On Burning Books

Topical this week, but its always been true that the way the pages crumple one by one as they burn is strangely fascinating….

Via the link is a chapter length text I wrote some time ago (currently under consideration for Space and Culture). Given a certain newsworthiness in relation to the eye-popping-mad pastor Terry Jones, some people might like to read the preview version:

Sexy Sammy and Red Rosie? From Burning Books to the War on Terror.

Abstract: Writing within the sonic register of a soundtrack that plundered the diasporic mindset of a certain ‘London’ massive, Hanif Kureishi was widely criticised for his contribution as writer to two films in the 1980s: My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987). Less lyrically perhaps – and less filmic – Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses was famously set on fire in Bradford in 1989. There is a soundtrack here that can map the anti-racist sexualities, street riots and book-burnings that are taken to mark the mobilization of a diverse and complicated British-Asian presence on the streets of the UK. The point that interests me here is the reconfiguration of the streetscape of diaspora and terror in the years since these films and the burning of the book. The figure of Rosie is interesting because her cultural politics helps occlude an older engagement that was first displaced by identity concerns and is now overwritten with sinister consequences. The street musicians that accompany her urban meanderings embroider affect in a way that segues easily into a culture industry resignation. Burning streets and books (not particularly good in themselves) are replaced with a more virulent racial profiling in contemporary times – a constant anxiety about and accusations against Muslims, and by extension all British-Asians, made uncomfortable (at best, bombed into democracy elsewhere). Sammy forlorn.

Key words: street, queer, riot, British-Asian, book-burning, Kureishi, Rushdie

Continue reading the full chapter here .

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