Redefining Clubbability: The Decolonization of British Colonial Clubland

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:20 AM
International Ballroom 5 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Sterling Coleman Jr., Central State University
In her ground-breaking article, “Britishness, Clubbability, and the Colonial Public Sphere”, Mrinalini Sinha highlighted clubbability as it pertained to the colonizer and the colonized within the colonial public sphere and created an opportunity to explore the core and peripheral criteria of clubbability which was utilized by the colonizer elite to determine the clubbability of the colonized.  This study is designed to build upon Sinha’s work by analyzing the demographic, economic, social, political and ideological catalysts which contributed to the racial integration of British colonial clubland as a microcosm for the broader decolonization of the British Empire during the mid-twentieth century.

During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, the clubbable colonizer elite—or ‘select people’—gave little thought towards opening clubland to the colonized elite. Clubland was deemed to be an exclusively European enclave and while the colonized elite were free to establish clubs of their own—and some did—few were deemed clubbable in the eyes of the ‘select people’. 

This paper will argue the external and internal challenges the ‘select people’ confronted during the 1920s and 1930s compelled them to search for the ‘proper sort’—clubbable members of the colonized elite who would serve as their silent partners in the political, economic and social management of the colony.  These challenges were the increasing dependency of the colonizer elite upon the colonized elite to operate the colonial bureaucracy, the rise of anti-imperialism abroad, the impact of the Great Depression upon the Sterling Area and the advent of indigenous reform movements.

This study also will seek to identify the core and peripheral criteria utilized by the colonizer elite to determine the clubbability of the colonized elite and assess the impact of the silent partnership which existed between the ‘proper sort’ and the ‘select people’ upon the colonial public sphere.