Empire in the Air: Airline Travel and the African Diaspora details the emergence of airline travel through careful attention to its racist and imperialist motives. Author Chandra Bhimull, Associate Professor of Anthropology and African-American Studies, illuminates the darker aspects of airline travel, pulling a thread through archival retellings and historical decisions to current inequalities. With a focus on Britain and its Caribbean colonies, she masterfully explores diaspora. Her delicate yet powerful turns of phrase ask the reader to rethink their in/experience of airline travel. Bhimull has been met with critical acclaim at the argumentative success of her stunning ethnography.
“By sheer coincidence, I read Chandra Bhimull’s masterful book on a long, red-eye flight from L.A. to São Paulo, with a layover in Panama City. My Copa Airlines flight exemplified what Bhimull calls the ‘brown corridor;’ I traveled with descendants of imperial subjects and working people caught in a neoliberal landscape of migrant, precarious labor. I never slept; I couldn’t put the book down. Gripping, eloquent, poetic, Empire in the Air strips the history of air travel of its romantic aura to expose the racial operations and experiences of the fittingly named ‘Imperial Airways,’ and the manner in which imperial subjects came to see—and be seen—at an altitude of 25,000 feet. I read the last pages upon our descent at São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport. Like everyone on board, I applauded.” – Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times