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Narrating “Black” British Feminism

January 17, 2008

This is the sub-topic of one of my classes this semester, with the formal dated title of “ENGL 362: Women of Color.” In fact, we are micro-focusing on women who identify themselves, or are identified as “black” in Britain, which is far more inclusive than the American definition of “Black” because it has much less to do with kidnapping peoples and forcibly enslaving them.
Rather, in Britain, especially in the “mecca” that is London (hurrah!), persons immigrate for many reasons: they were recruited to fill economic niches vacated by Britons post-1945, they came to study, to seek asylum, etc. So, I am really really excited to devote an entire semester to reading the literature created by women who are among those considered “Black Britons”–from Southeast Asia, Africa, India, the Caribbean, China, etc. I encountered this quote in some reading, which I thought was just interesting in reference to the creation of human identities in general, and migrants identities more particularly:

the displaced position of the migrant is an entirely valuable one. In learning to reflect reality in ‘broken mirrors,’ he or she comes to treasure the partial, plural view of the world because it reveals all representations of the world are incomplete. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.
– Salman Rushdie, “Imaginary Homelands” (p.12)

This reading really struck me, and I wish I had more time to think and expound on it. It jives nicely with a lot of Zen philosophy that I have been reading, in stripping back the reality of our own fragile identity constructs; that is not to say that these things don’t matter, but that they are not IT. They are not personhood, which is sacred. They are not signifiers of our value, but adornments of the human spirit, which is intrinsically valuable, essential and responsible for the Universe. We are part of everything, no matter where we grew up or what stories we write for our own lives. We matter.

This also reminded me of an exhibition I saw last spring at the Museum of London, titled “Belonging: Voices of London’s Refugees.” These images are some I took of the exhibition:

londonpoem1.jpgpaintedguitar1.jpg


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