Revolution and Counter Revolution in Black Geographies

Authors: Shemon Salam*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Social Theory, Urban Geography
Keywords: Black Geographies, racial capitalism, socialist geography, Black Atlantic, Black Radical Tradition
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marshall South, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Reconstruction phase of the Black Radical Tradition as theorized by Cedric Robinson was defeated by the 1970s. This phase fell to the changing dynamics of racial capitalism which restructured the very terrain that the tradition fought on. The defeat of Jim Crow, the defeat of national liberation, and the defeat of the workers movement knocked the tradition from the framework it operated around. Racial capitalism also faced a crisis of profitability resulting in deindustrialization and automation which undercut the workerist basis of Black liberation from under its feet. Instead mass incarceration, mass unemployment, and loss of workplace power became the defining feature of Black oppression.

This defeat, so far unacknowledged in Black geographies and amongst theorists of the Black Radical Tradition is major gap in understanding why the tradition was successful in the past, how it is taking shape today, and what it faces in the future. Furthermore, it exposes conceptual dilemmas regarding the nature of racial capitalism. Racial capitalism was the target of the Black Radical Tradition, but instead of the latter's victory, it is racial capitalism which stands its ground. Taking the tradition's account of defeat allows us to re-think many common assumptions in Black geographies of racial capitalism, the Black Radical Tradition itself, and the nature of revolution.

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