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

By Andrew Smith (auth.)

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Moreover, he is interrogating himself and his own responses to this issue. It helps to remember, in this respect, that the key themes of Beyond a Boundary (the insistence on reading cricket as an art-form; the emphasis on the role of the audience; the relation of sporting styles to a wider zeitgeist) had all been worked out by James at least three decades before the book was finally published. It is possible to trace their emergence and evolution, for example, in the reports that James produced for both the Manchester Guardian and the Glasgow Herald in the late 1930s (Smith 2006a).

One rarely feels, reading him, that a sociological account of culture is somehow opposed to, or destructive of, the joys and pleasures of human creativity. Rather, and this is of course the whole point, his writings are vibrant with the sense that the social and political meanings of culture are inextricable from its joys and pleasures or, indeed, its frustrations and missed opportunities. At the most straightforward level, there is a cautionary note to be heeded here. The caution is that thinking sociologically about culture is a discipline, not a free pass: it requires that we strive to be more dedicated, more attentive or more scrupulous readers and viewers.

Hence, as Cain and Hopkins point out, the emphasis placed on field sports such as cricket in consolidating a shared corporate ideology among the staff of significant imperial institutions such as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (1993a: 439). What is unsettling about Beyond a Boundary, then, even for some of his sympathetic critics, is not simply the fact that James expresses Forms 25 such undisguised affection for this game, with its dubious historical associations, nor even that he focuses so much of his energy on a loving and detailed consideration of the respective styles of its great players.

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