Tati, suburbia and modernity
France experienced rapid economic growth from the end of World War II until
the mid 1970s.1 Consumption and incomes rose by a third between 1949, the
year that saw the release of Jacques Tati’s first feature film, Jour de fête, and 1958,
when his third, Mon Oncle, appeared. During these same years, the number of
privately owned cars more than doubled, and the stock of home appliances such
as refrigerators and vacuum cleaners increased by 400% (Kuisel 1993: 104–5). As
Kristin Ross puts it in her influential account
The book is a comprehensive and definitive history of the Leeds Jewish community, which was – and remains – the third largest in Britain. It is organised in three parts: Context (history, urban, demography); Chronology (covering the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1940s); and Contours (analysing themes and aspects of the history up to the present time). The book shows how a small community was affected by mass immigration, and through economic progress and social mobility achieved integration into the host society. It is a story of entrepreneurial success which transformed a proletarian community into a middle-class society. Its members contributed extensively to the economic, social, political and cultural life of Leeds, which provided a supportive environment for Jews to pursue their religion, generally free from persecution. The Leeds Jewish community lived predominantly in three locations which changed over time as they moved in a northerly direction to suburbia.
The Experience of Suburban Modernity explores how the adoption of new forms of private transport transformed inter-war suburban London. It shows how London’s suburban middle classes used their newly found disposable income to enjoy driving, motorcycling and flying. The Experience of Suburban Modernity demonstrates that these new practices were welcomed by many, but met resistance to change from those who were dismayed by the accidents that resulted from increased mobility and the aesthetic and cultural changes that were the consequence of Americanization and suburban development. The book is divided into three sections. The first considers each of the private transport technologies in turn: the car, the bicycle and motorcycle, and the aeroplane and shows how they contributed to a sense of suburban modernity. The second section examines the infrastructure that supported these technologies and shows how they were interpreted in contested visions of the meaning of Englishness. The final section describes a set of journeys that demonstrate a condition of suburban modernity. These include the roadhouse, a site of Americanisation and transgression, new mobile practices of consumption, the embodied experiences of driving in a modern way, and the disastrous consequences of air and car accidents.
feeling when I
look at modernist buildings from the same period; there is something so
optimistic about them, they are both surprising and poignant. I think that
this is because we know how the story ends; those in the photographs could
not then guess what was in store for them at the conclusion of the 1930s.
The independent mobility of driving a car, something we take for
granted, is an important starting point for me, both in my research and in
this book. It moves my observations away from that static cliché of suburbia, the house, to the car, motorcycle, bicycle and
roads were empty of cars and that suburbia was under the thrall
of the train and bus timetable.
By 1939, there were some two million cars on Britain’s roads. The
car had become an important status symbol and means of independent
transport for many wealthier Britons and was a key ingredient in what has
become known as ‘the new consumerism’ of this time.3 The south-east of
England was the most prosperous part of Britain in the 1930s and suburban London was central to this economic development.4 Where better to
look for signs of continuity between this time and place
At the beginning of the twentieth century, London’s roads were filled
with an uncontrolled jumble of horse-drawn carts, carriages, buses and
taxis, early cars, trams and bicycles. Traffic jams on poorly made, narrow
streets were common and made for extended journey times; long-distance
journeys from the capital to the provinces were particularly problematic.
The building of the inner ring of Victorian suburbia had added 1.6 million people to London’s population in a period of twenty years.6 These
newcomers were housed in a densely packed set of regular
Peach has observed that ‘child murder
undermines the fundamental premise upon which the ideal of suburbia is
constructed, that the suburban neighbourhood is a safe environment in
which to bring up children’. 9 This helps explain why the lynch mob is
frequently invoked in order to rid the community of this
‘monstrous’ aberration. What makes matters worse in
Craven’s film is that vigilantism represents
in Hull, projected a note of ordinariness that was very appealing to the newly formed
lower middle classes in London’s outer suburbia.71 This was due to her
unglamourous appearance at this point in her career, and to the girl next
door projection made for her by her sponsors at The Daily Mail.72 Her slow
parade through London’s suburban streets allowed for a direct connection
between the accentuated air-mindedness of outer London and a reflected
validation of ordinary suburban virtues.
Resistance to suburban air-mindedness
As has been shown, airports and
mobile, wealthy, sophisticated and well dressed.
Images from the opening night of the Ace of Spades clubroom in 1931
show an audience in evening dress, white tie for the men and evening gowns
for the women. Monica Ewer, writing in Roadhouse, described the clientele
of a fictionalised but clearly recognisable Ace of Spades as ‘the great caravanserai, crowded with city folk, rich, idle, sophisticated their clothes from
Paris’.27 She conjured up a romantic vision of a roadhouse in suburbia, but
peopled by customers who had clearly driven from the Embassy Club in
Queer phenomenology, and cultural and religious commodifi cation in Hanif
Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and The Buddha of
Alberto Fernández Carbajal
Predicament , focusing on Islam’s role in British race relations.
Both these critical texts help to confirm the film’s iconic status as a foundational narrative of South Asian diasporic and queer experience. In turn, Kureishi’s debut novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (henceforth Buddha ), written as a response to Rushdie’s prompting that Kureishi write a novel, is often considered a seminal literary text in the representation of the first- and second-generation South Asian diaspora in Britain, although its overall stance on issues of ethnicity, race