Month: January 2014

Argh! Deadlines!


Sorry for not posting much lately, but deadlines are approaching and my various projects have all culminated to be due now. After submitting our manuscript on race, gender and the body in British immigration control to Palgrave Macmillan the other week, we have been given positive feedback by the series editors and the book will be going into production shortly – which means submitting all the necessary forms and other materials. At the same time, a very awesome book series has asked for draft chapters on my research into the CPGB and anti-racist politics – which means compiling and sending off stuff ASAP. Also, I have found out that I can apply for a DECRA – which means writing a large grant proposal by early March. And finally, I am off to South Africa in late March – which means I need to be contacting various archives and people prior to my arrival.

I promise I will post something interesting and very witty in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy this 1980 Peel Session from The Cure:


Interview with John Cooper Clarke in Young Communist League’s Real Life (1983/84)

Real Life was a short-lived magazine produced by the Young Communist League during the early-to-mid-1980s and with the tagline of ‘the theoretical and discussion journal of the YCL’, it looks like it was the 1980s version of the 1960s/70s YCL mag, Cogito. The contact address was the CPGB/YCL offices on St. John Street in London, so it looks as though Real Life was aimed at national distribution, unlike other YCL journals, which were photocopied and distributed at district level around the same time. However the reach of the magazine was probably limited because, as discussed in this article, the YCL was collapsing in the 1980s.

I was lucky enough to obtain several issues of Real Life from Left on the Shelf books and came across this short interview with legendary punk-poet John Cooper Clarke, which featured in issue 6 from the winter of 1983-84. I thought other readers of this blog might be interested in this (probably) difficult to find interview, so I have scanned it for posterity. So enjoy and let me know if it is difficult to read. (click to enlarge)

Real Life JCC_Page_1

Real Life JCC_Page_2

Real Life JCC_Page_3

Real Life JCC_Page_4

New journal article – ‘The Myth of Sovereignty: British Immigration Control in Policy and Practice in the Nineteen-Seventies’

HR cover

This is just a quick post to announce that our long-awaited article in Historical Research journal has now been published online through early view and can found here. The title of the article is ‘The Myth of Sovereignty: British Immigration Control in Policy and Practice in the Nineteen-Seventies’, with the following abstract:

This article explores how British immigration control policy was carried out during the nineteen-seventies to filter immigration, while addressing the perceived problem of ‘non-white’ colonial migration. Recently released government documents suggest that the immigration control system should be viewed as a series of inter-connected institutions and actors that operated under the influence of a number of different, and often contradictory, factors. The result of these competing factors was an immigration control system that, relying on the paradoxical whims of the government and other sections of civil society, was restrictive and suspicious towards potential migrants, but at the same time constrained in its behaviour.

This article is part of our wider project on the body and border control between the 1960s and the 1980s, of which we just submitted a monograph manuscript to Palgrave Macmillan. Marinella and I started this project in 2008 and are excited to see the results of our research.

As usual, if anyone is not able to access the article from the interweb, email me and I can send you a copy.

Persons of Interest? View the digitised ASIO files from the NAA

The first two episodes of the SBS documentary Persons of Interest have been aired, portraying to a wide audience the level of surveillance undertaken against potential ‘subversive’ people in Australia by ASIO between the late 1940s and late 1970s.  The documentary, by Hadyn Keenan, uses a lot of recently opened ASIO files from the National Archives of Australia, many of which were opened via Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the people surveilled. Many of these files have also been digitised by the National Archives and are available for public reading. Using the new features of the NAA website, I have posted the links to a few files relating to the people discussed in Persons of Interest.

There are many files on the Milliss family that have been digitised. With all of the files I have linked to, I have only linked to volume 1, but a search through the NAA catalogue will show that there are numerous files. Firstly, there are the files of Bruce Milliss, the father of Roger and David, who was an ardent Communist Party of Australia member and then became a supporter of Mao in the breakaway CPA (Marxist-Leninist). (Click on pic for link to NAA file)

Bruce Milliss

There are also numerous digitised files on Roger and David Milliss, although the file on Suse Milliss has not been digitised.

Roger Milliss

David Milliss

There are also more than 15 files on founder of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), Ted Hill, that have been digitised, as well as one on the CPA (M-L) from 1968.

Hill file


Bob Gould was another CPA member mentioned in the documentary whose files have been digitised.

Bob Gould

There are many files on the CPA that have been digitised, but coinciding with the forthcoming episode of Persons of Interest on the Aboriginal rights movement, here is a file on the CPA’s work on Aboriginal rights.

CPA Aborigines

ASIO kept tabs on the Aboriginal rights movement, particularly those involved in the founding of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in January 1972, including activist Gary Foley.

Tent Embassy file

Gary Foley

But nearly all social movements that arose in the 1960s and 1970s were surveilled, including the anti-Vietnam War campaign and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Moratorium file


Prominent activists from these campaigns and other movements/groups were surveilled, with massive files created by the day-to-day following of these activists. A number of these have been digitised in recent years following FOI requests. These include the Burgmann sisters, Meredith and Verity, who were involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the campaign against the Springboks in 1971, as well as Rick Kuhn, a leading member of the Australian Trotskyist group, the International Socialists (following the Cliffite IS/SWP from the UK), and CPA youth member (and future Professor) Ann Curthoys.

Meredith Burgmann

Verity Burgmann

Rick Kuhn

Ann Curthoys

These are only a few of the many digitised ASIO files that people can access through the NAA catalogue. It is worth having a search for other well-known activists. If the files has been digitised, you can view it on the NAA’s new file-viewer, SODA.

Just type in the URL: [barcode of file] /1

Now have some fun!

10 books I want to read in 2014

books poster

Over the holiday period, I’ve been putting together my list of desired books for 2014. Some will be useful for my research, and some are for just general reading purposes. They are all non-fiction. And although I love buying books, they can be expensive, so I might have to picky in my purchases (or hope that some journal asks me to review them). So without further delay, here are my top 10 new books that I want to read over the next 12 months (in no particular order):

Karl  Ittman, A Problem of Great Importance: Population, Race, and Power in the British Empire, 1918-1973 (University of California Press)

Ken Keable (ed.), London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid  (Merlin Press)

Holger Nehring, Politics of Security: British and West German Protest Movements and the Early Cold War, 1945-1970 (Oxford University Press)

Diane Frost & Peter North, Militant Liverpool:A City on the Edge (Liverpool University Press)

Roger Fieldhouse & Richard Taylor (eds), E.P. Thompson and English Radicalism (Manchester University Press)

Sheila Fitzpatrick, A Spy in the Archives (Melbourne University Publishing)

Wade Matthews, The New Left, National Identity, and the Break-Up of Britain (Brill)

John Hutnyk, Pantomime Terror: Music and Politics (Zero Books)

Christian Hogsbjerg, C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain (Duke University Press)

Robin Bunce & Paul Field, Darcus Howe: A Political Biography (Bloomsbury)

There are a few others that I haven’t posted, but 10 is a neat, round number. I hope I get to read them all. When I posted a similar list in 2012, I ended up only reading four or five of them. But there’s still time!

So readers, what books are you looking forward to reading this year? Are there any books that I really should be reading?

Phillips on the modern immigration control system

Hello everybody. I’m massively busy working towards a deadline, getting the book on the body and border control ready for submission this week. But rather than not post anything, I thought I’d post this quote that we use in the introduction to our book. It is from Kristen Phillips’ 2009 PhD thesis, ‘Immigration Detention, Containment Fantasies and the Gendering of Political Status in Australia’ (downloadable here).

The modern state… can tolerate and ‘cultivate’ a population which includes even bodies of a ‘different race’ as long as ordering mechanisms for managing this difference (for which an idea of nation in racial terms remains a central defining trope) are upheld. Of key importance is the fact that migrants enter the nation-state under the control and surveillance of that biopolitical state, and can be known, categorised and positioned in the social hierarchy effectively. (p. 20)

Here’s to book draft submission!

Mr Gove, film can never replicate historical ‘truth’

The last few days has seen a historiographical debate about the First World War played out in the media between Michael Gove, the Conservative Education Minister, and several different historians, including Richard J. Evans and Tristram Hunt, with plenty of others weighing in (see this article in The Guardian for a good summary). One of Gove’s arguments is that the popular memory of the First World War in Britain has been warped by satirical comedies such as Blackadder Goes Forth, which suggests that people cannot tell the difference between what happens on screen and what ‘really happened’. I thought this excerpt from this article by myself might be worth considering in this debate:

“Film can be an effective, or disruptive, vehicle in shaping ideas about the past, but to articulate the past through film does not mean to recognise it the way it actually was. In Cinema 2: The Time Image, Gilles Deleuze asserts that we should not confuse the two—‘The past is not to be confused with the mental existence of recollection images which actualize it in us.’ The problem of film as historical evidence is that historical consciousness can be influenced by film (as well as popular forms of  storytelling) and there is a fear by some more traditionalist historians that ‘our’ memory will take on the conventions of cinematic representations of the past. Historical narratives provided by film often reinforce our popular memories of the past and, as discussed earlier, can be deemed ‘authentic’ or ‘inauthentic’ depending on their conformity to popular memory. As Raphael Samuel wrote, film ‘can establish . . . a past that never was, but which corresponds to what we would have liked it to be’.”

That is all, Mr Gove. Now should we discuss historical fidelity and Inglorious Basterds?