Once a colleague asked me to say what kinds of questions a sociologist would ask of a place like New Cross? It struck me at the time that it was perhaps better to pose the question the other way around. What kind of questions does an area like New Cross pose to the sociologist of city life? How do we respond to its admixture of hate and love and its history of division and conviviality that is socially alive sometimes on the same streets. We can only approach an answer to these questions by following Harvey Molotch’s invitation of getting on our feet and “going out.” This is a walk through postcolonial London. It is a walk I have done many times often leading groups of students or visiting political activists, writers and even local residents.
Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.