EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

Resisting Acts of Resistance

Precarious citizenship against the militarized police

In Brazil, police officers are rarely held accountable for murderous attacks on citizens. Whenever a member of the police shoots someone, the agent responsible can easily claim that he was counteracting resistance. An “act of resistance” is then written and immediately filed. This institutional and legal justification — which needs only to be unilaterally asserted by the agent — automatically exempts the police from any kind of formal responsibility, ultimately limiting the possibility of an official investigation.The fact that these acts of resistance most often concern a specific population — black poor youth from peripheral areas who are nevertheless formally protected by civil rights — poses the question of how control and repression of different people within the homogenous category of citizenship can vary. Even though they are fully recognized as Brazilian citizens, and thus entitled to all rights formally guaranteed by the state, …

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RaceRace/ismsReviewsSex & Gender

Margo Jefferson’s Coming of Age in Negroland

One of my fondest memories from the New School for Social Research Liberal Studies MA program comes from a course titled “Representations of Race and Gender in American Culture.” It was the day, about halfway through the semester, when co-teachers Elizabeth Kendall (author of feminist studies of early modern dance and 1930s screwball …

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CapitalismDisabilityEssaysRaceRace/ismsSex & Gender

The Disability Paradox

Further thoughts on inequality, disability, and the imaginal

Do you have a disability? Do you want to work? This seemingly innocent pairing of questions should immediately raise a red flag, for it is technically oxymoronic: in the United States, the disabled, by definition, are those who cannot work, at least in any significant sense. Granted, disability falls on a continuum, and answering to this continuum is a parallel benefits scheme for some workers — specifically, those whose disabilities have resulted from …

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CapitalismEssaysRaceRace/isms

Slaves: The Capital that Made Capitalism

A re-post

This post, adapted from a lecture in the team-taught course “Rethinking Capitalism” at The New School for Social Research and first published last year, is being reposted today to provide critical insight into today’s headlines. Slavery was central to the development of the American political economy. Ott reviews the recent scholarship that shows how it came to be that Black lives haven’t mattered. -J.G.

Racialized chattel slaves were the …

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EssaysRace/ismsSex & Gender

Dolezal and the Defense of the Community

Reflections on the unique difficulties of passing from white to black in America

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Actually Essential Reading About the Confederacy

Understanding the historical context of the massacre in Charleston and the debate about the Confederate battle flag

The massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the subsequent debate about the Confederate battle flag have sent Americans scrambling for historical context. The shortlist of introductory readings on the Confederacy recommended by John Williams in the New York Times ArtsBeat, however, is an embarrassing catalog of dated scholarship that emphasizes the experiences and reflections of white elites. Histories of the lives of Confederate generals that date to the 1930s may have their virtues. The impact of the Civil War on the planter class is surely worth knowing. And no one ought to discount smart literary analyses of Harriet Beecher Stowe or Albion Tourgee. But scholarship that predates the Carter Administration and centers on a small segment of the slaveholding class hardly provides a starting point for understanding our current moment. …

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EssaysRaceRace/ismsThe Left

Charlie Hebdo and the Appeal for French Context

White & Black Analytics

The attacks on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January 2015, during which fourteen people were killed, pose a specific problem for the white left. The call to contextualize Charlie Hebdo foregrounded a structurally white French context, in which people of colour and Muslims could be included only as loyal subjects of the Republic. The translations of France offered by French and Francophile leftists for their “Anglo-American” interlocutors, while revealing of the French dynamics of secularism, universalism, and coloniality, marginalised those “who could not be Charlie.” Instead, to use Barnor Hesse’s formulation, a “white analytics” was advanced that denied the centrality of the “black analytics” crucial for a complete understanding of both historical and contemporary French conflicts around race and religion (Hesse 2014). “Context,” therefore, stand in for racial neutrality: in reality, an impossibility. …

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