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Elective Notes August 4th

BLACK POLITICAL THOUGHT


with claire mckinney Why the hegemonic form of black political thought is challangable in debate: a positive vision of what black politics can look like. Wildersonian Afro-Pessimism White is founded in opposition to Black and its the stage on which the world plays out. Middle Passage they came in on Africans and arrived as Blacks: ontological transformation no connection to the native homeland. Political ontology how political and social relations shapes the meaning of being: its a question of how being is interpreted as the basis of politics what politics are possible under a certain understanding of being? Blackness is a socially-dead ontology. No capacity of agency: fungibility (pure exchange value no inherent or intrinsic value; it can be traded for other things). Wilderson argues this is a historical achievement, because of the history of modernity. We use the example of the Middle Passage: went on the slave ships as Africans, came out as Black they lost their identity (geography, tribe, kinship, belonging) and came out the sheer absence of identity. If Civil Society is based on a socially dead, fungible Black body, it means that Civil Society is irredeemable. Civil Society is social relationality all institutions of society, all relations that happen socially or publicly. Is this internationally the case? Or just US civil society? Wilderson writes in cultural studies in debate its usually interpreted as the irredeemability of all Civil Society. If Civil Society is irredeemable, nothing good can come from it its always founded on the destruction and death of the Black body and violence that flows from it. The answer: burn it down completely disavow all its structures only in its destruction can there be a different sense of political ontology. Thats why this is called afro pessimism. Common CX questions youll hear are like, why did you not ground your speech in race? Theyll say that its because youre white you dont have to engage in identitybased analysis because your social position is rooted in privilege: its not constantly

threatened by the violence of social death. Of course you can engage in other ways of thinking about the world; youre white and have that luxury.

In A2 Perm arguments, its said that Wilderson wants us to engage in unflinching paradigmatic analysis. Unflinching no backing down, absolutely 100% dedicated at all times. The opposite of unflinching is to be self-reflexive, or willing to back down and question yourself; to reevaluate your position. Paradigmatic having to do with the way we see the world. Thomas Kuhn said that paradigms make up a worldview that, if youre outside that worldview, the world wouldnt make sense. If were caught up in Newtonian physics, its impossible to evaluate Einsteinian theory, because you simply cant comprehend it within the paradigm you inhabit. The opposite of this would be incommensurability: two things being absolutely incompatible. You cant believe both the totality of Newton, and the totality of Einstein. The opposite of paradigmatic analysis would be pluralism that ideas can be compatible with one another, or that we can tolerate different views. Analysis to engage in the studying; dedication to questions of epistemology. The opposite of this would be action. (This is probably a bankrupt way of approaching politics: to say we need to burn it down is to overdetermine the way that history influenced politics.)

Criticisms Hes engaged in a performative contradiction: to posit Black performativity as totally socially dead, wed not be able to win him in debate. If Civil Society couldnt comprehend blackness, his arguments wouldnt be able to be forwarded in debate debate is Civil Society, to take each others arguments seriously, etc if we could just totally ignore the Wilderson K and win, proves that Blackness can be seriously considered and decided on in the debatespace: so Civil Society has the tools and capacity to take on his arguments, allowing a transformative politics, in which we can even take on blackness in the first place. His pessimism is unfounded Civil Society is fundamentally transformative, not static.

When you say that the Black Body is dead, and you say Burn it Down, youre just universalizing that social death to apply to everyone: theres no reason that should be the conclusion of the Social Death of Blackness. We should extend social existence to be applicable to Blackness as well. We have to push for transformations such that Blackness can signify social existence. Why universalize from Social Death rather than Social Life? Wilderson has really bad history: the idea that they went in African and came out Black is overly reductive to the myriad experiences of Africans in the New World. The political ontology was transformative and of existence: 1. the Haitian Revolution slave revolt. Haiti was a French Colony and the slaves of the nation revolted and overthrew French colonialism it became the first free black nation in the New World. Couple things to know: the folks intimately involved called themselves the Black Jaobins: Jacobins were the name for the French revolutionaries! They took the French revolution and added it to Black heritage to push for democratic reforms. Two implications: the tools of Civil Society being irredeemable is empirically denied French Revolution tools were used in the pursuit of Black Freedom by Blacks themselves. 2. Slave revolts in the US there were uprisings and challenges to the power of Whites within the US, consistently. Resistance was possible even under the most harsh forms of the subjugation of Blackness. Created new possibilities 3. Black Church a hybridization of Protestant religion and Black tradition: became the site of the social Life of Blacks both throughout history and post-history. The idea that there is no social life for Blackness has to deny the existence of the Black Church and how it created new possibilities. Even though slavery destroyed kinship networks (families, rape), new forms of social networks came about through the Black Church throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Malcolm X with the Nation of Islam; MLK with the Baptists; those are two of any examples of how Black subjectivity can be formulated through Civil Society 4. Black Nationalism Delaney, Marcus Garvey, Black Panther Party political thought being articulated in the nationhood: the idea of a separatism of Blackness under the guise of nationalism (a tool of Civil Society, reappropriated to value Blackness rather than devalue it). 5. Black Diasporate Modes of Being based on Paul Gillroy, who argued that Black political being is distinct from White political being which is based on call and response (the songs ceremony of White Church is structured like this) whereas

Black political existence is synchrony, where the call and response structure is different because they affect each other and allow whoever is participating to be radically transformed its a pluralistic but transformative model of the possibility of cultural existence. These are just a lot of examples about how Wilderson is bad at the whole history thing, and how Blackness can be articulated with and within Civil Society.

Robert Gooding-Williams: In the Shadow of Du Bois Du Bois was the first Black to get a PhD in Harvard, he wrote The Souls of Black Folk, where he articulated his political vision which was similar to Wilderson: he said that there needed to be a Black vanguard, or the talented tenth, that would lead african americans out of the cultural backwardness that white supremacy had set up. Frederick Douglas is another different way to articulate the possibility of black political thought and action.

The fundamental question: what politics should African-Americans conduct to counter White Supremacy? Three sub-questions: 1. What is African-American politics what practices count under that? Wilderson would say its not possible, so only total repudiation of Civil Society is Black Politics. Frederick Douglas says that politics is what we do together in concert. Black politics is what Blacks do together. That seems simplistic but its based on the reading of politics as being the ability to create transformation. Sheldon Wholen politics is about dodging the forces of history. History will try to overwrite you: its easy to read history as determining what will happen in the future. Its easy to say slavery in the past no escape from the Social Death of Blackness. But thats not only bad history but also, humans are defined by their capacity for novelty, to create new things. Politics is the practice of creating the new: when we act in concert, we act in ways that could never have happened if all we did was look at history. If we had stood and looked at history, abolition would never have occurred because transformation would have been uncomprehendable. Those who view history as determining the future misunderstand what politics means.

2. Should Black politics take up the form of political expressionism? Thats the belief that politics should express our most deeply-held commitments and that those commitments spring from a static identity. Politics is me taking what I already believe and inserting it into the world. This is Wildersons argument: that all that there is is Black racial identity. But Douglas says identity isnt static its not that it never changes its not sovereignly implementing your identity in the world, but politics occurs in debate and deliberation all of our different beliefs about the world have to mix with one another in the world and create new possibilities. Racial identity doesnt have to be pre-given or pre-determined; but when we debate and deliberate, we create politics that couldnt have been predicted before the event of new solidarity comes out of being radically attuned to the desires of others and coming to a position of action from that. Identities are transformed in our experiences with others. Were not the same person from before we started debate identity is always changing. Its not pure change: we bring our histories with us, but theres always a capacity for transformation. 3. Are African-American struggles to counter white supremacy best understood as struggles against social exclusion? Is the point of Black politics just to get a seat at the table, or does it require the destruction or transformation of Civil Society? This relies on a difference between the anomaly against the normative understanding of anti-Black racism and Civil Society. Is anti-Black racism just an anomaly of the order, or is it a normative fundamental structuring factor in Civil Society? Is it fixing a mistake, or the domination of Blackness? Wilderson is into that normative, domination side of the argument. Racism fundamentally structures Civil Society, but what are the implications of that? We could use this as a way to say theres no room for transformation or we could say that Civil Society is malleable. Civil Society is very little more than the people who exist. The people who come to work with one another constitute it institutions dont have an independent force of individuals. This is the premise of anti -foundational politics. New forms of acting can transform those institutions, because they only reflect human action they are a product, not a determinant, of human action. They habituate us but those habits can be broken through self-reflexivity: questioning why we do the things we do, and coming to act differently. To become self-reflexive, we can engage in pluralism: engaging the opinions of others and taking them into account of our political positions and goals. We should include the thoughts of others within our own simultaneously try to adopt someone elses standpoint through dialogue and deliberation. history does not determine the future. because humans are pluralist, there is an endless capacity for transformation.

A politics of hope exists even in the normative terrain of society. The only way we can change the way we act is through deliberation with others; a radical form of acknowledging Blackness and utilizing Civil Society to transform itself. This is the debate good argument deliberation is crucial. We need radical pragmatism (Roberty Ungers word) he believes that institutions are here to provide stability but can be transformed. Not pragmatism as in doing things in our reach, but Unger says that real pragmatism is understanding that institutions can be transformed our politics can create transformations. Revolution is a lie revolution often goes really poorly no revolution has freed us and destroyed authority. Burning it down has only visited new authoritarian terror, we should instead work in concert with others in the transformative capacity. American Revolution reinstated bourgeois values, Russian Revolution = Stalin, Iranian Revolution = Shah and terror for the people, French Revolution turned into Pierres reign of terror; the search for radical transformation requries the elimination of anything outside of itself. Civil Rights Movement, on the other hand, was a success and largely peaceful. We have to begin from the premise that we can dodge the forces of history without destroying it completely. No need to burn it down.

Authors for This Topic CLR James. Be careful with Chicana feminism anzol dua (?): her theory of was based on the notion of the Cosmic Race (mixing all races to make a master race), which legitimates the ruling of anti-Black politicians in theory and Charles Mills says that soc-con theory can be used for a good resource for black political thought. His later work is invested in alternatives through social contract theory. Tommy Shelby Lawrie Balfour DuBoisian scholar, later works on reparations and reinvigoration the notion of Reconstruction to alleviate racism

If we hit Afro-Pes affs Counter-Plans are your friend: you dont have to repudiate what they say, but you can do counter-strategies.

DONT RUN FRAMEWORK. Make arguments about debate being a necessary forum about why we need to have some investment in Civil Society. Answer any burdens they put on you if they say that coloniality is the central question of modernity, prove that a priori false, bad, or why you already answer it. That will structure the rest of the debate otherwise. Read on race in the context of this resolution: on last years topic there was a race impact analysis CP. If the aff repudiates the State or Civil Society, that gives you good competition there. Back up why engaging the State and Civil Society can help fight racism in meaningful ways.

If we hit Afro-Pes negs Have a defense of the State in Civil Society: defend it in a way not to say its awesome now, but instead stress its transformitive capacity and necessity for anti -racist politics. Dont defend the State in Civil Society have a counter-advocacy and a representationbased impact external to the question of race: why your discourse can solve that. Like the environment. If you repudiate the Civil Society but say youre dedicating in fighting CC, it means you dont link to the K (wont defend Civil Society) and your arguments of race arent competitive; we can be wedded to environment and race. Read an aff about race! Defend the counter-strategy. Teams that win arguments like Wilderson will run it a lot, so its predictable: some teams go for lots of arguments though. Be cognizant of what you need to do as an aff to win.