A Special Issue of The Black Scholar
In the past 15 years, a careful but primarily historical re-evaluation of the Black Power movement in the United States has emerged. We have seen a proliferation of anthologies, case studies, and essays devoted to outlining its major trends and themes, with an emphasis on marking both its continuities and discontinuities with the Civil Rights Movement. Such scholarship joins recent work on earlier legacies of black radicalism, stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century and highlighting the relationship of African American activists to the labor movement, socialism and communism, feminisms, and anti-colonial struggles worldwide. This work has helped transform the conventional and flawed narrative that depicts the trajectory of black struggle following the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 as one of decline and outright failure. Indeed, the increasing frequency of riots, the armed nationalist militancy of groups like the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Black Panthers, and the seemingly separatist turn of organizations like SNCC were interpreted as forms of radicalism incompatible with mainstream paths to racial and social justice. These new studies have forced us to account for the multiple and often divergent ways in which calls for Black Power qua self-determination and autonomy were taken up in specific contexts and conjunctures, spanning the terrains of education, community control, urban housing, guerilla warfare, entrepreneurial endeavors, and more.
These movements fit into a much longer history of political thought, as black radicals in the post-civil rights era revisited the analyses and practices of earlier movements and figures. The Black Power movement thus represents one moment in a long legacy of strategic and political experimentations, involving new sets of political subjects and organizational forms that cannot be restricted to ethnic or interest group-specific discourses.
This special issue of The Black Scholar is concerned with developing further reflection on the theoretical contribution of these movements. We are concerned not only to elaborate on the social and political activity revealed by historical scholarship, but to reflect on the relationship of these movements to the overall body of political thought. Some topics of concern: the Black Panther Party’s inclusion of familial and domestic domains in its understanding of the possibilities of urban spatial politics; how the League of Revolutionary Black Workers strategized around the overlaps between workplace struggles and larger societal issues; SNCC’s attempts to develop local organs of political power in the South; the Black Liberation Army’s articulation of political sovereignty through their program of outright guerilla war; the rising power of street gangs in Chicago with explicitly political aims; the relationship of the Black Lives Matter movement to its theoretical forebears, and the nuanced negotiation of black nationalism and liberal integrationism by early black communists as they re-articulated the “identity” problems of race, class, gender, and community. Black radicals and theoreticians have long drawn on the past to articulate new perspectives on old problems, and this issue of The Black Scholar seeks to both highlight and engage with those efforts.
Seeking the insights of historians and political theorists alike, the issue invites essays with approaches to the following topics:
- examinations of the historical relationship between Black/Ethnic/Area Studies and Western or “mainstream” political theory
- intellectual histories of the influence of classical political thought on segments of the black liberation movement
- engagements with the theory and practice of black political organizations and movements particularly after 1968
- the theoretical and intellectual links between early 20th century and late 20th century black movements
- discussions of the continuities and breaks in the practices of black communisms and socialisms
- the political thought and practice of militant black revolutionary, guerilla, and “terrorist” organizations
- the history and theoretical groundings of black capitalism
- the theoretical, political, and economic import of U.S.-based gangs and organized crime
- theoretical analyses of infrapolitics and everyday resistance
- new constructions of gender and/or race as produced through black social movements
- the historical and political-theoretical genealogy of the Black Lives Matter movement
- historical debates within black social movements about the ideal site or object of political organization
This issue anticipates that the suggested topics in the list above, or relevant topics not listed, will engage scholars in Black/Africana Studies, Political Theory and Philosophy, Political Science and Social Movement Studies, History, Sociology, Geography, Feminist Studies, and Economics.
Abstracts (750 words max) should be submitted by October 16, 2016, and full articles (5000-7000 words) will be expected in late Spring 2017, to special guest editors Delio Vasquez and Patrick King (blackthoughtpoliticalpowerTBS