Cultural theory: The left-behind in postcolonial time (wrk in progress)

Date & Time:

23rd March, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent out to those who register.


Fadia Dakka, Kirsten Forkert and Zaki Nahaboo discuss a collaborative, work-in-progress text, 'Left Behind in Postconial Time'.

The construct of the ‘Left Behind’ (Goodwin and Ford 2013), similar to the ‘Red Wall’, evokes those living in areas of post-industrial decline in Western countries who often embrace right-wing politics. This figure, which creates racial divisions within the working class, is often discussed in terms of nostalgia for a time of economic security. Invoked is a period in history that has been lost to the mid-twentieth century decline of the British Empire and subsequent UK governments’ neoliberal responses to, and steering of, economic globalization.

In our presentation, we take a different approach. Instead of trying to assess the empirical validity of the ‘Left Behind’ as a social category, we explore how the political possibilities of this figure are orchestrated by a politics of time. In particular, we focus on the inclusion of the Left Behind into a singular shared national time and exclusion from the multiple temporalities the racialized working class are made to occupy. A theoretical reflection on the nuances of crisis framed in rhythmic terms, encompassing a plurality and simultaneity of spatio-temporal framings, is then introduced to counterbalance forms of ‘ ‘arrhythmic politics’ that arbitrarily confine the ‘Left Behind’ to a singular national time.

Although the Left Behind are cast as languishing citizens, their positioning in national narration as yet to enjoy the spoils of post-1980s economic development is cast as an exception to Eurocentric historicism. Their temporal positioning of being out of sync with a projected ideal of contemporary British citizenship is not occasioned by an ideology of “foreign backwardness”. In contrast, impoverished racialized citizens continue to be subject to this in mainstream political discourse. The Left Behind has become a fulcrum for generating contemporary spatial-temporal lines of British working-class politics.

Fadia Dakka is a Senior Research Fellow in Education and the Deputy Director of CSPACE (Centre for the study of practice and culture in education), HELS faculty, Birmingham City University.

Based in the Birmingham Institute of Media and English Kirsten Forkert is Professor of Cultural Studies..

Zaki Nahaboo is Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Birmingham City University.