The Equiano Centre


Queer Black Lives and Diasporic Identities in Twentieth Century Britain

Dr Nadia Ellis (UC Berkeley) and Dr Gemma Romain (UCL Equiano Centre)

The Equiano Centre, UCL

Thursday, May 7, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

Dante Micheaux, Gemma Romain, Caroline Bressey and Nadia Ellis, 7 May 2015. Photograph taken by Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski

This event was the first of our new Equiano Centre Summer Seminars for 2015. Dr Nadia Ellis (UC Berkeley) and Dr Gemma Romain (UCL Equiano Centre) talked about their current work exploring Black histories and contemporary lives in relation to sexuality, race, and identity, in a session chaired by poet and writer Dante Micheaux. Gemma Romain spoke about some of her recent research on cultural and artistic experiences of interwar London, focusing on social venues such as the Café Royal, the Shim Sham club and Billie's Club exploring what these spaces reveal about the interwar queer black experience. Nadia Ellis discussed a structure of affect, belonging, and sociality she named the queer diasporic, which she described through texts and figures located in postwar London. Centering on a reading of Andrew Salkey's recently re-discovered novel Escape to an Autumn Pavement (1960), Ellis explored the ways in which complex black queer subjectivities emerged with particular resonance in the Windrush and Wolfenden eras. Her readings of queer theory in tandem with Salkey's novel and fragments found in a variety of London archives suggest how forms of suspension and elusiveness (as against, say, embrace or resistance) are modes in which queer diasporic subjects navigate the various double-binds of national and migrant discourses surrounding race, sex, and identity. 

Queer Black Lives, 7 May 2015