An Anticolonial way of Seeing: Race, violence and photography in Notting Hill (1951–1960)

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Abstract

This essay explores the formation of the concept “way of seeing” as a configuration of anticolonial thought and practice in the transnational context of Notting Hill in 1950s London, following the racialized violence in 1958 and 1959. In this moment of decolonial transition Barbadian poet and writer George Lamming coined the phrase “way of seeing” in his Pleasures of Exile (1960), a study of the affects and effects of migration in London. The way of seeing was the structure of immigrant feeling in the newly hostile environment. Lamming was reflecting back on his 1951 encounter with Jewish East End poet Emanuel Litvinoff and T.S. Eliot in the new Institute for Contemporary Arts by way of Notting Hill. In seeing the ICA as a neighbor to Notting Hill, Lamming compressed time and space to provide a way for migrants to see how they were seen by looking at the way others like themselves were being seen. Notting Hill was photographed by Roger Mayne (1929-2014), fictionalized by Colin MacInnes and analyzed by Stuart Hall, all within the pages of the founding New Left journal Universities and Left Review. Mayne's photographs depicy Lamming's way of seeing in a series of encounters between Caribbean migrants and British people. It was in such encounters of declining empire, decolonization, the violences of racialization, and diaspora that the anticolonial practice of the “way of seeing” emerged in a set of reflections on seeing, time and space.

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Mirzoeff, N. (2022). An Anticolonial way of Seeing: Race, violence and photography in Notting Hill (1951–1960). Interventions, 24(7), 979–994. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2022.2054005

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