A book review of From Sylhet to Spitalfields: Bengali Squatters in 1970s East London by Shabna Begum, 2023
Keywords: Bengali squatters, East End London, archives
Personal and heartfelt, Begum’s From Sylhet to Spitalfields is a triumphant example of activist archiving in at least three ways. First, as an account of the Bengali squatters in the 1970s and how they drew on their own history as part of their direct action and vigilantism, negotiating the hostility and violence of East End London. Second, as an artifact in-itself, which addresses silences in urban and radical histories, acting as a community archival source for ongoing actions today. And finally, as an archival lens which works as a powerful tool for unsettling and reshaping the streets, buildings, and spaces of the city.