15 April 2010
Let’s Get Together: Gilroy’s Question of Solidarity within the Social Dynamic of Corregidora and The Lonely Londoners The concept of identity can be illustrated as a complex assembly, and more specifically as a group of collected observations. It can be derived from one’s view of self as a subject, to one’s view of self in relation to the other, and finally one’s identity in terms of relationships to others with shared sets of attributes, vernaculars, conditions, histories, etc. It is within the latter that the exploration of solidarity surfaces when looking at the post-colonial Black subject and their plight to finding their own sense of self in relation to others. In his text British Cultural Studies and the Pitfalls of Identity, Paul Gilroy introduces solidarity as an issue of identity and invites us to, “comprehend identity as an effect mediated by historical and economics structures, instantiated in the signifying practices through which they operate and arising in contingent institutional settings that both regulate and express the coming together of individuals in patterned social processes.”(230) The relationship between historical and economic structures, signifying practices, and conditional settings can be further explored by looking at postcolonial novels that tackle and embrace this question of solidarity, in specific Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and Gayl Jones’ Corregidora; in addition, problems of community and belonging are dotted across the landscape of the novels and the formation of these institutions are problematic in terms of gender and sexuality.
Gender is an important specificity in regards to belonging and community. With that said, taking a look at Selvon’s novel will enable us to explore a kinship between West Indian men who immigrated after a call for reconstruction to Britain during the 1950s for a better life and a new beginning. It is important to note, however, that race was a controversial issue at this time in Britain, specifically London, and discourse of the immigration seemed to unwelcome the pouring in of the “spades”. Therefore, with racial tension at height, the West Indian men in the novel, Moses, Cap, Galahad, and Bart to name a few, stuck together because of their shared concept of identity. The obvious of their solidarity would be that of their skin color, background, vernacular, and situation. Moses tells Galahad in the start of the novel that because of their similarities they must stick together, “both of we is Trinidadians and we must help out one another.” (Selvon 37) This episode signifies the importance of togetherness and an assimilated sense of fixed belonging that was influenced on the West Indian immigrants. The togetherness that was felt through the West Indian districts was held as one even by the ethic food they ate, Selvon uses Moses to describe how white British capitalized on the districts the West Indians settled in, and “from the time spades start to settle…he found out what sort of things they like to eat, and he stock up on a lot of things…and as long as spades spending money he don’t care.” (Selvon 77) The feeling of belonging can also be seen through the dialect spoken within the episodic novel which is that of a Trinidadian Patois mixed with the influence of proper British English. For example, when Galahad is talking to Daisy, a white girl, on their date she has trouble communicating. She says, “What did you say? You know it will take me some time to understand everything you say. The way you West Indians speak!” (Selvon 93) The conversation does more than just separate one from the other, but also puts the West Indians in their own class, as they are different from the British in Daisy’s eyes by more than just color and vernacular. They are different in her eyes, because of their situation “mediated by historical and economic structures, instantiated in the signifying practices,” (Gilroy,...
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