One evening in 1980, a group of white friends, drinking at the Duke of Edinburgh pub on East Ham High Street, made a monstrous five-pound wager. The first person to kill a "Paki" would win the bet. Ali Akhtar Baig, a young Pakistani student who lived in the east London borough of Newham, was their chosen victim. Baig's murder was but one incident in a wave of antiblack racial attacks that were commonplace during the crisis of race relations in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. Ali Akhtar Baig's death also catalyzed the formation of a grassroots antiracist organization, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) that worked to transform the racist victimization of African, African Caribbean and South Asian communities into campaigns for racial justice and social change.
In addition to providing a 24-hour hotline and casework services, NMP activists worked to mitigate the scourge of racial injustice that included daily racial harassment, hate crimes and antiblack police violence. Since the advent of the War on Terror, NMP widened its approach to support victims of the state's counterterror policies, which have contributed to an unfettered surge in Islamophobia.
These realities, as well as the many layers of gendered racism in contemporary Britain come to life through intimate ethnographic storytelling. The reader gets to know a broad range of east Londoners and antiracist activists whose intersecting experiences present a multifaceted portrait of British racism. Mohan Ambikaipaker examines the life experiences of these individuals through a strong theoretical lens that combines critical race theory and postcolonial studies. Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain shows how the deep processes of everyday political whiteness shape the state's failure to provide effective remedies for ethnic, racial, and religious minorities who continue to face violence and institutional racism.
Prelude. The parable of "Paki Ali"
Chapter 1. "There Is Nothing Nice to See Here, Sir. You Go to Central London." The Colonial-Racial Zone of East London
Chapter 2. "They Do Not Look like People Who Would Do This." Amina's Struggles Against Everyday Political Whiteness
Chapter 3. "Would They Do This to Tony Blair's Daughter?" Gillian's Struggle Against Intersectional Racial Violence
Chapter 4. "We Are Terrified of You!" British Muslim Women and Gendered Anti-Muslim Racism
Chapter 5. "The War on Terror Has Become a War on Us" The Forest Gate Anti-Terror Raid and Counter-Terror Citizenship
Chapter 6. "If Political Blackness Is So Damn Difficult, Why Do You Keep It?" Cilius's Passage to Postwar on Terror Political Blackness
Conclusion. Endings and Beginnings
"The book operates on many levels—it’s a history of the Newham Monitoring Project, it’s a theory of cultural anthropology, it’s an indictment of the British state’s maintenance of institutional racism, and it’s a call to '[show] up and…forge solidarities that do not as yet exist'...Ambikaipaker’s writing is compelling, his theoretical grounding is thorough, his empathy is apparent, and the fieldwork underpinning it is considerable and consequential."—Lateral
"Mohan Ambikaipaker has written an important book that foregrounds the experience of the black community in Britain fighting for racial justice, while caught between the racist violence of white British society and institutional discrimination. Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain makes it impossible to explain away such experiences as individual or episodic. It provides a rich theory to shine a light on the roots of racism that are in permanent contradiction with the stated aims of British liberal governance. Finally, it provides a new angle on the strategy of political blackness employed by Newham Monitoring Project in anti-racist campaigns that is generative of potential ways that solidarity between different black British communities can be forged in the future."—LSE Review of Books
"Mohan Ambikaipaker's book is a perceptive, moving, and captivating ethnography of an antiracist organization that monitors police abuse in London, an astute analysis of the ways in which the War on Terror proceeds from distinctly racialized assumptions and presumptions, and a profound rumination on the contradictions that make racial identities both fixed and fugitive, both foregrounded and furtive. Its imagination, insight, and eloquence make Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain a most memorable and meaningful book."—George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place
"Mohan Ambikaipaker's important and fascinating ethnography presents a nuanced account of the complexities of racial formation and discrimination in Britain, shedding light on perspectives rarely found either in the mainstream press or in scholarly works. The book provides powerful insights into racialized politics in twenty-first-century Britain."—Kathleen D. Hall, University of Pennsylvania