Postcolonial Melancholia

Postcolonial Melancholia

Paul Gilroy
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Postcolonial Melancholia
    Book Description:

    In an effort to deny the ongoing effect of colonialism and imperialism on contemporary political life, the death knell for a multicultural society has been sounded from all sides. That's the provocative argument Paul Gilroy makes in this unorthodox defense of the multiculture. Gilroy's searing analyses of race, politics, and culture have always remained attentive to the material conditions of black people and the ways in which blacks have defaced the "clean edifice of white supremacy." In Postcolonial Melancholia, he continues the conversation he began in the landmark study of race and nation 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack' by once again departing from conventional wisdom to examine -- and defend -- multiculturalism within the context of the post-9/11 "politics of security."

    This book adapts the concept of melancholia from its Freudian origins and applies it not to individual grief but to the social pathology of neoimperialist politics. The melancholic reactions that have obstructed the process of working through the legacy of colonialism are implicated not only in hostility and violence directed at blacks, immigrants, and aliens but in an inability to value the ordinary, unruly multiculture that has evolved organically and unnoticed in urban centers. Drawing on the seminal discussions of race begun by Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. DuBois, and George Orwell, Gilroy crafts a nuanced argument with far-reaching implications. Ultimately, Postcolonial Melancholia goes beyond the idea of mere tolerance to propose that it is possible to celebrate the multiculture and live with otherness without becoming anxious, fearful, or violent.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50969-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Introduction. On Living with Difference
    (pp. 1-26)

    Multicultural society seems to have been abandoned at birth. Judged unviable and left to fend for itself, its death by neglect is being loudly proclaimed on all sides. The corpse is now being laid to rest amid the multiple anxieties of the “war on terror.” The murderous culprits responsible for its demise are institutional indifference and political resentment. They have been fed by the destruction of welfare states and the evacuation of public good, by privatization and marketization. The resurgent imperial power of the United States has made multiculturalism an aspect of the clash of integral and incompatible civilizations, thereby...

  5. Part One: The Planet

    • 1 Race and the Right to Be Human
      (pp. 29-57)

      The horrors of the twentieth century brought “races” to political life far more vividly and naturalistically than imperial conquest and colonial administration had done. Our postcolonial environment reverberates with the catastrophes that resulted from the militarized agency and unprecedented victimization of racial and ethnic groups. It is not surprising that contemporary analysis of racism and its morbidities still belongs emphatically to that unhappy period. It should be obvious that critical analysis of racisms needs to be self-consciously and deliberately updated. Few new ways of thinking “race” and its relationship to economics, politics, and power have emerged since the era of...

    • 2 Cosmopolitanism Contested
      (pp. 58-84)

      The states of permanent emergency enacted through the declaration of “war against terror” allow minimal scope for active dissent. In many countries dissidence has been criminalized as a minor form of treason, and, where the newly fortified frontier between warring civilizations has been brought to life by info-war and the militarization of everyday life, the desire to presume the equal worth of alien cultures and to offer equal respect in proliferating encounters with otherness is thought to be misguided or out of date. Civilizations are now closed or finished cultures that need to be preserved. The individual agents who are...

  6. Part Two: Albion

    • 3 “Has It Come to This?”
      (pp. 87-120)

      Tales of heroism by the brave pilots of Spitfires and Hurricanes were important to my postwar childhood. Their anti-Nazi action established one dimension of my moral universe. Yet, when the World War II airplanes thundered overhead during the pageantry that attended the Queen Mother’s burial in 2002, it was impossible not to wonder why that particular mythic moment of national becoming and community has been able to endure and retain such a special grip on Britain’s culture and self-understanding. Why are those martial images—the battle of Britain, the Blitz, and the war against Hitler—still circulating and, more importantly,...

    • 4 The Negative Dialectics of Conviviality
      (pp. 121-152)

      We have seen that for more than thirty-five years, Britain’s politics of race has been dominated by the combination of its postimperial melancholia with several versions of race talk. This unstable mixture identified the social and political problems embodied in the invasive presence of immigrants and their kin as an intrusion, an alien wedge cutting in to the body of an unsuspecting nation. It has helped to keep the anti-Nazi war at the center of the nation’s sense of itself, to turn postcolonial settlers back into immigrants long after immigration had been stopped, and to saturate recent talk of refugees...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 153-160)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 161-162)
  9. Index
    (pp. 163-174)