Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic Quarter a Century Later: Cultural Implications of African Diaspora’s Revision of Modernity
Keywords:Black Atlantic; culture; diaspora; hybridity; memory; modernity; movement; nation
In his seminal book The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993) Paul Gilroy traces an account of the Black diaspora as a cosmopolitan, historical and cultural Atlantic phenomenon that challenges and corrects Modern construction of ‘culture,’ ‘nation,’ ‘history,’ and ultimately ‘identity.’ Although the book was conceived quarter a century ago, it still continues to influence Black Studies, Migration Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Diaspora Studies. The present paper intends to shed light and reflect on the two most influential aspects of Gilroy’s book today. One such aspect is Gilroy’s exploration of Black Atlantic histories of (criss)-crossing, migration, interconnection, travel, and exile-- together with the form, content, and performance of diasporic expressive forms-- to revisit the tradition of Modernity and Enlightenment rationality. The other aspect, following from the first, is that while interrogating “national,” “nationalistic,” and “ethnically absolutist paradigms” such as “Englishness,” “Africanism” and “tradition,” he highlights cultural hybridity, transnationality, and memory. By so doing he subverts modernity’s racialized monolithic definition of ‘culture’ and ‘nation (state)’ along with its construction and association with teleological historiography.