"The other day I met a constituent of mine": a theory of anecdotal racism

Brown, A.R (1999) '"The other day I met a constituent of mine": a theory of anecdotal racism.' Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22 (1). pp. 23-55. ISSN 0141-9870

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/014198799329585


This article argues that the theoretical problem of the new racism thesis, as originally formulated in the 1980s, was the account of the discursive change it proposed and the role and significance of Powellism in this process. In offering a modification of the thesis I highlight the significance of the use of anecdotal accounts of the plight of ordinary English people in areas of black settlement as central to the re-articulation of racialized common sense in Powellism. I go on to argue that the particular discursive form of the racialized anecdote is one that is developed within Parliamentary debates from at least the mid-1950s onwards and that Enoch Powell is not the author but the elite beneficiary of this ideological work. I suggest that this Commons' sense informs and makes possible the success of the campaign for exclusion of black Commonwealth migrants prior to Powellism, and that Powell fashions his own elite/populist version of such narratives in 1968. Offering an account of racism as a discursive fiction, I argue that the anecdotal form of political racism in post-war Britain is a political and ideological response to the public prohibition on 'race' talk in public space. In offering a tentative theory of post-'race' signification which is consistent with empirical evidence, I argue that the 'moment' of re-articulation of racism in post-war politics is one consistent with the evacuated space of the prohibited notion of 'old' racism.

Item Type: Article

This 1999 print article was made available online through Taylor & Francis in 2011.

Keywords: new racism thesis, Powellism, racialized anecdote, Commons' sense, re-articulation, post-‘race’ signification
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/014198799329585
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2020 16:29
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:44
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/13551
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