Questioning difference: bodies, (re-)presentation, and the development of “multicultural Britain”

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Colleges, School and Institutes


In his 2001 Different: Contemporary Photography and Black Identity Stuart Hall, writing on black arts in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, commented on the emergence of the “black body” as a subject of visibility and identity which challenged the racialised body which for so long had been produced and reproduced by racial discourse. “On the site of the body”, he wrote, “racial discourses had long undertaken the work of systematically reducing history to biology, culture to nature”, but it was also a “surface … of resistance from which alternative counter-narratives can be produced”. Cultural identities have histories and are subject to the continuous “play” of history, culture, and power. This paper will: (1) document the history of how artists, photographers, and filmmakers in the 1970s and 1980s deconstructed and challenged the stereotyped black body of racialised discourse to produce counter-visual narratives of the “black body”; (2) map the different mechanisms through which these counter-visual narratives were presented, circulated, discussed, appropriated, and used; (3) explore how the history of these counter-visual narratives “intertwined and overlapped” with the history of the broader “politics of representation” and anti-racist politics in education in particular; and (4) finally determine how successful these counter-visual narratives were in displacing the racialised black body in and of history.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-750
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2017


  • visual narrative, Black artists, the body, racism, informal learning