4.2.5 Three Generations of West Indians in Britain 97
5. Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven: the Paradoxes of History 100
5.1 National Consciousness and Political Awakening 101
5.2 Colonial Narrative and Neocolonialism 102
5.3 Neocolonialism 104
5.4 Hybridity and Representation 106
5.4.1 Diverse, Hybrid Selves and Diluted Concept of Beauty: Now and Then 108
5.4.2 Imposed Identity and Lighter Skin 111
5.5 Myth and Refuge of England 113
6. Conclusion 116
In the aftermath of World War II, significant changes blew through the ashes of the disintegrating British Empire. The accelerated pace of social change required British society to be re-defined much like the postwar landscape had to be reconstructed. History, culture and identity were all challenged and strained by a new world order and immigration from the former colonies. My primary goal in this thesis is to analyze the effects of immigration from the former British Empire, specifically focusing on West Indian immigration to Britain, and how it contributed to this re-evaluation and re-definition of British society.
Thus my main concentration is on the experience of West Indian newcomers who offer an interesting perspective of Britain - and Europe - through a critical lens unaccustomed to British reality. Certain aspects of the West Indian experience in Britain were confined solely to the settlers coming from the former Commonwealth who had to reconcile with the ideological illusion of Britain as their 'mother country' that was willing to embrace them only in their respective homelands or at times of war when West Indians voluntarily participated in the RAF in WW II. The immigration shaped the contours of contemporary Britain and in that process, several concepts have been re-defined as well.
A comparative and thematic analysis of the chosen works by Michelle Cliff, Andrea Levy and Caryl Phillips will expose different aspects of the West Indian experience in Britain compared with secondary sources drawing on sociological, political, cultural and anthropological research in order to demonstrate how the texts reflect the British society, West Indians in the twentieth century Britain and overall change. However, it would be incomplete to omit the Caribbean from the analysis and as such, certain aspects of Caribbean history, culture and identities had to be mentioned in order to understand West Indian experience of Britain.
Before the analysis, a brief exposition of concepts and themes is briefly explained. The selected concepts and themes are quite numerous, yet they encapsulate the different facets of collective and personal experience (which is in no way totalising nor essentialising but suggests certain transcendence of common experience), that cross-cut and interweave in many aspects. These parallels will be exposed in order to provide the most complete analysis possible.
In Cliff's chapter, the main focus is on historical paradoxes, 'silenced' history and national identity, in Levy's chapter, the primary focus turns to discrimination and in Phillips' chapter, the notions relevant to belonging and exile are examined. While all three authors write about experiencing Britain from an etic perspective, certain concepts and themes are analyzed recurrently. Since three generations of post-Empire Windrush West Indians have lived in Britain, the comparison of how the selected concepts and themes unfold throughout the second half of the twentieth century will be drawn.
To conclude, there are two important aspects that have been influential in shaping the post-colonial society in the latter half of the century - globalization (altogether with neo-colonialism) and multiculturalism. Both have been quite topical with respect to the current development of Britain and Europe since many countries have been questioning their national and European identities. The present-day Europe rather suggests that West Indians are rather assimilated by now, firmly rooted in the British society. The social change is fast and efficient transportation makes movement relatively quick and easy.
West Indian experience in Britain can be linked to diasporas throughout the world but due to the shared history of the British Empire, the West Indies' special relationship with Britain cannot be overlooked - and examining literature by West Indian authors reveals as much about Caribbean identities as it does about Britain. The writers engage in writing in order to fight prejudice, discrimination and stereotype while they expose hypocrisy of the mainstream society. Such writing gives space to intercultural interaction and thus it is an interesting journey that involves three continents, multiple identities and hybrid Britishness. As it will be argued, the knowledge and pride of cultural roots help the reconciliation with the British society.
While the question of race is becoming rather obsolete, with binary oppositions´ gradual erosion, new identities are appearing while the old ones become more complex.
The socio-political context is critical for deeper understanding of contemporary Britain. As I will argue, the change in representation and discrimination practices reflects how social constructs changed their conceptual content in Britain over the course of several decades. Depicted concepts are placed in the cultural context and several of them must be viewed in close connection to each other.