Rethinking Empire and Democracy

The AAS 21 Podcast is back for the first podcast of the 2017-2018 academic year. Professor Glaude speaks to his colleague, Reena N. Goldthree, about her current research into nationalism, migration and gender in Latin America and the Caribbean. Professor Goldthree is the new specialist of Afro-Atlantic histories in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton. Goldthree’s forthcoming book is called Democracy Shall be no Empty Romance: War and the Politics of Empire in the Greater Caribbean.

 

The Formation of ‘Religio-Racial’ Identity

In this episode, Professor Glaude and Professor Judith Weisenfeld discuss the development of ‘religio–racial’ identity during the Great Migration. Weisenfeld is the Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Her latest book, New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration is a historiography of twentieth-century black religious groups, including the Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, and Ethiopian Hebrews. The two discuss the racial claims of these groups, the impact they had on the development of African American identity, and their interactions with government entities, other religious groups, and African American communities.  Weisenfeld also sheds light on her research process, which pulls from marriage and divorce certificates, immigration and naturalization records, and FBI files in order to create a multifaceted view of the practitioners.

 

Stuart Hall: In Conversations

Imani Perry is a Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. In this conversation with University of Texas Sociology Professor Ben Carrington, Perry discusses Hall’s work as foundational for her own intellectual trajectory as a cultural theorist.

Likewise, Perry addresses Hall’s relevance for understanding a U.S. context by noting that the questions Hall asks around political economy, the rise of neoliberalism, race, class, and culture are important for making sense of what is happening in the United States because “we are all grappling with legacies of empire and capitalism and racialization.”

Perry argues that although we see different iterations of these issues as they move around the world, Hall’s theorizing is prescient for making sense of questions of globalization. The conversation also addresses Hall as a model for being a public intellectual who neither postures nor self-aggrandizes but rather is about conversation and engagement with and a responsibility to different public.

Carrington and Perry discuss how Hall’s work is useful for understanding not only Brexit, but also the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S. Perry explains that she understands these issues as part of an “anxiety about the growth of precarity, globalization, and neoliberalism, and the kind of vulnerability that [these issues] produce for whiteness,” as well as an appeal for a return to conventional imperial relations. Hall’s work, which addresses the intersection of historical forces that produce these anxieties, helps us to think about these issues, although he does not necessarily give us the answers. Hall provides a model for how to read the world around us ethically.

-Maggie Tate

All conversations in the Stuart Hall: In Conversations series with Ben Carrington can be found here

The Urgency of Fighting Against the Racist Right-Wing

 

Interview on October 26, 2017 with 

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor at the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. After Taylor called Donald Trump “a racist, sexist megalomaniac” at a commencement speech earlier this year, she received several deaths threats, leading her to cancel a number of public-speaking events. We caught up with Taylor recently while she was touring the country talking about her new book, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. She speaks here about the importance of building an anti-racist movement, how people can get involved and her vision for a just America.

 


 

Gail Ablow: Unlike many professors, you are also an activist. Was there a moment in your life, a tipping point, where you thought, “I’d better do something?”

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: I think that when I first became active in politics, in the sense that I felt there was something that I needed to do, was probably in high school. In my junior year of high school, I had just moved to Buffalo, New York from Dallas, Texas. I remember being in a history class where a black student complained to our history teacher, who was a white woman, that he was tired of hearing about white people, and wanted to hear about black people. She called the police, and there were police in the school building as is common now in public schools, and had him removed from the classroom for talking out of turn and being disruptive in the class.

I had another situation where a teacher would regularly come to the class with a JCPenney catalog, and read the catalog during the class. I told my dad about this, my father who’s a professor at the University of Buffalo, and he went to arrange a meeting with the teacher to discuss this. She called the police on my father when he raised the issue of her reading a magazine during class.

I went from being what I would call a critic of things that were happening to actually doing something while I was the editor of the school newspaper. I wrote an editorial opposing the compulsory nature of the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, I was removed from my homeroom, and my new homeroom became the vice principal’s office. That’s where I had to go every morning, so that I was not “disruptive.”

I think ultimately when I turned the corner into full-fledged activism was when the US went to war with Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. That was my initiation into regular, full-time activism and organizing.

GA: You are still active; what are the biggest challenges that you are confronting now?

KYT: I think one of the biggest challenges is that there’s often a lack of confidence that we can actually change things. It’s very difficult to overcome, because everything in our society tells you that someone else is supposed to fix your problem, or the problem is your fault to begin with. It’s up to you to have some kind of personal transformation or revelation to change your circumstances.

So between those two poles — either entrusting your own self-preservation to an elected official or some other authority figure, or self-blame and having some kind of personal transformation — there is little space for people to understand that they have the capacity to collectively transform their conditions and the conditions of other people.

Having an analysis of where oppression comes from and where inequality comes from — that cuts against the idea that these are self-contained problems or conditions of our own making. And that actually points to how they are manufactured by a system and by a society that actually thrives on that inequality. That is why history is so important: because it provides real examples of where ordinary people have been able to break through those kinds of constraints to change things.

GA: What are you working on now?

KYT: I’ve been touring the country to talk about my book, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation. Everyone wants to know where the Black Lives Matter movement is now. This is no longer only a question about police abuse and violence. What we’ve seen over the last several months is the growth of the fringe extreme right, of neo-Nazis, of neo-Fascists — or actual Fascists — who in many ways have not just been emboldened by President Trump, but by the people he has around him. We have to think about what signal that sends to people who identify themselves as the “alt-right,” or the new neo-Nazi white supremacist.

I think that there’s a larger question of “How do we build a larger anti-racist movement that can marginalize the extremist right, and that can demonstrate that the vast majority of people in this country reject those ideas, and are able to stand up to the intimidation and violence of those forces?” I think this is necessary because without a visible manifestation of our forces, it gives these extremists confidence. It continues to embolden them to think that it’s their ideas that are on the rise. When those people have confidence, it has very detrimental consequences for those of us who they despise.

I think that’s a big challenge for progressive and left forces in this country: How do we knit together a large, visible movement against racism and its many different forms, whether it’s Islamophobia, anti-immigrant hysteria or anti-black racism?

GA: How do you answer when somebody asks, “Where do I start?”

KYT: I think the first place to start is locally. There’s not a city in this country that isn’t grappling with these issues in some way or another. I think that if you’re on a campus, it’s fairly straightforward what to do, which is to put up flyers and get in touch with people who are having the same questions and concerns that you are. Get together, discuss what they are, and figure out ways to act on them.

In neighborhoods and communities, there’s a similar way to respond, either through churches or community organizations. The main thing is, we can’t begin to deal with issues individually or alone. It’s critical to connect up with other people, either through formal or informal organizations, and begin to discuss what are the issues that are of most concern to you, and how do you connect with the next group of people who share those concerns?

GA: Is there something that you think people can do to fix our broken system?

KYT: To me one of the most powerful events I was involved with, after the election, was the Women’s March in DC after the Trump inauguration. To me the best antidote to despair, to sadness and isolation in the political and also the human and emotional sense, is to connect with other people who are experiencing the same kind of collective emotional and political trauma: to not suffer through that alone. Some of that can sound like new-age, self-help therapy, and it’s really not. At its essence, it’s really about the politics of ordinary people. We can’t confront the things that damage our lives individually.

There’s something to be said about being in big demonstrations and to really put flesh on the idea that we are many and they are few. The transformative impact of being in a protest, where the sense of isolation and atomization begins to disintegrate, and you feel like you are a part of something. That’s why the key social and political movements, over the course of history in this country, have always involved the mass protest. It’s a way ordinary people can collectively assert themselves. You’re not the only one who feels alienated by this, and you’re not the only one who wants to do something about this.

How you go from your living room to organizing is a complicated question, but I don’t think it’s as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be. It is about talking about that issue, connecting with other people, finding those people and beginning from that standpoint.

GA: What is the vision of America that you want to pass along to your child?

KYT: A vision of a just world anywhere means fighting for everything that you want. No one will give you anything, in this society or any other society. You have to know what you think is just and what it is that you think is important, and you have to connect with your fellow humanity to demand that. It is, in some ways, the struggle itself that is a part of what makes life important.

It’s very easy to sit back, if you have the ability to do that, and to just let life happen to you. But it’s a hard country to rest in, even for people who may have the means to do so. The world around us is a very complicated and complex place, and if we’re even going to have a world to live in, it’s going to be something that we struggle for and that we fight for.

GA: What does this just world look like?

KYT: For me, having an economically just country, where the majority of people are making decisions about what happens with the resources of our country, and of the world, really, means that you don’t have to use scapegoating to make decisions. You don’t have to blame the most powerless among us to justify your own decision-making; it’s not necessary.

Right now there’s a billionaire who’s the president, half of Congress is made up of white men who are millionaires. We have somewhere between a kleptocracy and a plutocracy in the United States, where these people make decisions in the name of the people, but most certainly for themselves.

It really is a basic idea of divide and conquer. It’s the reason why racism becomes so pervasive; why gender discrimination, why religious bigotry and nationalism become so pervasive: because they get us to fight each other, while they literally hoard the wealth. People may think, “Is that hyperbolic?” But think about Donald Trump and the way that he’s come into office. It’s not just promising this austere budget of nothing for poor and working-class people and everything for the rich. It’s that it comes accompanied with vile, anti-immigrant hysteria, like blaming Mexican immigrants for the economic problems of working-class white people. It comes with the most racist, anti-Muslim rhetoric, to get working-class people, black and white, to think that their No. 1 problem is radical Islamic terrorism and not the kind of economic terrorism that goes on in this country on a daily basis.

People talk about racial resentment, and the white working class. Is that what produced Donald Trump? It’s understanding that the rich and the elite in this country have always used racial resentment as a way to deflect from the real crimes that they are engaged with. We’re seeing a master class in this right now. It’s a naked agenda of stealing from poor people, to give to the rich, and it’s all couched in the most racist and vile language.

That isn’t just a nasty aside. I think that Malcolm X once said, “You can’t have racism without capitalism, and you can’t have capitalism without racism.” It’s because they work together to create and perpetuate the kind of inequality that is at the heart of our society.

GA: Do you think we can solve this through our political system?

KYT: I think that elections can play an important part. But, there are some things that are not policy questions. Like: “How do we end poverty?” That is not a policy question that, if you get Democrats in, maybe you’ll have decent policy, but if they get voted out, then you’ll get rid of the policy. How do you have a policy that may be this way under one administration, but then may be completely jettisoned under another?

The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s health care bill, is deeply problematic but then that becomes the law. Can another administration just come in and decide, “Well no, we’d like to do something different?” — and you throw millions of people’s lives, potentially, into upheaval. Some of these fundamental questions about what it means to be human are not policy questions. Health care should not be a policy question. Whether or not you get to eat should not be a policy question. If shelter, housing, is critical to the perpetuation of the species, then how do you put a price on it?

I think that we have to fight for whatever it is that we can fight for, as the political system is currently constituted. These are questions that are existential to the human condition and are not partisan issues. It raises bigger questions about what kind of system is it that we actually want to live under. That’s the kind of world that I think not only means that there is justice for everyone, that people have real self-determination — meaning that they get to determine what happens in their lives, without coercion, whether it’s economic, whether it’s physical. That’s a long struggle, but I think it’s a world worth fighting for.

10 Prepositions on Langston

Alexander, the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University is an accomplished poet, essayist, playwright and scholar. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, a founding member of Cave Canem, and former Chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University.

In 2009, she became only the fourth poet to read her poetry at an American presidential inauguration.

Rethinking Reproduction, Reimagining Technology

Nobel Conference 53

Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?
October 3 & 4, 2017

From artificial insemination to in vitro fertilization to contraception, reproductive technologies have long raised a host of complex scientific, social, and ethical questions. New techniques and technologies, such as genome editing and mitochondrial transfer, complicate those questions even further. The 53rd Nobel Conference invites participants to consider how continuing innovations in reproductive technology challenge us to think about what it means to be human.

How have scientific and technological discoveries assisted, transformed, and suppressed reproduction, and how will they continue to shape age-old debates about fertility and reproduction, motherhood and fatherhood? How safe are new techniques and what might be their impact on human health and social health? Who decides which technologies to develop, how they are funded, and who should have access to them? This conference will explore the science of these emerging technologies and delve into the ethical complexities and social consequences that result when we reshape a process so central to human life.

Nobel Conference 53 will bring together an interdisciplinary panel of scholars and scientists from around the world to consider not only how far we can go but how far we should go.

The Souls of Black Folk (Audio and ePub)

Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.

W.E.B. Du Bois

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  The Forethought
I.   Of Our Spiritual Strivings
II.   Of the Dawn of Freedom
III.   Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
IV.   Of the Meaning of Progress
V.   Of the Wings of Atalanta
VI.   Of the Training of Black Men
VII.   Of the Black Belt
VIII.   Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece
IX.   Of the Sons of Master and Man
X.   Of the Faith of the Fathers
XI.   Of the Passing of the First-Born
XII.   Of Alexander Crummell
XIII.   Of the Coming of John
XIV.   Of the Sorrow Songs
  The Afterthought


LISTEN

 

 

Mike Brown’s Body: Meditations on War, Race and Democracy

The Ferguson protests provide an occasion to meditate on the relationship between war, race, freedom and democracy, especially in light of several events: the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the 13th amendment; the 100th anniversary of World War I and the U.S. occupation of Haiti; the 50th anniversary of SNCC’s Freedom Summer, the March on Selma and the Voting Rights Act, the assassination of Malcolm X, and the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act; and the latest “Freedom Summer” of 2014, from the #BlackLivesMatter movement and anti-police violence protests to the war on Gaza.  Taken together, these three lectures performs something of a political autopsy on Mike Brown to reveal both the history of the racial regimes that ultimately left him dead in the streets for four and a half hours, but more importantly, reveal the alternative possibilities for creating democracy rooted in freedom, justice, and decolonization.


John Brown’s Body: Abolition Democracy Against Perpetual War

This talk opens with the killing of Mike Brown and the wave of anti-police protests, and suggests that the struggle for justice for Brown and other victims is not new, nor is it merely a consequence of the militarization of police.  Instead, Brown—like Tanisha Anderson and others—is a casualty of a war originating over 500 years ago, a war to colonize, dispossess, enslave, deny rights of citizenship; a war to decolonize, repossess, emancipate, democratize.  What we’re witnessing, in other words, is part of a much longer struggle not just against enslavement, colonialism, and state violence, but for democracy itself—a struggle on the part of racialized subjects to end racial capitalism’s brutal war, to bring peace and a new democratic, just, order to the world.


Other Brown Bodies: World War on Working Class

Kelley makes at least three central arguments: 1) that World War I was both a war for colonies and a war on the working class, and that the U.S. opened the real “Western Front” with the occupation of Vera Cruz (1914), Haiti (1915), Dominican Republic (1916), etc. 2) that this moment marked the criminalization of Other Brown bodies–the “immigrant”–which in turn masked the war’s character. Examining the consequences of immigration policy rooted in race, empire, militarization, and class war, Kelley shows how mass immigration and immiseration are produced and reproduced, how such policies laid the basis for the national security state in the U.S., and generated massive inequality on a world scale. 3) Suggest that this modern racial regime shored up white support for U.S. imperial power and succeeded in defeating the global working-class, foreclosing (yet again) a radically different future.


Ending War?: Decolonial Democracy Against Neoliberalism

The final lecture circles around 1965 but extends back to Bandung (1955) and decolonization and moves well into the next five decades in order to explain the consolidation of neoliberalism as not just a response to economic crisis but global and national struggles to decolonize, dismantle racism, patriarchy, the rule of capital, and an expanding national security state.  Again, Kelley will discuss both the alternative futures born of this moment, and their defeat.   The so-called Cold War was hardly “cold”: the deployment of U.S. combat operations, state violence, and interventions actually escalated, but the main theaters of war were the Third World and America’s ghettoes and barrios.  The massive expansion of U.S. military and commercial hegemony coincides with successful multiracial struggles for democracy that ultimately achieve the universal franchise for the first time in the U.S.