Sport and the performative body in the early work of C.L.R. James
The essay examines four major texts that are associated with C.L.R. James’s residence in Nelson, Lancashire, during 1932–1933 – Minty Alley (1936), The Life of Captain Cipriani (1932), ‘The Greatest of All Bowlers: An Impressionist Sketch of S.F. Barnes’ (1932) and Cricket and I (1933), written with Learie Constantine. Arguing that they form a distinctive group rather than a preparatory phase of James’s writing, it focuses upon the dialogic relationship between their various genres and upon their shared concern with the colonised and performative body. Minty Alley, completed before James’s emigration, establishes his interest in the inscription of colonial legacies that delimit the possibilities of indigenous Trinidadian social and economic development, a predicament that informs the explicitly political analysis of the island’s governance in Captain Cipriani. The two later ‘Nelson’ texts chart James’s use of Lancashire League cricket to develop parallel analyses of Caribbean and English class and racial categorisation and their resultant social exclusions. Using James’s portrayal of Sydney Barnes to explore the structures of professional cricket and traditions of English sports journalism, the essay suggests that the distinctive body culture of the League allowed James to establish an anti-colonial politics rooted in both Caribbean and English popular performance cultures.
Citation:Featherstone, S. (2015) Sport and the performative body in the early work of C.L.R. James. Identities, 22 (2), pp. 154-167
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