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PAUL GILROY INTERVIEW – 2 JUNE 2011

Paul Gilroy Version of record first published: 04 Mar 2013.

To cite this article: Paul Gilroy (2013): PAUL GILROY INTERVIEW – 2 JUNE 2011, Cultural Studies, DOI:10.1080/09502386.2013.773670

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Paul Gilroy

PAUL GILROY INTERVIEW 2 JUNE 2011

[Hudson Vincent] I was hoping that we could begin with a discussion about the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. What drew you there to begin with?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, I went to the Centre in 1978. I wanted to be with Stuart really. I had heard him give a talk, and I’d liked the idea of interacting with him. There weren’t a lot of black academics around, certainly not many on the left, certainly very few voices in the academic culture of that time that had anything like the power of his imagination. So I wanted to be with him.

I was at that time seeking to resolve a relationship between my academic

interests and my political interests. I was a humanities kind of student, and I

had been awarded a scholarship on the basis of colluding with one of my professors as an undergraduate who helped me to gain a scholarship to study a problem that could be funded. It wasn’t a problem that didn’t interest me, but I had never intended to write a Ph.D. about it. Through his guidance and his wisdom, the fact he was so respected, I got the money. I don’t think it was really anything more than that. I was very happy about that prospect, but at that stage, of course, I thought well, what am I going to write about? I’d wanted to write about aspects of masculinity in a particular period in fiction. The construction of masculinity in radical fiction. I knew there had been

people in the Centre who were doing that work, like Andy Tolson. But I also knew that wasn’t really where I was likely to end up, and, of course, the other thing that drew me there was the fact that it was in Birmingham, and I knew Birmingham, and Birmingham was not London. I have lived all my life in London apart from being in the States. There was something interesting about what was going on in Birmingham and the politics of that. It was exciting. So there I was, I went to Birmingham, and I went to the Centre to be with Stuart and to be a part of the ‘Handsworth Revolution.’

I also wanted to be educated. I think that I had faced a kind of crossroads

myself earlier in my undergraduate education. I had been told by my then tutor, Donald Wood, who was a historian of the Caribbean, that I should read C. L. R. James and Franz Fanon because those things would keep me in the university and because I was about to leave and drop out and go back to playing my music. That proved to be true and Donald, to whom I shall always be grateful, was prescient in identifying the things that would hook me in. At that stage, it wasn’t so much the idea of cultural studies as constituted. My ‘new

much the idea of cultural studies as constituted. My ‘new Cultural Studies , 2013

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leftparents had Raymond Williamss books around. I had read Williams myself. That year, I think it was 1978, Im sure it was in 1978 the British Sociological Association had a conference on culture in Brighton in Sussex University, where I was a student. I wouldnt have normally gone to such a thing, but I sneaked in without paying. There in front of me were Stuart, Richard, Ros Coward, Paul Willis, who gave the best talk Ive ever seen

like a Ted 1 . And Angela, who

anyone give without any notes, dressed

obviously goes on to become a close, close friend. What had triggered me to make the application was going into the bookshop, I used to spend a lot of time in the bookshop in those days, and finding a copy of Resistance through Rituals and thinking to myself, this is what people can do in universities now? Im thinking, oh, well, if you can do that, then maybe thats what I should do? Perhaps thats a way that more education could fit into my life. I had been playing a lot of music and could have gone to do that more seriously, well, seriously. I dont know, but I could have tried to make a living out of it at that point. I had sort of wanted to be a town planner or a primary school teacher, or whatever. I just thought, well, if you can do these things in a university and if theres a way to reconcile aspects of politics with aspects of your intellectual life, and theres Stuart Hall there, and people like Paul, Richard and Angela, then this might be a good place to go and look at. As I said, I had been a little bit exposed to life in Birmingham, anyway. So these were the reasons that took me there. At that time, I was also a little bit friendly with some of the guys from Steel Pulse who lived in Birmingham and were from there. That was the moment when their record Handsworth Revolutionwas just released, and they were working on Tribute to the Martyrs,so Birmingham seemed to be a more interesting place. It was certainly interesting, but it wasnt interesting in the ways Id anticipated.

[Hudson Vincent] I wonder if you saw a specific type or character of people being attracted to the Centre while you were there.

[Paul Gilroy] I dont know how much of this is common knowledge now, but, of course, the students selected the other students, so thats one thing you have to note. You immediately notice some things that follow from that. But my own experience was somewhat different in the sense that, first of all the line between faculty and students was drawn at a particular place, it was rare and unusual. It may not be fashionable to say this, and Im sure people have a lot of interest in not saying it, but I would say from my perspective both then and now, there was a lot of democracy in those relationships, and I value that. I valued it then, and I value it more now.

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I was, and I probably remain a very sectarian leftist, laughably, of a certain narcissism of small differencesvariety. So I didnt really feel there was any political consensus there. The mainstream of the culture of the place, if there was

a mainstream in political terms, was a sort of broad left CPkind of consensus. It

was impossible for me to identify that as a political spine. Yes, they were people on the left, but they were of all different types. For example, the Chileans were one sort of stratum, they were refugee Chileans. Who knows what their political aspirations were. I mean I used to sit in the library and talk to Victor Molina, and he didnt seem like any middle of the road leftist. I knew Guillermo Sunkel from Brighton. The people I used to talk to and be friends with when I first went there, Bob Lumley, who had been exposed to the Italian Autonomia and a version of Marxism that emerged through a theory of the social factory, knew those things. Bob Findlay, my dear, beloved friend Bob Finley, who had been kicked out of Essex as an agitator and found his way to the Centre. I dont think he ever finished his Ph.D. on Kafka. I dont know if he ever finished anything that he did, but he was dynamically vocal, and his presence endures now. He is one of the key activists in this country around the rights of people with disabilities, and he is a great poet actually. Bob had a history on the ultra left as being a member of the IMG, International Marxist Group. At that time, I was in another group called Big Flame, and, of course, Big Flame had a history in the Centre through people like Iain Chambers and Robin Rusher. May he rest in peace, someone who would come to be a close friend of mine later in my life, even though we didnt overlap at the Centre. So there was space for me to think and to do my work without being distracted by that sort of CP mainstream. I dont know how deliberate; it was that people collaborated to make that space. I dont think it was really anything they were consciously bothered about. Im sure someone like Greg [McLennan], who I really respect and like, and is a good academic, is pretty contemptuous of the idea that there would ever be any political body there, anything you could all sign up to. On the other side, in terms of feminism, there

were several different versions of feminism that were trading there and conflicting there. So I dont think its easy to identify any consensus. I dont think that was really possible. And now, Im glad actually, because it was difficult enough managing the sort of interpersonal dynamics of people without complicating that with their politics. It was already complicated enough if you see what I mean. So some of the people I reacted badly to or reacted against, were people whom I thought had bad politics and who were also doing things that

I didnt think were interesting. And I guess I still look at the world like that.

[Hudson Vincent] What was the general relationship between students and

faculty?

[Paul Gilroy] There was no general relationship between students and faculty. Thats what I mean about the democratic nature. None of the facultyas you put it were interested in being a part of our group [Race and Politics] for good

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reasons and bad I imagine. Someone like Paul [Willis], I dont know if he would count as faculty then? He was a research fellow at that time, is that faculty or is that student? I dont know. He was very, I hate using these words,

but I have no others to use: he was nurturing intellectually. He had been there, been through the place, and come out the other side but was still around and still connected to groups that were working on other projects. I think another example of that would be someone like John Clarke, who was present in the place, was incredibly helpful and supportive to me and my work and making me feel like I wasnt crazy in wanting to write about the things I wanted to write about. I dont know if they would count as faculty or students. I guess I would say that they are in some sort of intermediate category. Certainly, I never really had anything other than care from those people, though they were very busy and not very familiar in some cases with the range of obsessions that

I was desperate for them to share. I think that was really difficult for them, and

I certainly find that in my own practices as a teacher, its hard sometimes to be

as deeply in the obsessions of the people that come to you for guidance as you would like to be. I can see too that when it finally came to the issue of writing my thesis, obviously the gear changed a bit, and a different sort of support, a different kind of care and a different kind of pedagogy was appropriate. When I went there initially, I was doing the masters course even though I was

heading towards a Ph.D. rather than towards getting a masters degree because

I had three years money. There was nothing in that experience which was

anything other than interesting, which is not to say that I agreed with all of it,

and I puzzled a lot about what I thought had been left out, but in terms of learning, I used to look forward to [the courses on] Mondays.

[Hudson Vincent] Ive become interested in how the Centre arranged itself in terms of pedagogy and research. Youve already spoken a bit on the democratic nature of the space, but could you describe more specifically how courses, seminars and research opportunities were set up for the students?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, they werent set up for the students. I dont really believe in the idea of research. I dont like the way the term functions, and I dont like the way people think about it, and I dont like notion of a research culture. To me its a way of life, and for that reason, I suppose I was happy there because it enabled my way of life to slip into other things or to blend into other ways of life that were held in common. That is not to say that members werent accountable for their time. I think what youre asking is something else. There was a course. I went to

a course on Monday in the morning and in the afternoon. I would spend a day learning, listening to Richard, Michael and Stuart. I listened to my fellow students as well which was also interesting because the year that I went there, there were some extraordinary people in my group. And Im sure that was very typical, so I would listen to them. The rule was that you had to be in a

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subgroup, in other words, you had to complicate what we might now call your privatized or individualized mode of scholastic life with an element of collectivity and collective work. Again, I found that to be a positive thing. Although when it came to writing a book later, its not without its conflicts and problems. I still cant believe the problems we faced in writing a book, working that intensely together over a two- to three-year period. Im sure other people fell in love and fought and did all those things and ended up emerging at the other end of the tunnel sort of blinking in the daylight saying, I will never ever write a book with other people ever again. So I think that sense of breaking down the hyper-individuated, scholastic, monastic view of how you do your work, how you do your thinking, is part of what distinguishes the centre as a model of pedagogy, scholarship and politics.

[Hudson Vincent] So non-collaboration really wasnt an option?

[Paul Gilroy] Yeah, there were a few people who just did their own work. Obviously, my three years of watching it, I wouldnt be able to give any definitive answer. When you were trying to write your thesis, its actually quite difficult to be involved with collective work. And, certainly, in my own life, the years of collective labor, three or four years of that, culminated in a book, and then after that, I wrote my own book. So Im sure there were other people who had similar experiences. At that time, I couldnt even tell you how many theses had been completed. I rather suspect that actually a lot of the people, even those who went on to be academics, either finished their Ph.Ds. later or published books in the short term and then came back to their theses later. So it was not a sort of linear story; there were loops and feedbacks and detours, and so on that were actually part of it; its not linear. But Im sure there are one or two people who just worked on their own projects. I remember also that some people who were there registered as mastersstudents but ended up writing Ph.D.-length theses for their masters degree. You can go look in the library and see them. Somebody like Bob Willis, a very interesting person, who taught me a lot about counter-insurgency is a good example. He had written a thesis on ideologies of counter-insurgency. I give thanks for the hours I spent with him in the Muirhead Tower. Hearing him tell me what to read about counter-insurgency theory and looking at the hawks that were hunting over the landscape seen clearly from the top of the building. So there are lots of options, and the idea of having a professional career as an academic at the end of that was not something that people really considered. At least, I dont think they did. When my grant money ran out, I thought it was very unlikely that I was ever going to get a job as an academic. For about five years, there was no way I could get in. I got rejected everywhere I went, even though I had published things and so on. The cuts and the general political economy of higher education in this country at that time was such that the luxury of imagining yourself as being en route to some career

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as an academic was not one we could entertain. Again, that shows up in the attrition rate of theses; it shows up in the patterns of migration and where people ended up teaching and who went to Chile and who went to Spain and who went to other places to ply their trade, who went into secondary schools and who gave up. I dont know if Robin ever wrote his masters thesis. He was collecting tickets at Waterloo Station.

[Hudson Vincent] What specific courses or working-groups got you interested in the subject area you went on to write your thesis in? Or did you come in with that specific interest?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, the Centre didnt have a race group. We were inspired by the people who had done Policing the Crisis, and I knew when I went there that I was going to write about racism, but I didnt know exactly how or what. Obviously, I didnt want to repeat what was in Policing the Crisis. I wouldnt have been capable of doing that. Thats a magnificent and an extraordinary thing. So when I got there, Bob Findlay was there already. The two of us hatched the idea that we would start a new project, and that was going to be the race and politics group. And Valerie Amos this was Baroness Amos, now the UN higher representative. She is somebody who became deeply involved in the New Labour project, not least in its belligerent military activities had been there as a Masters student and had written a very good, interesting thesis on racial hierarchies in the nursing profession. So there were three of us. There were one or two other students who had either been Mastersstudents the year before. Gradually, the group formed, and gradually, we began to read together and think together and write for each other and the book project grew very organically out of that. That worked for us. That model worked for us. I guess in the sort of way it was supposed to work.

[Hudson Vincent] What was the relationship between academic work and political engagement at the Centre?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, I think the same way you cant generalize about which particular direction of new left, feminist left, labour left, CP, ultra left, autonomists, anarchists. You cant generalize about that either. I mean, people campaigned on different things. People were different ages and had different sets of priorities. I didnt have children till later. My partner wasnt even in the Centre, anyway. Obviously, our work was very much work about the politics of racism in that moment in British society, in that city, and so on. Lucy Bland and the group that she formed, the one that wrote the pamphlet together, Women, Race, Nation, that was in a sense of fellow traveling. I think many people had political lives. Some of them I didnt care for, others I did. In terms of the university and the politics of the university, I think there was a certain shared politics. I remember the campaign against the raising of

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student fees for overseas students who came, which must have been 1979 or 1980 maybe. I think there was a big split actually, but I cant remember. The minutes of the general meeting would reveal this. But I think there was a certain split, whether that was tactical or ideological, I cant really remember. Of course, the left itself was split. There is going to be that fracture everywhere, organizationally. And we were all watching the destruction of Birmingham around us and the sorts of narrative that you will sort of be familiar with from Policing the Crisis. Saltley Gates and the minersstrikes and all of that. That was being played out around us. When we started our race group, Raghib Ahsan, who was never a student at the Centre, was in the group. I think hes still a Labour politician in Birmingham, but at that stage, he was a Pakistani Trotskyist working at the shop floor of Rover. So it wasnt an issue thinking, oh, we have to go and get labour militants to pad our numbers and change the kind of book we wanted to write.

[Hudson Vincent] Do you see the Centre as fundamentally different from traditional forms of education?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, I had been to Sussex University before I went to Birmingham. Sussex University was a kind of educational experiment of its own. I never went to lectures there. I used to have tutorials with one other teacher. That was how I was educated. There were a few seminars. I went to some seminars. I never used to go to lectures. Not traditional, well traditional in the Oxford sense. Oxford was probably the other place that only did tutorials at that time. So I was used to a high degree of autonomy in the way I identified and pursued my intellectual goals. I was also used to a lot of support from my teachers to foster that. That suited my temperament very well. I had great teachers: Cora Kaplan, Gillian Rose and David Morse. Was the Centre discontinuous with that? No, I dont think it was. It connected with it in an interesting way. Were those things typical? I dont know. Most British universities probably had a different balance with regard to the teaching. Probably larger tutorial groups, there are probably five or four at that stage would be a more characteristic number in seminars, and then the larger lectures. So the Centre was already into a different mode of pedagogy, but there were other experiments and other things that were done in other places that were in harmony with it. The other thing, I know this is something that Stuart has said things about in print, although I havent ever discussed it with him. We say its hard to generalize about who was there, but very often many of the people who were around those tables were people who were creatures of an elite education, and I dont just mean in an Oxford and Cambridge kind of way. And thats the sort of sociological problem that would have to be aired in a more thorough-going way. Ive never attempted to really make sense of it, and I think it cant be done in the abstract. To be honest, I dont know enough about the details of peoples lives to be able to assess it. I

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know there were people who came from Sussex, there were one or two. And there were certainly one or two after me, because a couple of people had been my peers at university had turned up the following year or the year after. The year I went, there was someone I had been at school with in the same room doing their masters degree with me. Although we never worked together, he was always very interesting, I think hes completely out of academics now, but he was always held up to me at school as an example of the kind of student I was supposed to be. So that was very funny to remake a relationship there in Birmingham in different conditions. I think that was the character of class relations in this country circa 1970 whatever. Obviously, those configurations are gone. They have been replaced by other forms of hierarchy and other sorts of networks, which are worse than what they were. If you look at the kind of economic life in the country during that time and look at the ratios of inequality at that time, this is a much more an unequal society now than it was then. So those things were apparent then, but they werent disabling. They werent insignificant either. In a way, the text of cultural studies, if I can generalize about this, was some sort of intervention in that field. So without wanting to implode, and the pressure to implode is always there, I think during that time people were hunting for a different political style as well as a new style of thought. Without wanting to implode, recognizing the pressure to implode, its clear that these things were part of that history. Im trying to remember in our group, the race and politics group, the seven or eight of us, how many of us had been to Oxford and Cambridge only a couple. People were refugees from that system of elite education. They were traitors to it, many of them. I wish there were more traitors.

[Hudson Vincent] What do you see as the reasons for the emergence of cultural studies at the Centre in 1964? What were the conditions of possibility that brought it about at that specific time in Birmingham?

[Paul Gilroy] I dont know. I mean obviously you can make a generalization about Richard Hoggarts project and its intersection with Stuarts project. But Im a bit wary of the great men theory of political change and innovation. So I just dont have enough information to know. I mean the only other person Ive ever talked to about that time in 1964 is Lydia Curti. Im sure there must be other ways of thinking that through, but Im not in a position to really say anything helpful.

[Hudson Vincent] Do you have any thoughts on the causes of its closure in

2002?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, publicly, I took the position that the closure was a scandal. Privately, I thought theyd been taking the pissfor years and that if you dont

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do your work, then its obvious that, in that kind of climate, they would come after you. There was unfinished business and all kinds of local institutional factors. I went there to give a talk maybe in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and

I was set upon by the students with such hostility that I vowed to never go back

there again to give a talk. I just told myself that if the student body operates like that, then theres something awry, and I dont know what that something is. However, publicly, there was a piece I wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education about it which gives a kind of left, political reading. You can probably

find it online in their archive. I dont have a copy, otherwise, Id send it to you. But I do think theres another story, and I think if you talk to some of the people who worked there later, theyll probably tell that story for you. Les Back, Sadie Plant, these people, people that were there in the 1990s. Les didnt stick around there very long. Sadie didnt stick around there very long. So there were obviously issues there. I dont know what they were.

[Hudson Vincent] When you look at the landscape of academic work today, do you think cultural studies exist in the same way that it did at that time? If not, why and in what forms does it exist today?

[Paul Gilroy] Well, I dont know if it exists today. That shelf in the bookshop

that we marveled at: its epiphany. That shelf is now gone, and I think its been replaced by metres and metres and metres of shelf space entitled Religion.I dont even know what programs or departments there are left. In this country,

I guess theres the Goldsmiths College program still. But what they do and

what relationship it has to Birmingham would have to be examined carefully. My guess is not much, although their warrant would be thought to be derived from some fantasy version of Birmingham in multidisciplinarity, theory/praxis reconciliation and all round openness. In terms of pedagogical style, I dont know. In terms of collective work, I dont know. In terms of hierarchies involved and patronage, how one writes a thesis in three years as opposed to how one writes a thesis with a life-time registration or an open registration, things have altered beyond recognition. When I went there, I think I was registered under the ten-year rule, and it took me eight. The tempo of scholastic life has been accelerated brutally. On its own, that accounts for some of the pressures and changes that weve been speaking of. I dont know if this is true, and I dont want it just to be a projection of my own feelings. But I would think that most people, even if we didnt agree about things, found that space a useful means to accomplish intellectual work with a level of seriousness and a degree of institutional protection. We did that for a bit and then, when it didnt work any more, we did it in other ways. I would like to think that most people saw it that way. My late exposure to this meant that I have only lately become a great defender of cultural studies, because I felt it was just a disposable ladder, in the classic Wittgensteinian formulation. But actually now, the hostility and the antipathy towards cultural

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studies make me want to be a bit more of a systematic advocate for those things.

[Hudson Vincent] Youve said that cultural studies has largely disappeared from the contemporary, academic landscape, so if a student came up to you today, with no prior knowledge of cultural studies, asking you what it is, how would you respond?

[Paul Gilroy] I would say its a contingent means to accomplish the politics of intellectual work. That there is a trajectory you can identify for it, and the trajectory I have is one that was taught to me as the curriculum of its formation: its relationship to anthropology, its relationship to literary criticism, supplemented by a number of other things, a larger exposure to certain strands in continental philosophy, attention to the dynamics of what we might call a worldly Marxism that involved a detour through colonial space filtered through colonial habiti of one kind or another. Remember Orientalism hadnt been published until 1978, 1979 or something. It came late. I remember the day Mohammed Ezroura arrived in Birmingham with a noisy interest in Orientalism. So I think things have changed. But has the question or the seriousness with which one has to approach the question of culture changed? Well, no. I think a lot of the weaknesses of the left more broadly in this time is its failure to be able to ask serious questions about culture, and I think now with the technological changes, that that problem is in a sense augmented by the pressures people seem to feel, to be either cheerleaders or nay-sayers for technological innovations and transformations. Its a polarized field, so its hard not to be one or the other. The other thing I suppose Id say is that we should remember cultural studies was conditioned by a certain set of possibilities within the field of educational institutions. Now, given that, we have arrived at a neoliberal moment in which the price of education is punitive debt, there are things in the project of cultural studies that will need to be kept alive whenever people start to think again about what a free education might be. I have absolutely no doubt that thats going to happen. I have no doubt.

[Hudson Vincent] A lot of literature Ive read tries to situate cultural studies in the in-between, presumably playing off its radical contextuality and place in- betweenthe disciplines. Can you elaborate on why cultural studies demands such an interdisciplinary approach? And how it might even be transdisciplinary or antidisciplinary as a practice?

[Paul Gilroy] I would say multidisciplinary. I would never say trans. I would never say inter. I know Americans have a problem with inter. Inter is nowhere, in-between. It has to do actually with the way people think the idea of between-ness in your version of English. You can only be between two

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things. If youre not between two things, youre among things. And among is kind of different than between for you, but for us we can be between more than one thing, so we have to thank Mr. Webster for that problem.

So I always say multi-disciplinary. I always say that. There is a kind of curse of left intellectuals that feel they have to know everything. Well, you dont have to accept that mission. So multidisciplinary is always multidisciplinary. I remember hearing someone, maybe it was Arjun Appadurai, talking about multidiscplinarity and social science work. He was saying its a bit like passports. You collect as many passports as you can in life, and thats the sort

of relationship he bears with these forms of knowledge which are fractured in

that way. So, yeah, multidisciplinarity, and lets talk seriously about that.

I dont feel Im trained, and many of the people that were in Birmingham

were autodidacts of one sort or another who had arrived at peculiar combinations of things that dissolved the lines between formal disciplines in

a way that released latent or trapped energy. That was exhilarating. Ive

realized as Ive lived longer that there are only two kinds of people: the ones that take energy away from you and the ones that give you energy. I got a lot

of energy from that place. And the idea of disciplinary integrity was something

that was sacrificed happily by me as a result of that exposure. Hazel Downing, now Hazel Chowcat, explained microprocessor technology to us and wrote her thesis, in the late 1970s. She said look this is whats going to happen, and she was right. And she said read Braverman. Well, I wouldnt have read Braverman before. I wouldnt have thought about doing that. So I dont want to say that autodidactism is enough, and I dont want to say that a generic commitment to making the world better is enough. I dont think either of them are, but those things were in great, great abundance in Birmingham. Together, they do make you impatient with people whose political imaginations and academic and scholastic imaginations are so diminished that they cant see what that kind of conversation might result from their alignment. I mean I teach in Sociology. I go into my classroom, and if I say to people, I dont know whats a good example. There are a lot of American students here, so if I want to make a point about the law of the sea, and I start talking about Moby Dick, no one will know what Im talking about. Theres something thats happened to education as a result of a certain set of reconceptualizations around what it is to be a person trained in a discipline. So when we said multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, 30 years ago, it was a different kind of claim than it is now because I think that many people have retreated into protective carapace of disciplinarity as a way of stabilizing themselves in a very turbulent institutional situation.

[Hudson Vincent] Id like to move to a problematic Ive been particularly interested in recently, namely, the conjuncture of the contemporary public university system. I think one can see a number of crises and contradictions

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emerging, including the hegemonic power of the sciences, the depoliticization of the academy, the disengagement of students from their education, the corporitization of the university, as well as its growing functionalist ethos. Do you agree with this analysis, and if so, what has been your own experience with these conflicts?

[Paul Gilroy] Yes, this is what we live in. Ive been living it pretty much continually since that moment in 1978 or 1979 when we were sitting around in the Centre at a general meeting, discussing how to respond to the fact that the government was introducing a differential system of fees for overseas students. I feel like that has been a condition of my life as a teacher and an educator. It was true when I couldnt get a job in the university, even though Id done these things and written things. I dont want to whine, but it might as well be on the record. I had applied to every single institution (except this one, of course, and it wasnt even possible to apply here) in the London area and been rejected by all of them, in a number of disciplines. So it assumed one form then and it assumes another one when one is required to manage that change and require to sign up to a view of intellectual life with no public value only corporate and private value. We talk a lot about US military power, and we talk a lot about US economic power, but we dont always talk about US intellectual power in the world. The people who are beating us up here, are people who think that the benchmark of what counts as the probity of an academic life is defined by a very narrow slice of topUS journals and the forms of intellectual prestige they confer upon their audience. Thats a big problem actually. Obviously, its bound up in the British case with a whole set of assumptions about the proper management of institutions like these which are entirely inappropriate. Without those problems, someone like myself would have never acquired a job in a university. Actually, in a way, its that crisis that opens the door or the window to the likes of me, and without that, I would never have been in a university. So Im grateful for that crisis. It gave me the chance to be in here with you.

[Hudson Vincent] Do you think these problems are becoming more dire, especially for young academics?

[Paul Gilroy] Absolutely. People come to me, and they say I want to do a Ph.D., and I say why? Why do you want to do that? Where do you think thats going to take you? If you want to write a book, write the book. But why saddle yourself with all of that. If they still want to, obviously, Im happy to work with them, but we do it without illusions. Because whether or not theyd want to work in the kinds of places that they will be offered the chance to work by the time they get to the end of that trainingand on the basis that theyll be offered those jobs is really moot. Its really in the hands of a larger struggle which is unfolding around at vertiginous speed.

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[Hudson Vincent] Have you seen any effective responses to these crises?

[Paul Gilroy] Yeah, I have. For example, a lot of young people in this country through the process of the winter produced a book called Fight Back, which you can download for free. The editor is a man called Dan Hancox. If you want to get a handle on what that looked like and what sort of issues that raises and how it bespeaks a different politics of higher education and free education, I would say that the book Fight Back is a really good place to start. Its interesting to me that they let you download it for free, and then a month later, they released a Kindle edition for one pound ninety-nine, and then six to eight weeks later, they put the book in the bookshop. So theyre already thinking along different lines. So thats a good place to kick off that conversation.

Notes on interviewee

Paul Gilroy is the author of Small Acts and various other works. He has taught at several universities.