C. L. R. James and the Study of Culture by Andrew Smith (auth.)

By Andrew Smith (auth.)

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Sample text

R. James and the Study of Culture thinking about sport as anything other than entertainment, there is no avoiding the degree to which these events were saturated with politics. In that respect James’ pointed focus on ‘the field of play’ seems remarkable, perhaps even contrary. One could, however, cite any number of similar examples from James’ wider writings in order to demonstrate that his approach to D’Oliveira was in keeping with his approach more generally. Take this, for instance, the opening to his appreciation of another great cricketer, Rohan Kanhai: The investigation [… of …] any great cricketer should deal with his actual cricket, the way he bats and bowls and fields, does all or any of these.

To that I had said, was Forms 29 saying, my final good-bye’ (232–3). All of which problematises the idea that cricket is a game in which certain values, protocols of conduct and bodily practices coalesced in such a way that it became a quasi-magical means of turning out deferential colonial subjects. James’ shock at finding basketball players selling out and his disappointment at his friends’ laissez-faire response to this, cannot be dismissed as simply a knee-jerk puritanism on his part. Something else was clearly at stake.

It was there, he tells us, sitting amid the ‘unaccustomed’ hostility of rival American baseball fans, that he realised just how deeply the ‘code’ of cricketing practice had been ingrained in him, despite the fact that he thought he had ‘said good-bye to all that’ (1983 [1963]: 51) on leaving Britain. He goes on to describe his own shocked response to the discovery that American sports fans were largely nonchalant about basketball stars who took money to deliberately underperform. The point of his story is not that the fans were wrong, but that it was in light of their responses that he came to look at himself and his own reactions anew.

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