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Extra resources for C. L. R. James and the Study of Culture

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Rather it is the fact that, throughout the book, James openly defends what he calls ‘the ancestral creed’ (1983 [1963]: 247). That is to say, precisely the old public school ideal of cricket as something to be played for its own sake and in adherence to an unwritten ‘spirit’ which guides the conduct of players and marks out the cricketing field as sacrosanct, a space apart from the political, racial and economic inequalities of social life more generally. ). The epilogue which follows goes even further.

Grace. No wonder that some of his readers have looked askance. Might this not be, in fact, proof positive of James’ formalism, of a faltering political nerve when it came to the sport in which he had invested so much of himself? Allan Guttmann certainly thinks so, accusing James of a ‘typically liberal fixation on the rules of play’ (1994: 27). Or, more accurately, but no less ironically, of an abiding respect for the uncodified ‘spirit of the game’. This argument is echoed by Douglas Hartmann in his reconsideration of Beyond a Boundary (2003) in which he argues that, despite the many important lessons that James still holds for contemporary readers, he imagined the sport he loved to be far more neutral than it actually was.

54) In other words, far from presenting some unconscious defence of an imperial ‘games ethic’, Beyond a Boundary is the work of someone driven to reflect, by a kind of culture shock, on what might or might not be at stake in the defence of cricket’s peculiar boundaries. Something else can be noted here as well. If cricket’s supposed ideological lesson was that of deference to authority in a general sense, or even authority within the limited confines of a school, it was extraordinarily ineffective.

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