Remembering colonialism: race and identity formation in post-war Britain
This thesis investigates collective memory of British colonialism and ongoing structural racism in the UK, using the fields of memory studies, Critical Race Theory, and postcolonial studies as theoretical coordinates. The three fields share a fundamental core in providing revisionary critiques of dominant social, cultural and political texts: each discipline considers how public discourse forms social identities. However, interdisciplinary convergence between these fields faces challenges posed by the particular national contexts shaping their inquiry: in Britain, memories of world wars and the Holocaust eclipse colonial memory, and CRT is largely particular to the race-conscious critique of ‘liberal assumptions’ in US civil rights law from which it emerged. The thesis confronts these challenges. Building on memory work’s excavation of socio-cultural sites and texts as key indicators of national self-determination, the project uses contemporary commemorative practice to examine Britain’s relationship with colonial history. Using a comparative and interdisciplinary methodology with methods from cultural studies and those specific to CRT, the project will generate a dialogue on the constitution of racial oppression in the British context. It will contribute to CRT scholarship in Britain through a new analytical framework, also furthering its credentials as an international discipline.