In preparation for liquid blackness‘ Black Audio Film collective event, Cameron Kunzelman read through a selection of works pertinent to understanding the black radical tradition as well as the uprisings that took place during the early 1980s in Britain. These uprisings were informed and generated by the shifting social tides of the postwar period. The bibliography below is a small selection of texts that help contextualize the social and political movements that erupted in activity during the 1980s, setting the scene for the artistic explorations and reflections of the Black Audio Film collective’s work.
Toward The African Revolution is a collection of personal and journalistic pieces centered around European racism and the anticolonial efforts across Africa during the middle of the 20th century. Allying himself with the Algerian National Liberation Front, Fanon critiques the colonial mindset and provides a foundation for radical black thought that would be taken up by liberationists across Europe and the United States over the next several decades.
Written later in Fanon’s life, The Wretched of the Earth is a reflective series of essays that show the effects of colonization on the minds of the colonized. Thinking back on the middle of the 20th century, Fanon attempted to diagnose the revolutionary successes and failures of postcolonialism, warning against the violence of overriding party ideologies and national identity alike. This book features the famous “On Violence” essay, which provides a framework for understanding the necessity and application of violence as an act of resistance by the colonized.
The Portable Malcolm X Reader is an edited volume of primary documents around the life of Malcolm X from his birth until far after his death. It provides a timeline around these documents and attempts to create an immense amount of context around X’s affiliation with the Nation of Islam. A substantial amount of the text is devoted to reprinting newspaper articles which reported on Malcolm X’s speeches and activities during the period in which the NOI flourished during the middle of the decade. The latter quarter of the book features extensive interviews with former Nation of Islam members about such topics as X’s personality, the organization of the NOI’s military wing (Fruit of Islam), and varied other topics.
Uprising! is a book about the British riots in Bristol, Brixton, Southall, Toxteth, Liverpool, and various other localities across England. This book contextualizes these riots in both the long and short history of Britain. The riots exist in the multi-century continuum of riots as well as in a very specific postwar context, especially around the Black British working class. Uprising! makes the argument that British economic policy and a long-standing racist police force combined to create a massive backlash from youth populations of color. While these have historically been read as black, and a significant number of riots were started in black communities because of offenses directed at those communities, Uprising! devotes a substantial amount of pages to arguing that this radical turn in Britain was also a symptom of national racism against people of Indian and Pakistani descent alongside those of Carribean descent.
The Scarman Report is the official document produced from the inquest conducted by Lord Scarman into the Brixton riots. Best read in conjunction with Uprising!, Scarman comes to the conclusion that the British police force targeted black youth for arrest previous to the riots and that they were therefore, to some degree, a racist police force. However, he also comes to the conclusion that the violent, sometimes illegal efforts that the police used to suppress the protest were justified in their actions. A necessary primary document for understanding the conditions that necessitated black radicalism in Britain during the latter half of the 20th century.
Black Politics and Urban Politics in Britain is an extensive overview of the British state and its relationship to its black subjects in the 20th century. While very dry and not as polemical as the rest of the texts on this list, this book provides the most comprehensive overview of the stage in which black protest and violent action emerged.
‘There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation is a necessary critical companion to the Jacobs book mentioned previously on this list. Gilroy contextualizes the rise of anti-racist politics through the cultural production of the latter half of the 20th century in Britain, critiquing the politics of both the left and the right through a radical anti-racist lens.
We Want To Riot, Not To Work is a pamphlet released a year after the Brixton riots commemorating and contextualizing those riots. It tells a story unlike the sociological or critical texts, speaking not historically but experientially. As the writers explain, “the uprisings didn’t transform those fundamental conditions of work, wages and policing, for us they marked at lease a temporary shift in social relations.” This is required reading.