UCL Institute of the Americas


Book launch: 'Race, Class and the Politics of Decolonization' by Colin Clarke

02 December 2015, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

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UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

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Colin Clarke (Oxford) - This book consists of two journals kept while the author was carrying out fieldwork in Jamaica. Research in Kingston and visits to rural communities in 1961 are detailed before the reader is taken into the political underworld of black racism and Marxism, where the machinations of the various political groups involved lead up to the Federal Referendum – and Jamaica’s withdrawal from the Federation of the West Indies. The 1968 journal explains the impact of independence (in 1962) and the intervening elections of 1962 and 1967 on the dissolution of the forces of black racism; and explores the beginnings of the misuse of patronage by politicians, and the deployment at election times of violence by gangs allied to the political parties.

Each journal was written up as the fieldwork progressed, and the reader experiences the immediate circumstances of the research on a day-by-day basis. However, an historical reflection is introduced by the careful comparison made between the encounters the author had in 1961 with Ras Tafarians, Marxists and other activists and the records of the Jamaica Special Branch as set out in the (secret) monthly Local Standing Intelligence Committee Reports for 1960, 1961 and 1962. These reports, deposited in the PRO, TNA, Kew, provide fascinating collateral insights into the conversations recorded in the text. But the text alone expresses the ideas and opinions of the Jamaican protagonists in their own words.

Colin Clarke is Emeritus Professor of Geography at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He is a gold medalist of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and in 2011-2012 was a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. His books include Class, Ethnicity and Community in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca’s Peasantries (2000); Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692‑2002 (2006); Decolonizing the Colonial City: Urbanization and Social Stratification in Kingston, Jamaica (2006b), with Gillian Clarke Post-Colonial Trinidad: An Ethnographic Journal (2010), and edited with Gillian Clarke, War’s Nomads: A Mobile Radar Unit in Pursuit of Rommel During the Western Desert Campaign, 1942-3 written by Frederick Grice, 2015.