Paul Gilroy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Paul Gilroy (born February 16, 1956) is a Professor at the London School of Economics.

Born in the East End of London to Guyanese and English parents (his mother was Beryl Gilroy). He was educated at University College School and obtained his bachelor's degree at Sussex University in 1978. He moved from there to Birmingham University where he completed his Ph.D. in 1986. Gilroy is a sociologically inclined scholar of Cultural Studies and Black Atlantic diasporic culture. He is the author of Ain't no Black in the Union Jack (1987), Small Acts (1993), The Black Atlantic (1993), Between Camps (2000) (also published as "Against Race" in the United States), and "After Empire" (2004) (published as Postcolonial Melancholia in the United States), among other works. Gilroy was also co-author of The Empire Strikes Back: race and racism in 1970s Britain (1982) a path-breaking, collectively-produced volume published under the imprint of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University where he was a doctoral student working with the Jamaican intellectual Stuart Hall. Other members of the group which produced that volume included Valerie Amos and Pratibha Parmar.

Gilroy taught at South Bank University, Essex University and then Goldsmiths College for many years before leaving London to take up a tenured post at Yale University where he was the chair of the Department of African American Studies and Charlotte Marian Saden Professor of Sociology and African American Studies. He is now the first holder of the Anthony Giddens Professorship in Social Theory at the London School of Economics.

Gilroy worked for the Greater London Council for several years during the 1980s before becoming an academic. During that period, he was associated with the weekly listings magazine City Limits and The Wire.

Gilroy is known as a path-breaking scholar and historian of the music of the Black Atlantic diaspora, as a commentator on the politics of race, nation and racism in the UK, and as an archaeologist of the literary and cultural lives of blacks in the western hemisphere. According to the US Journal of Blacks in Higher Education he has been consistently among the most frequently cited black scholars in the humanities and social sciences. He held the top position in the humanities rankings in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Gilroy's theories of race, racism and culture were influential in shaping the cultural and political movement of black British people during the 1990s. Along with people like Lenny Henry, Trevor Nelson, Norman Jay, and Ian Wright he has enabled black British people to declare their commitment and belonging to the United Kingdom.

Gilroy was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of London by Goldsmiths College in September 2005.

He is married to the writer and academic Vron Ware. She is the author of Women and the National Front, At Women's Convenience, Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics, and Culture (with Les Back) , Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History and Who Cares About Britishness. The couple live in North London, and have two children.

Bibliography

  • (1982) (co-author) The Empire Strikes Back - Race and Racism in '70s Britain, Hutchinson/Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
  • (1987) There Ain't No Black In the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation, Hutchinson
  • (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Verso
  • (1993) Small Acts: thoughts on the politics of black cultures, Serpent's Tail
  • (1995) Hendrix, hip-hop e l’interruzione del pensiero" with Iain Chambers, Costa & Nolan.
  • (2000) Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  • (2000) Between Camps: Nations, Culture and the Allure of Race, Allen Lane
  • (2000) "Without Guarantees: Essays In Honour of Stuart Hall", Verso (co-edited with Angela McRobbie and Lawrence Grossberg)
  • (2004) After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia, Routledge
  • (2007) Black Britain - A Photographic History (with an intro by Stuart Hall) Saqi

(1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

Gilroy’s book, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), marks a turning point in the study of diasporas. Applying a cultural studies approach, Gilroy provides a study of African intellectual history and its cultural construction. Moving away from all cultural forms which could be deemed ethnic absolutism, Gilroy offers the concept of the Black Atlantic as a space of transnational cultural construction. In his book, Gilroy makes the peoples who suffered from the Atlantic slave trade the emblem of his new concept of diasporic peoples. This new concept breaks with the traditional diasporic model based on the idea that diasporic people are separated by a communal source or origin, offering a second model that privileges hybridity. Gilroy's theme of Double Consciousness involves Black Atlantic striving to be both European and Black through their relationship to the land of their birth and their ethnic political constituency being absolutely transformed.

Rather than encapsulating the African American tradition within national borders, Gilroy recognizes the actual significance of European and African travels of many African American writers. To prove his point, Gilroy re-reads the works of African American intellectuals against the background of a trans-Atlantic context. Gilroy’s concept of the Black Atlantic fundamentally disrupts contemporary forms of cultural nationalism and reopens the field of African American studies by enlarging the field interpretive framework.

An example of how Gilroy and his concepts in the Black Atlantic directly affected a specific field of African American studies would be its role in defining and influencing the shift between the political black British movement of the 1960-70 to the 1980-90's. Gilroy came to out right reject the working class movements of the 70s and 80s on the basis that the system and logic behind the movements was fundamentally flawed as a result of its roots in the a way of thinking that not only ignored race but also the trans-Atlantic experience as an integral part of the black experience and history. This argument is expanded upon in one of his previous co-authored books, The Empire Strikes Back (1983), which was supported by the now closed Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham School in the UK. The Black Atlantic received an American Book Award in 1994. It has subsequently been translated into Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.




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