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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

on 1 August 2006
Authors known for one outstanding book are often faced with pressures to continue writing in the same vein, and fall victim to the expectation of more of the same. Very often they end up continuing on the same theme, only for later works to be slated or ignored for a perceived lack of originality. Gilroy has largely been a victim of this pattern, as he continues to defend basically the same problematic he advanced in his best-known, pathbreaking work. This does not mean, however, that his later works are not worth reading. In this text, Gilroy traces issues of race and racism in British life through a variety of everyday phenomena, from analyses of Ali G and "The Office" to the role of World War II in British collective memory and the construction of national identity among football supporters. As a commentary on current events and a source of vital insights into the continuing relevance of the concerns Gilroy has addressed throughout his career, the book is a crucial reminder and a source of food for thought.

One problem with the book is that it flows badly, basically reading as a collection of short reflections, mostly reading like extended editorials, on aspects of racism and national identity in Britain, interspersed with overly brief inquiries into various theoretical issues. It doesn't advance a new problematic in the way something like Bhabha's "Location of Culture" or Said's "Orientalism", or for that matter Gilroy's earlier "Aint No Black in the Union Jack" do. The arguments made read as journalistic and speculative, challenging the reader to think without really providing support sufficient to convince a sceptic. The main theoretical stakes - Gilroy's choice of a "planetary humanism" against "multiculturalisms" and his stress on everyday "conviviality" as an antidote to racism - are insufficiently developed and fail to engage with possible criticisms, making the book too easy for others to dismiss.

This is therefore a good book, but not outstanding - worth reading for its insights, but unlikely to shake allegiances or change perspectives.
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on 10 October 2014
Good value for this book
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