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Encounter with the Neighbour in 1970's British Multicultural Comedy

Ilott, Sarah

The essay proposes to explore the mobilisation of the figure of the black neighbour in 1970s’ comedy as a means of commenting upon and critiquing British multicultural discourse of the time through a consideration of popular and mainstream sitcoms Love Thy Neighbour (ITV, 1972—76) and Rising Damp (ITV, 1974—78). The paper argues that whilst these comedies might seem radical for their time in normalising black neighbours, poking jokes at white bigots, and engaging with social taboo head-on, they ultimately serve to confirm the status quo by appeasing mainstream audiences and letting them off the hook for ongoing racism, whilst placing the burden for the happy functioning of a culturally and ethnically diverse nation in the hands of individuals without reference to cultural, political, historical or economic contexts that have combined to disenfranchise, alienate and subordinate black Britons.

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