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Imperial Intimacies
Cover of Imperial Intimacies
Imperial Intimacies
A Tale of Two Islands
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"Imperial Intimacies weaves the history of British imperialism together with the history of her family. Carby assembles a sprawling account of how imperialisma web of social relations, labor markets, and trade networks—conditions private feeling. The resulting narrative is something like an affective history of the British Empire." New Yorker

"Where are you from?" was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post-war London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby's place in her home, her neighbourhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.
Emerging from this setting, Carby untangles the threads connecting members of her family in a web woven by the British Empire across the Atlantic. We meet Carby's working-class grandmother Beatrice, a seamstress challenged by poverty and disease. In England, she was thrilled by the cosmopolitan fantasies of empire, by cities built with slave-trade profits, and by street peddlers selling fashionable Jamaican delicacies. In Jamaica, we follow the lives of both the "white Carbys" and the "black Carbys," including Mary Ivey, a free woman of colour, whose children are fathered by Lilly Carby, a British soldier who arrived in Jamaica in 1789 to be absorbed into the plantation aristocracy. And we discover the hidden stories of Bridget and Nancy, two women owned by Lilly who survived the Middle Passage from Africa to the Caribbean.
Moving between Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby's family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire's interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.
"Imperial Intimacies weaves the history of British imperialism together with the history of her family. Carby assembles a sprawling account of how imperialisma web of social relations, labor markets, and trade networks—conditions private feeling. The resulting narrative is something like an affective history of the British Empire." New Yorker

"Where are you from?" was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post-war London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby's place in her home, her neighbourhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.
Emerging from this setting, Carby untangles the threads connecting members of her family in a web woven by the British Empire across the Atlantic. We meet Carby's working-class grandmother Beatrice, a seamstress challenged by poverty and disease. In England, she was thrilled by the cosmopolitan fantasies of empire, by cities built with slave-trade profits, and by street peddlers selling fashionable Jamaican delicacies. In Jamaica, we follow the lives of both the "white Carbys" and the "black Carbys," including Mary Ivey, a free woman of colour, whose children are fathered by Lilly Carby, a British soldier who arrived in Jamaica in 1789 to be absorbed into the plantation aristocracy. And we discover the hidden stories of Bridget and Nancy, two women owned by Lilly who survived the Middle Passage from Africa to the Caribbean.
Moving between Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby's family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire's interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.
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About the Author-
  • Hazel V. Carby is a co-author of The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain and author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America; Race Men; and Reconstructing Womanhood. For three decades she taught at Yale University as the Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and Professor of American Studies.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    August 9, 2019

    Carby (African American studies, Yale Univ.; Cultures in Babylon) takes readers deep into her experience as a multiracial woman growing up in England and offers a thorough examination of her family history in Britain and Jamaica. The book's first three parts are the strongest, sharing personal anecdotes from the author's life. Carby also explores her parents' lives before, during, and after World War II, illustrating the challenges and opportunities they faced at the time. She then traces how the lives of her Jamaican father and Welsh mother impacted her own upbringing, and how they reflected on British society. The remaining sections delve into the author's study of her family histories, from ancestors who were railroad workers in Britain to slave owners in Jamaica. While these examinations are thorough and offer great insight, they occasionally lose the narrative power present in the work's first half. VERDICT This moving memoir exploring race, gender, childhood, colonialism, marriage, and immigration will be valuable for readers interested in learning more about these subjects through a personal lens.--Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Hazel V. Carby
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