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A British Broadcasting Corporation series, "In Search of Shakespeare," which includes an interview with ODU associate professor of English Imtiaz Habib, is currently airing in Great Britain and is scheduled to be broadcast by PBS in January.

Habib, the author of "Shakespeare and Race" (University Press of America, 1999), a book that examines the political, social and cultural impact of Shakespeare's approach to the racial issues contained within his plays, is one of a handful of scholars who were interviewed for the four-part series by noted documentarian Michael Wood. Habib appears in the third segment.

"Until now people have assumed that the Elizabethans did not know people of color," said the Shakespeare and English Renaissance scholar. "We now have documented proof of the residences of black people, which must be reckoned into the colors of Shakespeare's world, in a very literal sense. Shakespeare knew people of color. He walked through their neighborhoods every day."

Habib's research has led to a significantly new understanding of the role of cultural politics in Shakespeare's time, with close examination of the ways race and colonialism affected, and were affected by, Elizabethan society. For his landmark studies, Habib has received accolades from the Shakespeare Association of America.

"I can't say Shakespeare reached a point of closure and an emancipated, enlightened view of people of color," Habib said. "He didn't. But he did put persons of color into European culture, there to remain. And that enriches the cultural discourse."

This article was posted on: July 2, 2003

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