But where is on earth is home
: a cultural history of black Britain in 1970s film and television

  • Sally Shaw

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis adopts an interdisciplinary approach in order to explore the social and cultural history of black Britain in 1970s fictional film and television. It draws on rigorous archival research, original interview testimony with practitioners and audience members, and close textual analysis of visual sources, in order to examine relations between black film and television texts and the social, political and institutional contexts of their authorship. The key focus of my study is therefore on black creative agency. Whilst prior studies have addressed black expression and representation in film and television, few have attempted to trace the process of creativity itself. My study uniquely traces the black creative voice in an historical period of emergence and conflict, and endeavours to ‘map’ it in terms of networks of (white and black) practitioners, the spaces of industrial production and the metaphorical, geographical and diasporic spaces of community and socio-political action.
The thesis is structured in two parts. In Part 2, my ‘mapping’ encompasses a broad landscape – I ‘map the field’ socio-politically and then provide a survey of the significant range of feature films and television programmes concerned with black Britain in the 1970s. I then present three case studies. These are chosen for their variety of genre and form, for the valuable insights they offer into production and reception histories, and because they demonstrate the usefulness of the imaginative interpretation of archival and interview material in reappraising film and television texts in their historical contexts. In Part 3, I then draw on this methodological approach in order to ‘map’ the creative journey of the poet and playwright Jamal Ali, who worked in radical black theatre, film and television in the 1970s. Ali’s story provides an exemplar for the exploration of black creative agency in this period. Furthermore, the Brixton of Ali’s life and work is explored both as a site of socio-political struggle and as a liminal space in which diasporic community and black identity are imaginatively located.
Date of AwardSept 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJustin Smith (Supervisor) & Sue Harper (Supervisor)

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