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Anti-Racist Activism in London: Exploring Multidirectionality at Commemorations of the Battle of Cable Street and the Murder of Altab Ali

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The paper examines the multidirectional character of commemorations of racist and fascist violence in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. It does so by studying commemorative events taking place in Altab Ali Park in the borough between 2016 and 2018 to address contemporary political issues. Specifically, the study documents the 80th anniversary of the Battle for Cable Street in 1936, celebrated as a local victory against fascist organisations, and the 40th anniversary of the 1978 racist murder of a Bengali textile worker called Altab Ali. Combined, these events illustrate how Holocaust remembrance, anti-fascist movements and anti-racist initiatives are interconnected and draw on one another in meaningful ways. The paper evaluates the value of applying Michael Rothberg's concept of multidirectional memory in understanding commemorations by drawing on textual analysis of local histories and use these to more fully understand commemorative practices. Such an approach reveals both the value of multidirectional characteristics of memory practices to address contemporary issues, while pointing to the difficulties that arise as a result of the selective character of memory practices that may reduce the possibilities of bringing to light the linkages, in the cases discussed between colonialism, the Second World War and contemporary racism.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Pages (from-to)623-637
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Altab Ali, Battle of Cable Street, Multidirectional memory, fascism, racism

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