UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reading the threat, imagining otherwise : Notting Hill Carnival, the London Riots and a global issue of blackness Andrews, Emmanuelle


This thesis reads Notting Hill Carnival as a symbolic iteration of the way that blackness is managed by the state. Tracking carnival’s riotous history, including the dampening of Claudia Jones’ legacy, the management crisis of 1976, and carnival’s ever-blossoming relationship with state and private capital, I explore how the event became embroiled in what Roderick Ferguson names, the “[pivot] in the history of power’s relationship to difference.” I then trace how this shift comes to affect later Race Relations legislation when I explore how the ghostly markers through which blackness is made permittable by the British state allows for the legal finding of Mark Duggan’s murder – the event that was said to have ‘sparked’ the riots. By analysing the inquest that sought to rule on the legality of the officer’s actions, I show how the inquest’s conclusions sustain black death through ‘just’ ideals of the rule of law: objectivity and rationality. Nevertheless, I argue that the threat to cancel Notting Hill Carnival after the London Riots reveals that, despite the limits of these liaisons and the state’s attempts to manage blackness through these standards, something radical remains within Notting Hill Carnival, something radical that the rioters were able to mobilize. By listening to the calls of the London Riots as embodied in two statements, “I ain’t gonna wear none of this shit,” and “the most exciting two nights of my life,” I explore the ways that the rioters were able to confront the challenges that blackness faces, through responding to the postcolonial hauntings of Notting Hill Carnival and refuting the logics of modern knowledge that the management of blackness supports, through their own imagining otherwise: the (dis)orderly and (ir)rational logics of burning, looting and radical space claiming.

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