Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, English, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, Princeton University
The Caribbean and the Making of Modern British Culture, 1932-1967

Guyanese immigrant Mike Phillips makes a statement in his biography "London Crossings" that animates the questions my project pursues: "in Britain the spaces we inhabited also became territories of the soul ....” Just how physical space becomes cultural space is one of the fundamental movements I will chart in my dissertation. In novels of the British canon, the peculiar quality of narrative affect in relation to the colony often depends on how near or how far the Imperial interlocutor imagines himself or herself to be (Conrad's despairing narrator in "Heart of Darkness" is enabled by travel to the "Dark Continent;" Austen's ironic sense of order in "Mansfield Park" is precisely about distance.) By the same token, colonial migrants' sense of Empire shifted radically as they drew near to the metropole and finally located themselves in the heart of British governance, London. Contestations of space which are marked by memorable dates (1948 Windrush arrival; 1958 Notting Hill Riots; 1962 Immigration Act) are also meaningfully understood as moments of cultural formation and change. As Caribbean intellectuals moved to London and set about creating a resisting culture in the very seat of an erstwhile mandarin culture, Britain itself would have to make another reckoning of who and what it was. My task is to read the archive of British colonial migration-both from the perspective of Caribbean writers and workers who left narratives of their impressions of England and from the view of the British public record-to identify Phillips's "territories of the soul." My work so far suggests that these locations which become cultural moments, and then monuments, show the radical interconnectedness, contingency even, of cultural production and self-understanding on both sides of the Atlantic.