At Radcliffe, Yale scholar talks about Great Britiain and ‘brown babies’

From The Harvard Gazette:

Brownbabies1450 World War II, with its influx of multiracial colonial volunteers and billeted American troops, was the caldron that created Great Britain as a state in which race became an instrument of policy and a tool of cultural division. That’s the thesis brought to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on Nov. 2 by Hazel V. Carby, a Yale University scholar of race, gender, and literature. The war, she said, prompted the emergence of Britain “as a modern racialized state.”

As early as 1942, the British Colonial office worried “what the future population of the nation would look like” in the face of a sexual invasion by black soldiers. By 1947, orphans of mixed race probably numbered in the hundreds, but the numbers were regularly inflated. “The lonely piccaninny” became a staple of the popular press, said Carby. It was an image that hid deeper fears of British cultural identity, and anxiety over a disappearing empire. Showing one tabloid image, Carby said, “A British subject is what this piccaninny is not.” In the end, she said, it was this war-induced “homegrown composite racial consciousness … that gave the English national culture its character, its meaning, its substance, and its resonance.”

Homi Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and director of the Humanities Center, introduced Carby, whose work he called a robust confrontation with “intellectual pieties and scholarly orthodoxies.”

More here.