Unbelonging : diaspora aesthetics in contemporary Black British writing

Newland, Courttia (2021) Unbelonging : diaspora aesthetics in contemporary Black British writing. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Postcolonial literature is a mainstay of the international literary landscape. Although the fraught and often complex notion of identity and belonging has been dissected, reassembled and challenged by the work of writers and academics, in the following years a new generation has grown. R. Victoria Arana’s seminal collection of essays Black British Aesthetics Today explores the work produced by Black British writers from a position of aesthetics Arana calls ‘a deliberate design of an appeal to an audience.’ Yet a focus on the ‘avant-garde’ causes writers less concerned with an examination of identity, loss and the in-between, and more with the aesthetics of cultural wealth and cohesion to be ignored. The first part of this thesis examines a range of writers from the postcolonial to Black British in an attempt to re-evaluate their shared aesthetics. I argue that Arana’s ‘deliberate design’ is an expression of Pan-African or diasporic thought that can be found in writers as diverse as Alex Wheatle and Helen Oyeyemi. By dissecting Black writing in Britain from a position of inclusion that embraces the works of C.L.R James, George Lamming, Zadie Smith and Diran Adebayo, I argue that this aesthetic mode has become a dominant expression of W.E.B Du Bois’ and Paul Gilroy’s ‘Double-Consciousness’ that complicates established theories and critiques of their work. The second part of this thesis is a short story collection that articulates a multifaceted Black British experience via the diaspora aesthetic African Futurism, a sub genre of speculative fiction.

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