Robin D.G. Kelley presents Mike Brown’s Body: Meditations on War, Race and Democracy

John Brown’s Body: Abolition Democracy Against Perpetual War

Robin D.G. Kelley

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.  In the 19 th century it took the form of what Du Bois called “the abolition democracy.”   Besides re-examining the Dred Scott decision, John Brown’s vision of revolution, and Black people’s struggle to emancipate and democratize the nation, Kelley offers a view of emancipatory futures forecloses—that is to say, the path abolition democracy was creating before being bludgeoned and contained—until its defeat in 1898.

April 13, 2015 5:30 PM
McCosh Hall 10