About the Conference

Regularly cited as one of the great sports books of the twentieth century, C.L.R. James’ Beyond a Boundary (1963) is, by his own famous definition, about far more than cricket. Developing a concern to understand sport as part of a much wider social and political context (a concern first articulated in his earlier writings for the Glasgow Herald), James’ study is part-autobiography, part-historical study and part-political-call-to-arms written against the backdrop of the decolonisation struggles. His reflections thus reach out into a critical account of racism and imperialism, into wider questions of aesthetics and popular culture, and into the struggle for revolutionary social change which was the enduring concern of his life. Crucially, James insisted that such questions were not simply of concern to academics or to experts, but were also a central part of what drew ordinary men and women to sport.

Much loved, and widely read, James’ study has also been the subject of searching criticism: he has been accused, among other things, of a failure of critical judgement in relation to cricket’s role in the moral framework of empire, of a lack of attentiveness to gendered inequalities, and of a naïve faith in the spontaneity of popular political resistance.

This conference is convened on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Beyond a Boundary, with the intention of both celebrating and questioning, drawing out the book’s intellectual legacies and identifying the issues it leaves unanswered.

The conference will begin with a film showing on the evening of Thursday 9th May, and carry on over Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May, 2013. Already confirmed keynote speakers for the conference are Mike Brearley (former England Test captain and previously President of the British Psychoanalytic Society), and Wai Chee Dimock (Department of English, Yale) and Robert A. Hill (History, UCLA and C.L.R. James’ Literary Executor).

We also expect to have contributions from Selma James, Selwyn Cudjoe and Clem Seecharan. The film-maker Mike Dibb will be introducing showings of his 1976 film of Beyond a Boundary, as well the interview he recorded between James and Stuart Hall in 1984.

For full details of those presenting at the event, please see the 'programme' section of these pages.