Birmingham, Britain and Beyond
Almost everything written by writers of colour in Britain seems to centre ‘Britishness’; a label that the state has the power to arbitrarily measure, question or outright reject. This writerly preoccupation with Britishness, in turn, may be tied to the commercial hunger for ‘authentic’, (and usually negative) representations of places like Birmingham and Bradford.
This panel, made up of writers who have thought deeply about identity, nationality, and place in literature, will question whether ‘Britishness’ is an inevitable preoccupation, and whether this is changing. It will discuss whether the alternative to writing ‘British stories’ is to write ‘world’ literature or ‘regional’ literature, and what the complications are in doing so. Questions arise of whether we can represent a place at all; how can a city like Birmingham, or even any specific area within the city, so full of different layers, oppressions, realities, specificities, be captured in a narrative?
With its history of colonialism, industry, immigration, Birmingham is also an example of how the whole world can be contained in one city. At the same time, the internet, emerging as a new ‘place’ and ‘audience’ for our literature, is quickly changing the landscape; how social media affects the way we now read and write will also be discussed in this panel.