A Family History of British Empire

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2021-02-10 01:42Z by Steven

A Family History of British Empire

Black Perspectives

Mary Hicks, Assistant Professor of Black Studies and History
Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

“Where are you from?”—The deceptively simple question looms over the sprawling narrative of Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, the newest work by Black feminist theorist, literary critic, and historian Hazel Carby. This historical and existential query frames Carby’s gripping exploration of her ambivalent relationship to idealized “Britishness” as the child of a white, working-class Welsh mother and a Black, Jamaican father born in 1940s London. The omnipresent demand by strangers that she produce a satisfying account of her origins exemplifies her experiences as an unlocatable and thus unimaginable subject (98). Her own emotionally charged childhood memories ground Carby’s evocative examination of the intertwined nature of intimacy, race, and labor in the British Empire, stretching from the period following World War II back to the revolutionary wars of the late eighteenth century.

Imperial Intimacies begins with the Gramscian imperative to reconstruct, and at times invent, one’s personal genealogy, not only in fact but in feeling…

Read the entire review here.

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“Who Inherits?”: A Conversation Between Tao Leigh Goffe and Hazel V. Carby

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2020-02-04 20:22Z by Steven

“Who Inherits?”: A Conversation Between Tao Leigh Goffe and Hazel V. Carby

Public Books

Tao Leigh Goffe, Assistant Professor of Literary Theory and Cultural History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Over the decades of her transatlantic career, distinguished Yale University professor emerita of American and African American studies Hazel V. Carby has considered how one negotiates ancestral ties to two islands intimately entangled by empire, Britain and Jamaica. Her new book, Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, is her answer to that question.

As Hazel explains in Imperial Intimacies, hers was an unlikely path to academia. She started out training as a ballerina and went on to teach at a secondary school in East London. When she moved to the West Midlands to pursue a master’s degree and then a PhD at the University of Birmingham, her life was altered forever by the influence of a mentor—Stuart Hall, esteemed professor and cofounder of the university’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies—who also negotiated a family history strung between Britain and Jamaica.

Hazel and I sat down to speak about the publication of Imperial Intimacies, a book that, she realized, she had been writing her whole life. We discussed the influence of books such as Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Like Dana, the main character in Butler’s Afrofuturist novel—who finds herself teleported into the plantations of the antebellum past, meeting her black and white ancestors—Hazel traces her African and European Carby lineage. She does so through meticulous research on her ancestors in England, Wales, and Jamaica.

Hazel speculates on the subjectivity of one of her white forbears: an English man named Lilly Carby, who arrived in Jamaica in 1788 as a member of the British Army. What can Hazel possibly inherit from him, when her other ancestors were his property? Her experimental rendering in Imperial Intimacies presents the reader with a kaleidoscopic view of the ongoing coloniality of the present…

Read the entire interview here.

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But I was unprepared for intense cross-examination about where I was from. I did not understand, until I was a teenager, that my father was coaching me in the art of being a “good” black girl, acceptable to white people.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-11-20 01:44Z by Steven

After my school experiences, any demands to explain where I came from disconcerted me. My parents taught me to hold my head erect, to look directly at adults who addressed me, to smile with my eyes not just my teeth, to speak clearly, and to be conspicuously open, transparent and honest. My dad said that if I did not follow this advice I would be regarded as “shifty”, duplicitous and unworthy of attention. But I was unprepared for intense cross-examination about where I was from. I did not understand, until I was a teenager, that my father was coaching me in the art of being a “good” black girl, acceptable to white people.

Hazel Carby, “My Jamaican dad was an RAF hero. Why did no one believe me?The Guardian, November 16, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/16/jamiacan-father-raf-hero-.

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My Jamaican dad was an RAF hero. Why did no one believe me?

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-11-19 21:22Z by Steven

My Jamaican dad was an RAF hero. Why did no one believe me?

The Guardian

Hazel Carby, Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies; Professor of American Studies
Yale University

Hazel Carby: ‘I learned that I was not considered British.’ Photograph: Michel Huneault/The Guardian

My Welsh mother met my father during the war. From childhood, I have grown to dread the question: ‘Where are you from?’

I was in primary school the first time it happened. The boy who sat at the desk to my right – the one who used to pinch my arm whenever the teacher’s back was turned – finished talking about his father’s war experience of heat and flies and deserts while driving tanks across Egypt, and looked at me smugly as if to say, “Beat that.” It was my turn to describe my father’s contribution to the war effort. I stated clearly that my father served in the RAF. On the piano at home stood a photograph of a young man in RAF uniform, with an enigmatic smile, head tilted at a slightly rakish and daredevil angle, holding a pipe in his hand. In my eyes he was the epitome of wartime British heroism.

Before I could describe the photograph, I was interrupted by the teacher who told me to sit and listen carefully. I sat. The entire class was stunned. Silenced by her anger, they stared at me, the culprit, as the teacher issued a warning about the dire consequences of telling lies. She insisted that there were no “coloured” people in Britain during the war, that no coloured people served in any of the armed services, and certainly not in the RAF, the most elite branch of the British military.

Speaking in the slow and deliberate tone of voice that she adopted when she would brook no opposition, she declared that coloured people were not British, but immigrants who arrived on these shores after the war had been fought and won. We all shifted back in our seats, and I cowered in shock and humiliation…

Read the entire article here.

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Hazel Carby: Where Are You From?

Posted in Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2019-10-22 01:31Z by Steven

Hazel Carby: Where Are You From?

Duke Franklin Humanities Institute

An account of how a young black girl, growing up in South London, had to learn to negotiate the racial fictions of post World War Two Britain, drawn from Dr. Carby’s forthcoming book, “Imperial Intimacies” (Verso 2019).

Hazel Carby is Charles C. & Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies & American Studies and the Director of the Initiative on Race, Gender, and Globalization at Yale University. Born in postwar UK, trained at the University of Birmingham under Stuart Hall’s mentorship, she is a foundational scholar of US black feminist intellectual history. Her books include Reconstructing Womanhood (1987), Race Men (1998), and Cultures in Babylon (1999). She was named the 2014 recipient of the Jay B. Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies.

Co-directed by Richard Powell, Jasmine Nichole Cobb, and Lamonte Aidoo, the From Slavery to Freedom Lab examines the life and afterlives of slavery and emancipation, linking Duke University to the Global South.

Watch the address here.

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An Intimate History of the British Empire

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-10-11 01:56Z by Steven

An Intimate History of the British Empire

The New Yorker

Maya Binyam

Hazel Carby as a child. Photograph Courtesy Hazel Carby

In “Imperial Intimacies,” Hazel Carby weaves together the story of colonialism and the story of her family.

After Carl Carby arrived in England from Jamaica, in 1943, he wore starched shirts, polished dress shoes, and neatly knotted ties. He was from the colonies, but his mannerisms evinced a restrained, British sensibility. Like most early immigrants from the Caribbean, he was expected to provide a service: his entrance to England was predicated on his employment as a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force, which recruited around six thousand people from England’s “black colonies” to fight in the Second World War. At a dance in Worcester, he met Iris Leaworthy, a young, white Welsh woman who worked as a civil servant in the Air Ministry, and the two bonded over the surprising similarities of their upbringings. Both had grown up in poverty. As schoolchildren, each donned a starched uniform and, on Empire Day, a holiday designed to instill in children a feeling of belonging to a great nation, waved the Union Jack. When England went to war, both of them enthusiastically offered their service. The pair soon married, and had a daughter named Hazel. To her, Carl spoke little of Jamaica. “It was as if he had been born an airman in the Royal Air Force,” Hazel Carby writes in “Imperial Intimacies,” her new book of political history, which came out last month…

Read the entire review here.

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Archive Fever

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-10-07 01:23Z by Steven

Archive Fever


Tiana Reid, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of English and Comparative Literature
Columbia University, New York, New York

Autobiography and archival research collide in Hazel Carby’s memoir

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands by Hazel V. Carby. Verso. 416 pages. $29.

“Are we going to burn it?” A question about the fate of the future concludes Hazel Carby’s Race Men (1998), a powerful academic book about suffocating representations of black American masculinities based on a lecture the author delivered at Harvard. In her newest book, Carby is already burnt, the result of a smoldered past. “Imperial Intimacies is a very British story,” she writes in the preface. It is also her story: about growing up after World War II, about her childhood in the area now known as South London, about the family histories of her white Welsh mother and black Jamaican father, about, in all, the public and private agonies of imperialism and colonialism.

Probing the auto-historical, Carby studies her parents’ experiences in Jamaica and the United Kingdom, the “two islands” of the book’s subtitle. Her parents’ islands are connected not only by biological reproduction or a chance romance but also by the entanglement of ideologies. Her familial research at the National Archives of Jamaica and the United Kingdom offers at the same time a glimpse into the machinery of colonialism: the vexing racial iconography of postwar Britain, the psychic drains of poverty, the endlessness of wartime…

Read the entire review here.

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Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2019-09-26 00:11Z by Steven

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands

Verso Books
416 pages
6 x 9-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9781788735094
Ebook ISBN: 9781788735124

Hazel V. Carby, Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies; Professor of American Studies
Yale University

Imperial Intimacies by Hazel V. Carby

A haunting and evocative history of British empire, told through one woman’s search through her family’s story

“Where are you from?” was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post–World War II London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby’s place in her home, her neighbourhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.

Emerging from this setting, Carby untangles the threads connecting members of her family to each other in a web woven by the British Empire across the Atlantic. We meet Carby’s working-class grandmother Beatrice, a seamstress challenged by poverty and disease. In England, she was thrilled by the cosmopolitan fantasies of empire, by cities built with slave-trade profits, and by street peddlers selling fashionable Jamaican delicacies. In Jamaica, we follow the lives of both the “white Carbys” and the “black Carbys,” as Mary Ivey, a free woman of colour, whose children are fathered by Lilly Carby, a British soldier who arrived in Jamaica in 1789 to be absorbed into the plantation aristocracy. And we discover the hidden stories of Bridget and Nancy, two women owned by Lilly who survived the Middle Passage from Africa to the Caribbean.

Moving between the Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby’s family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire’s interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.

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Afrofuturism’s Others

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2013-05-28 02:37Z by Steven

Afrofuturism’s Others

Tate Modern
Starr Auditorium
London SE1 9TG
Saturday, 2013-06-15, 14:00-16:00 BST (Local Time)

Ellen Gallagher, Deluxe 2004–5 (detail) Mixed media, 60 frames, 38.9 x 32 cm each
Tate Photography © Tate

Ellen Gallagher’s work deconstructs received truths and weaves together propositional narratives, inhabiting spaces where the future collapses into the past, obsolescence into technology and image into text. These are spaces carved out by the cultural aesthetic of Afrofuturism.

In the context of Gallagher’s work, speakers will explore and complicate readings of Afrofuturism and its influence on contemporary artists’ practices, creating an intricate understanding of the genre and its evolutions. Speakers include Zoe Whitley (Independent Curator and panel co-organiser), Hazel V. Carby (Professor of African American Studies and Director of the Initiative on Race Gender and Globalisation at Yale University), Amna Malik (Lecturer in Art History and Theory at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL), and Lili Reynaud-Dewar

This event is related to the exhibition Ellen Gallagher: AxME

For more information, click here.

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Becoming Modern Racialized Subjects: Detours through our pasts to produce ourselves anew

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2010-05-12 00:28Z by Steven

Becoming Modern Racialized Subjects: Detours through our pasts to produce ourselves anew

Cultural Studies
Volume 23, Number 4 (July 2009)
pages 624-657
DOI: 10.1080/09502380902950948

Hazel V. Carby, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies
Yale University

This essay is a close engagement with the work of Stuart Hall which has been central to the project of unraveling the complexities of difference, divisions in history, consciousness and humanity, embedded in the geo-political oppositions of colonial center and colonized margin, home and abroad, and metropole and periphery. Hall has exposed the temporal enigma that haunts the relation between colonial and post-colonial subject formation. In response, the essay focuses on the geo-politics rather than the linear temporality of encounters in an examination of the sources of tension, contention and anxiety that arise as racialized subjects are brought into being through narration in examples drawn from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano and post-colonial Caribbean novelists. The essay concludes by positing an alternative narrative for the emergence of the modern racialized state in Britain, one that has its origins in official responses to the presence of black American troops and West Indian civilian and Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel on British soil during World War II, rather than to the Caribbean migrants who arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948.

…It was not only black subjects that were policed and disciplined. Black servicemen were dialogically constituted in their blackness in and through their potential and actual encounters with white women who were also to be ‘managed’. Reynolds records the ‘intensive efforts [that] were made to guide the conduct of British women’. For women who were in the armed service ‘military discipline was invoked’ to discourage them from fraternizing with black soldiers and by January 1944 these policies hardened when ‘the Women’s Territorial Auxillary issued an order ‘‘forbidding its members to speak to colored American soldiers except in the presence of a white [person]’’’. These systems of surveillance were not only instituted and regulated by the military they were also enabled and maintained by members of local constabularies who ‘routinely reported women soldiers found in the company of black GIs to their superiors.’ Even civilian women were prosecuted by their local police who evoked ‘a variety of laws’ to take them into custody when they were found ‘in company of black soldiers’ (Reynolds 1996, p. 229).

White women were counseled by families, friends and authorities alike, against marriage with black men; black American soldiers who wished to marry British women were refused permission to do so by their Commanding Officers and quickly transferred. Black journalist Ormus Davenport, ‘himself a wartime GI, claimed that there had been a ‘‘gentleman’s agreement’’ to prevent mixed marriages’. But ‘in the 8th Air Force Service Command where most of the American Air Force blacks were concentrated, a total ban on such marriages was quite explicit’ (Reynolds 1996, p. 231). The result was disastrous for their offspring…

Read the entire article here.

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