists as social scientific observers who could use their knowledge of different societies to provide guidance to the British government and public in a period of social change, industrial unrest and shifting ideas about national identity. It also reveals how the end of empire and the loss of the privileges of ‘colonial science’ forced scholars to find new ways to justify their expertise and to adapt their practices to win support from new patrons. This chapter focuses on the work of anthropologists based at the University of Manchester, analysing their research into factory-floor dynamics and rural communities. It connects recent historiography on ‘post-colonial careers’ and the links between imperial and domestic intellectual practices with work on the construction of knowledge within the social and human sciences, in order to highlight how social scientific ideas about modern Britain could make use of models developed to explain the social dynamics of the Empire.

in British culture after empire
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British anti- racist non- fiction after empire
Dominic Davies

On 10 June 2020, three days after #BlackLivesMatter protesters toppled the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race topped the UK non-fiction bestseller chart. It brought with it a wave of books marketed as guides for readers – especially white readers – wishing to educate themselves about the effects of structural racism on individual lives. Many of these titles place notable emphasis on the value of personal anecdote and experience, blending memoir with often detailed and cogent anti-racist critique to create a kind of anti-racist life writing that has a long history in African American literary culture. While the genre is less widely known in Britain, this chapter argues that a similar suturing of individual biographies into the structural contours shaping social, cultural and institutional life in Britain after empire has been deployed by a number of Black writers in recent years, often to persuasive and powerful effect. This 'anti-racist non-fiction’ genre blends memoir with social and historical commentary to build similar connections between individual experiences and structural conditions, often (though not always) without conforming to the individualising inclinations of identity politics that are otherwise so pervasive in our neoliberal era. To demonstrate its arguments, the chapter focuses on two of the most rigorous and best-selling of Britain’s anti-racist non-fiction titles: Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking and Akala’s Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire.

in British culture after empire
African Caribbean women, belonging and the creation of Black British beauty spaces in Britain (c. 1948– 1990)
Mobeen Hussain

This chapter explores the creation of Black British beauty spaces for and by African-Caribbean women in postwar Britain between 1948 and 1990 by scrutinising physical spaces and the literary narratives that represented them – previously overlooked in discussions about postwar migration and multiculturalism. In doing so, it considers how negotiations of beauty, often multilayered and divisive, became resources for fashioning Black British identities. African-Caribbean women mediated Eurocentric beauty ideals, using elements of both conformity and subversion, to create innovative beauty spaces. As part of wider anti-racist community building, quotidian beauty consumption played a formative role in nurturing spaces of belonging for African-Caribbean women in Britain. Configurations of hair and skin colour were navigated in salons, Black businesses, beauty contests, and media outputs. I interdiscursively read visual and textual outputs in two pioneering Black-owned newspapers, The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean news (1958–1964) and The Voice (f.1982), alongside the early novels of Andrea Levy. This interdisciplinary approach, supplemented by anecdotal evidence and testimonies from The Heart of the Race (1985), accentuate the importance of Black beauty discourse in identity formation in modern Britain.

in British culture after empire
Daljit Nagra at the diasporic museum
John McLeod

This essay considers the space of the museum as a dissident of location of postcolonial critique, inspired by Daljit Nagra’s poetic sequence ‘Meditations on the British Museum’ (2017). It fully acknowledges the Western institution of the museum as complicit in articulating colonial perspectives, but also challenges the views of those who regard museums as forever compromised by their indebtedness to empire. To this end, the essay combines recent thinking in museum studies concerning ‘diasporic objects’ with the critique of origins central to critical adoption studies in order to query the problematic nativism and unexplored passion for the patrial that sometimes underwrites ‘decolonial’ attitudes to object provenance and legitimate heritage. Drawing, too, upon Nicholas Thomas’s work regarding ‘curiosity’, it reframes the museum as a site of postcolonial critique where emergent relations might be struck through uncommissioned encounters between the museum’s visitors and its galleries. The new constellations of meaning created as a consequence empower us not only to admit but also redeploy our contact with colonialism’s plunder for purposefully resistant ends. A cognisance of exactly these possibilities resides at the core of Nagra’s poetic sequence, which imagines a diasporic visitor to London’s British Museum wandering at will among its myriad objects drawn from, but not confined to, a plethora of empires, ancient and modern. In his exploration of the museum as a space of generative opportunities for resistant thinking, Nagra curates in his poetry a generative encounter between the present’s enduring coloniality and the contestatory constellations yielded by unchartered diasporic curiosity.

in British culture after empire
Race, decolonisation and migration since 1945

British culture after empire is the first collection of its kind to explore the intertwined social, cultural and political aftermath of empire in Britain from 1945 up to and beyond the Brexit referendum of 2016, combining approaches from experts in history, literature, anthropology, cultural studies and theatre studies. Against those who would deny, downplay or attempt to forget Britain's imperial legacy, these contributions expose and explore how the British Empire and the consequences of its end continue to shape Britain at the local, national and international level. As an important and urgent intervention in a field of increasing relevance within and beyond the academy, the book offers fresh perspectives on the colonial hangovers in postcolonial Britain from up-and-coming as well as established scholars.