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Inspired by other studies that analyse the politics of Enoch Powell in light of the legacy of the British Empire, this chapter examines the British radical right’s response to Commonwealth immigration and decolonisation. In both challenging and building on these studies, this chapter argues that the British radical right drew deeply on the vast ideological and experiential reservoir of British imperialism in formulating and articulating their political vision. Drawing mostly on the published output of several of the groups that merged together to become the National Front in 1967, the chapter demonstrates that the activists within these groups experienced decolonisation and Commonwealth immigration as interlinked civilisational crises. In doing so, it considers their presence and activism around the Notting Hill racist riots in 1958 and at their response to Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. Against what they termed the ‘coloured invasion’ in Britain and the perceived surrender of ‘white rule’ abroad, they looked longingly at the renegade settler states of South Africa and Rhodesia, eventually reimagining Britain as the metropolitan equivalent of a besieged white-settler colony and white Britons as a variety of endangered white settler. This saw them reject the imperial remnants of the Commonwealth and advocate an imperial solution of a different order: a white alliance of Britain, its Dominions, South Africa and Rhodesia.
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.
The Introduction sets out the cultural and political background to the book, detailing the editors’ shared interest in Rhodesia’s surprising influence within Britain and the figure of Enoch Powell. These twin research interests provided the impetus for the conference and later the book. Moving from the ‘shards’ of empire found in rural Norfolk to the ongoing Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall campaigns, the Introduction demonstrates how the legacies of empire remain an enduring and prominent feature of British culture. This section also works to distinguish what the editors and other contributors mean by ‘culture’ as well as Britishness, distinguishing England from the other constituent parts of the UK, which have their own complex relationships with the British Empire and English imperialism. The Introduction sets out the historiographical and literary works upon which the entire book is founded and engages with key scholars who have shaped the work of all the contributors, as well as given us the tools with which to begin dismantling the legacies of empire. The Introduction also pays close attention to the ongoing ‘imperial history wars’ and apparent ‘cultural wars’ currently raging within British academia and politics.
Tribe Arts is a philosophically inspired, radical-political theatre company based in Leeds. Founded by Tajpal Rathore and Samran Rathore, it aims to amplify the stories and voices of second- and third-generation black and Asian people in Britain, interrogating themes and issues such as race, belonging and identity. Tribe Arts’s previous shows have included Darokhand, a reimagining of six Shakespeare plays, amalgamated into an original story set in a striking Gothic-Mughal world – stylistically a gothic landscape evoking Mughal India; and Tribe Talks, a radical format of participatory theatre in which a panel of speakers motivate the audience to discuss important topics around the history of black and Asian people. In 2020, Tribe Arts launched Off/Stage, the only e-zine currently dedicated to black and Asian theatre and culture in the UK. This interview sees editors Josh, Liam and Emma reconvene with Thaj and Sam, both of whom presented on decolonial theatre practice at the original 2018 ‘After Empire?’ conference. In this conversation, held during the autumn of 2020, Thaj and Sam reflect on their origins as an organisation, exploring why decolonial theatre is necessary in modern Britain and how their work confronts the legacies of empire across British society.