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6 Staging the Postcolony Black British Citizenship and Britain’s Transnational Migrations Ghana became the first African state to acquire independence in 1957. Chairman Mao died in 1976. The nineteen years in between mark a crucial period in the development of Black diasporic visibility in Europe and internationally. It was a time of passionate involvement in global solidarity movements and the formulation of radical itineraries for national sovereignty and self-determination. The cumulative effects of three centuries of slavery, indentured servitude, and colonial subjection galvanized Third World peoples into international socialist and Pan-African coalitions. A transnational cadre of Black radicals developed a political framework within which to articulate concerns about economic and cultural rights, simultaneously charting new modes of citizenship. Much of this activity occurred in the heart of the crumbling empire. In Anglophone countries such as Tanzania, Britain had always loomed as a port of call. Historically, Britain functioned as a meeting ground for Third World nationals from colonized, newly independent, or transitioning Anglophone states, a relatively hospitable place to convene and exchange notes. From the 1930s to the ’50s, London and Paris were transit points for emerging anticolonial figures like W. E. B. Du Bois, Jawaharlal Nehru, Ho Chi Minh, Gandhi, George Padmore, Léopold Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah, 5 89 5 and C. L. R. James. Later, decolonizing Third World communities migrated to Britain for economic and educational reasons, bringing with them ideas of political participation and a desire for new kinds of cosmospolitan citizenship . Depending on the conditions of migration (forced or voluntary), the process generated levels of psychic and political dislocation making it difficult to mesh with the political and cultural fabric of British life. But these traumatic dislocations offered opportunities as well. In newly independent states like Tanzania, Kenya, or Uganda, the urgency to create a cohesive national culture discouraged public expressions of dissent, narrowing the public sphere in the interests of the state. Former colonial host states like Britain, however, bore antagonistic, interdependent, and permeable relations with former colonial subjects, creating new—though no less troubled—avenues for individual autonomy and dissent. The heterogeneous history of Britain’s Black populations catalyzed transnational ideas of citizenship and belonging that far exceeded the boundaries of the British state. Nationally bound notions of British citizenship collided with the transnational relationships of Britain to its former colonies, invoking other histories of cultural citizenship in the process. Concepts of citizenship shaping cultural dialogue in states such as Tanzania, combined with new discourses adopted by East African–Asian and Caribbean migrants, provoked heated debate on the nature of the postcolonial state. The idea of Britain itself as such an entity gained currency. That celebrated British insularity and its attendant claim to cultural purity—“Englishness”—slowly gave way to notions of a postcolonial Britishness incorporating its Subcontinental , African, and Caribbean influences, upsetting conventional notions of where the First World ended and the Third World began. The Black arts movement in Britain developed in the context of this self-conscious struggle for an expanded public culture and broadened concepts of citizenship. According to Kwesi Owusu, editor of Storms of the Heart, a survey of Black arts since the 1950s, Black cultural work has been accomplished despite deplorable public funding, weak infrastructures, and what Owusu calls the “disorganic effects of state culture,” a pointed critique of Britain’s attempts to contain its postwar immigrant populations through hostile policy and ideological scapegoating.1 The development of Black arts in Britain has occurred in implicit or overt engagement with these machines of governmentality, critiquing, resisting, and protesting the regulatory regimes through which Britain’s immigrant communities have had to produce their own subjectivities. During the early postwar years, Black arts functioned as a mantle for a diverse array of immigrant constituencies. Members of the Caribbean arts S t a g i n g t h e P o s t c o l o n y 5 90 5 movement (CAM), for instance—including Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Doris Brathwaite, Andrew Salkey, John La Rose, Orlando Patterson, Sarah White, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o—orchestrated a lively diasporic cultural renewal.2 Although primarily an experimental venue for writers and poets from the Anglophone Caribbean, CAM self-consciously tried to include Francophone and Iberian Caribbean compatriots as well. The forums organized by CAM covered topics ranging from the responsibility of West Indian writers to the masses, theories of creolization, the influence of the Harlem Renaissance, the negritude movement, and Cuban negrissimo, to the...


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