Paul Gilroy: against the grain
Colin MacCabe in open democracy
"Paul Gilroy has good claim to be the most influential intellectual writing in Britain today. His first major book There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Culture and Politics of Race and Nation (1987, 1991) was an inspiration to a generation of young students and artists in the 1980s who wanted to be black and British. A signature of its impact is that even the title of this pioneering study of national identity in post-empire Britain became absorbed into the culture without reference to the author.
A series of pivotal books has followed, along with a host of essays, reflections and collaborations that cohere into an unmatched and still evolving body of work. The second key text in Gilroy's career was The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (1992), which transformed academic geography and history. It made clear that Gilroy really had learned Hegel's lesson that only the slave truly understands a freedom which the master simply enjoys. As important, he had listened long and hard to the music in which the slaves and their descendants had articulated this understanding. read more