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Radicals and Renegades

Cataloguer and book reviewer Jo has been taking a good look at our Politics section…

At this early stage of the twenty-first century, we are living through a period of global turmoil and social change. Revolutions in communications, technology and the reach of surveillance unfold at a gathering pace, interwoven with an upsurge of political revolutions and coups-d’état.

photograph of the occupy wall street protest
© David Shankbone (

This post takes a look at the Politics section at AIU Race Relations Resource Centre, giving an overview of the main subsections. These range from:

  • Local and national politics in ‘Politics: UK’ – including the why’s and wherefore’s of UK riots
  • Contemporary and colonial-era French controversies in ‘Politics: Europe’
  • Radical Black intellectual thought in ‘Politics: North America’
  • Essay collections and country-focused monographs in ‘Politics: Africa’
  • Titles from the less extensive – but just as crucial – subsections of global politics.

So first of all, Politics: UK. In The Roots of Urban Unrest (Beynon & Solomos), you can read about the reasons why rioting broke out in 1980s Britain, including the events of the 1981 disturbances in Manchester’s Moss Side, covering the incendiary combination of discrimination, unemployment and social deprivation.

The Second Report of the 1985 Broadwater Farm Inquiry (Tottenham) investigates the death of the Black woman Cynthia Jarrett from a heart attack during a police search of her home; this had followed the shooting by police of the Black woman Cherry Groce a week earlier in Brixton. P.C. Blakelock was also killed during the ensuing rioting.

Photograph of Broadwater Farm Estate
Broadwater Farm Estate. © Steve Cadman (

Not on the shelves, but viewable on request is Lord Gifford’s Report on the Broadwater Farm: Toxteth Inquiry from 1989, held in the archive, while on the shelves are such specifically local studies as Racial Disadvantage in Liverpool: An Area Profile (Gideon Ben-Tovim). This level of detail allows anyone with an interest in researching political history to delve deeply into their subject matter.

image of black star book coverMore recent publications include Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements (Anandi Ramamurthy), documenting the Asian youth movements of the 1970s and 80s, organisations established by the children of first generation migrants, who were inspired by Black Power movements as well as global anti-imperialist and workers’ struggles.

The Politics: Europe subsection contains Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space. John R. Bowen explores the thinking behind the ostensibly general 2004 law banning conspicuous religious symbols (and dress) from French schools. The law actually included Christian, Jewish, Sikh and all other religions, but is thought to specifically target the Muslim article of faith, the Khimar/Hijab, or veil.

In contrast (but singing to the same tune, so to speak) we also have Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism; Césaire the Francophone poet, author and politician from Martinique, who was a founder of the literary ‘négritude’ movement, denouncing the European racism, decadence and hypocrisy that stems from colonialism.

Politics: North America is filled with important monographs, studies and edited collections of essays. Many explore the recent and highly debatable idea that, post-Obama, we are living in a ‘post-race’ era. Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society (Michael K. Brown) shows the widespread White American belief that racial discrimination no longer exists and that social injustices such as inequality in wages, access to decent housing, healthcare, are to be blamed on cultural or individual failings.

The book demonstrates that the reverse is the case, using brand new research to uncover the ways in which racism is persistently entrenched across the realms of the welfare state, employment, the criminal justice and education systems, despite marked economic improvements for Black Americans since the 1960s.

Modern Black Nationalism (William I. Van Deburg) ranges in focus from Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, Malcolm X and Assatta Shakur in the 1960s/70s, to Louis Farrakhan and Mumia Abu-Jamal in the 1980s/90s, and includes 1960s/70s civil rights activists who are now leaders in the fields of African and African American Studies, such as Molefi Asante and Maulana Karenga.

Some Black intellectual radicals sawImage of the cover of Black is a Country book the limitations of American democracy, and in Black is a Country, Nikhil Pal Singh illuminates this viewpoint through by examining the impassioned visions of equality of people like W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., C.L.R. James and Ralph Ellison, among many others.

Publications in the Politics: Africa section include collections of essays, such as The African Exception (edited by Ulf Engel) where Patrick Chabal looks at governance in African politics, Nana K. Poku and Jane Freedman at state responses to the AIDS pandemic. Books on specific countries and periods include Ghana: One Decade of the Liberal State examines Ghana’s past, present and future outlook from the position of the 1993 return to constitutional rule.

Namibia in the 1980s, published by the Catholic Institute for International Relations, discusses Namibia’s troubled decade when following civil unrest, South Africa installed an interim administration in 1985, Namibia finally acquiring full independence in 1990.

A study of China Since Tiananmen can be found in Politics: Asia and the Middle East; Politics: South America / Caribbean includes Amnesty International Report 1996; World Racism Report; The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile; and Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey, among many other attention-grabbing titles.

Finally, Politics: Global ranges from Gandhi and the Middle East; Silencing the Guns in Haiti; The Iraqi Crisis and World Order; The Fourth World, to Ethnic Conflict and Race, Racism and Development.

By aiucentre

An open access library specialising in the study of race, ethnicity and migration. Part of the University of Manchester and based at Manchester Central Library.

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