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Study information

Publishing and Power: Black and Asian Literary Networks in the UK

Module titlePublishing and Power: Black and Asian Literary Networks in the UK
Module codeEASM169
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Kate Wallis (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This team taught module explores the practices and politics of black and Asian British publishing from the early twentieth century to present, moving across the influential networks formed through the BBC’s Caribbean Voices (1943-1958), to the critical space in print established by radical publishers of the 1960s, to the emergence of post-millennial literary initiatives. Asking questions about ownership, community, and aesthetics while studying publishing, marketing, and distribution strategies, this module pioneers a critical and applicable approach to publishing studies. Through this, it draws attention to the crucial role that institutions and individuals play in shifting structures of cultural value and knowledge production.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will explore the cultural impact of black and Asian literary initiatives on Britain’s publishing landscape. The module will trace the organisational strategies and significant role played by independent publishers and literary magazines from Peepal Tree to Sable Lit Mag, alongside the influence of particular editors from Vera Wilkins to Ellah Wakatama Allfrey on a UK publishing space dominated by large-scale media conglomerates. Foregrounding the underrepresentation of BAME voices in the UK publishing industry and the damaging effect this has on UK cultural life, the module will also evaluate the role and success of diversity initiatives over the last 40 years from Greater Access to Publishing (GAP) to Penguin Random House’s WriteNow.

Situating black and Asian British literary production within its historical, social, political and literary contexts, through this module you will consider how particular literary initiatives have been positioned in relation to black and Asian communities in Britain, colonialism, racism and resistance, and literary networks in Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean.

We will explore literary texts through the frame of their conditions of production and reception – looking across the publishing of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and children’s books and considering the role of literary prizes, literary events, social media, and reviewing culture.

This module aims to create an important platform for new research in this understudied area of British publishing history while providing students interested in a career in publishing with critical and practical insights into challenges and opportunities for the publishing industry in the twenty-first century. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse literary texts in relation to their practical conditions of production, distribution, and reception
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced appreciation of the critical debates around the politics of cultural representation a) in relation to historical and contemporary publishing formations; and b) in relation to world-historical and national events affecting the former, such as: colonialism; anti-colonialism; nationalism; postcolonialism; migration
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the history of black and Asian British publishing and relate its concerns and its modes of representation to different literary, social, political, economic and historical contexts
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced proficiency in using a “field” (Bourdieu; Thompson) or network approach in grounding your understanding of black and Asian British publishing

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous proficiency in the close formal, thematic, and generic analysis of literary texts
  • 6. Demonstrate a sophisticated and intellectually mature ability to inform traditional literary analysis with media-specific historical analysis related to publishing and literary networks
  • 7. Demonstrate advanced and autonomous skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical and theoretical concepts in relation to the study of literature and publishing

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Through essay-writing, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills and the ability to construct a coherent, substantiated argument
  • 9. Through the planning and organisation of research projects, and the discussion of literary and critical texts, develop.independent thinking and communication skills.
  • 10. Through the close study of publishing organisations, gain practical knowledge about the challenges and opportunities associated with working in publishing today

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics

  • literary networks and communities
  • politics of publishing
  • decolonising and devolving literary culture
  • children's book publishing
  • literary magazines
  • literary festivals, book fairs and events
  • publishing and / as social organisation
  • literary collectives
  • list building, cultural value and individual agency
  • publishing as cross-cultural practice
  • histories of specific publishing houses and / or formations
  • contemporary initiatives in black and Asian British publishing.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Seminars
Guided Independent Study20Study Group meetings and preparation
Guided Independent Study88Seminar reading and preparation
Guided Independent Study170Research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Module Participation Ongoing through the term9Tutorial follow-up
Essay Plan1000 words1-7, 8-9Tutorial follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Field or Network Analysis252500 words1-4, 6-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay755000 words1-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Field or Network AnalysisField Analysis1-4,6-10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative publishers and literary initiatives that might be studied include:

  • BBC Caribbean Voices
  • New Beacon Books
  • International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books
  • Wasafiri
  • Peepal Tree
  • Tamarind
  • Speaking Volumes
  • Africa Writes

Note that the above is an indicative list only, and that the list for the current year will be available on ELE.

Indicative secondary sources:

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Literature and Art. Polity, 1993. 
  • Bush, Ruth. New Beacon Books: The Pioneering Years. George Padmore Institute, 2014.
  • Edwards, Brent Hayes. “Variations on a Preface” and “Inventing the Black International: George Padmore and Tiemoko Garan Kouyaté.” The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2003.
  • Donnell, Alison (ed).Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Routledge, 2013.
  • George, Kadija (ed). Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature. Hansib Publications, 2005.
  • Gilroy, Paul. Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures. Serpent’s Tail, 1993.
  • Ireland, Philippa. “Laying The Foundations: New Beacon Books, Bogle L’Ouverture Press and the Politics of Black British Publishing.” Revue électronique d’études sur le monde anglophone. 2013.
  • Nasta Susheila and Mark Stein, The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
  • Osborne, Deidre (ed). The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945–2010). Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Sesay, Kadija. “Publishing” Oxford Companion to Black British History, vol. 1. Oxford: OUP, 2007.
  • Procter, James. Writing Black Britain, 1948-1998: an interdisciplinary anthology. Manchester University Press, 2000.
  • Ranasinha, Ruvani. South Asian Writers in Twentieth-Century Britain: Culture in Translation. OUP, 2007.
  • Saha, Anamik and Sandra van Lente, Rethinking Diversity in Publishing. Goldsmiths Press, 2020.
  • Thompson, John B. Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Polity, 2010.
  • White, Sarah, Roxy Harries and Sharmilla Beezmohun. A meeting of the continents: the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books – revisited. George Padmore Institute, 2005.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Publishing studies, Black and Asian British, twentieth century, contemporary

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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