Empire in the Air
Airline Travel and the African Diaspora
"Bhimull’s luminous work is much more than a deeply researched and compellingly argued study of British civil aviation in the interwar period. It is a radical attempt to consider the place of empire, colonialism, and race, in a history from which they have been systematically effaced. It is a declaration of the importance of reading the Caribbean, and the perspectives of those racially subjected there and elsewhere, back into the center of empire’s third dimension. At the heart of Empire in the Air, and perhaps its most unsettling implication, is an exposure of the violence of flight in the present, as much as in the past: of the ways in which imperial privilege and racism continue to take to the air in ways generally ignored from above, even as they remain acutely visible, from below."
—Paul Eiss, Carnegie Mellon University
"By sheer coincidence, I read Chandra Bhimull’s masterful book on a long, red-eye flight from L.A. to São Paulo, with a layover in Panama City. My Copa Airlines flight exemplified what Bhimull calls the “brown corridor;” I traveled with descendants of imperial subjects and working people caught in a neoliberal landscape of migrant, precarious labor. I never slept; I couldn’t put the book down. Gripping, eloquent, poetic, Empire in the Air strips the history of air travel of its romantic aura to expose the racial operations and experiences of the fittingly named “Imperial Airways,” and the manner in which imperial subjects came to see—and be seen—at an altitude of 25,000 feet. I read the last pages upon our descent at São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport. Like everyone on board, I applauded."
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times
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