Neda Atanasoski and Christine Hong
This inaugural issue under our editorship was initially set to come out in early 2020, yet serial crises, some that can be expected with an editorial transition and others that no one could have predicted, delayed its publication. It reflects its late 2019 vintage—prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in anti-Asian xenophobia, the sustained uprisings against anti-Black police brutality, and for us at UC Santa Cruz, the graduate COLA (cost of living adjustment) strike that transformed into a Cops Off Campus movement. Yet the intellectual and political commitments we lay out in this opening remain as resonant as they were a year ago. Our approach to open access scholarship—formats that foster dialogue, exchange, and collectivity—and commitment to featuring organizing and activist projects and political education documents are more timely than ever as we strive to maintain community in the context of quarantine.
We began our editorship of Critical Ethnic Studies (CES) in 2018, a year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strikes at San Francisco State and University of California (UC), Berkeley, that inaugurated ethnic studies as a democratizing strike against the racialized educational regime of the Cold War university and the California Master Plan. In undertaking the journal’s stewardship, we have reflected on what it means to animate the criticality of the project of ethnic studies both at its revolutionary roots and in this moment. As we embark on this path, we build on the work of our predecessors, Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, and their managing editor, LeKeisha Hughes, who transformed CES into a vibrant site for politically engaged scholarship—in their vision, “a node of activist intellectualism committed to Indigenous land/life, Black life, queer life, and decolonization.”1 While drawing on Eve, Wayne, and Keisha’s labor and care, and before them, the foundational work of coeditors John D. Márquez and Junaid Rana and their managing editor, Kelly Chung, we also recognize the crucial grounding work of our managing editors: first, Kara Hisatake, and more recently, Trung Nguyen. As an editorial team, we draw strength and support from an intellectually fierce and generous community of scholars, the CES editorial board members, whose brainstorming sessions and individual conversations with us have dynamically shaped this journal’s possibilities. CES is enlivened by their research expertise and political commitments, and we are excited to see our collaborations with them unfold.
Even as we recognize, as did Eve and Wayne as they began their editorship, that the “work of critical ethnic studies is far larger than our own particularities,”2 as the third team of critical ethnic studies scholars and teachers to coedit this journal since its inauguration in 2015, we bring to the space of the journal questions and concerns that draw from our own intellectual moorings, political commitments, and activist work. As researchers whose work dwells on the racial logic of US war, militarism, and imperialism, we call renewed attention to the centrality of the US university and knowledge formations around difference to the military/security-industrial complex and to the war and police power exercised, in both spectacular and routinized ways, against migrant justice, decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, abolition, and demilitarization movements—struggles that confront interlinked modes of imperial violence. Through the space of the journal, we hold open critical ethnic studies as a vital site of political education and organizational praxis. By recalling the radical vision that animated the TWLF struggle—not one and the same as the institutionalized trajectory of ethnic studies—we inquire into the prospects, in our current moment, of teaching and realizing ethnic studies along ever-relevant anti-imperialist lines. If TWLF proceeded under a revolutionary anti-imperialist rubric that linked the brutal US war in Vietnam to its racial counterinsurgencies, colonial violence, and policing at home, that student-led movement, among other left forces with a foot in the American academy, also cast much-needed light on the US university’s inextricability from “genocidal domestic and foreign policy,” as recent abolition university studies scholars have stated.3 Although absent the Third Worldist banner—and its clarifying cognitive mapping of racial capitalism as a networked global system of imperial violence and expropriation—in our current moment, we commit the space of the journal to necessary dialogue around the urgency of yet also the challenges to imagining and enacting solidarity today. The interconnections racial capitalism must disavow paradoxically form the insurgent basis of forging and resignifying collective possibility.4
As CES moves up the Pacific coast from UC San Diego to UC Santa Cruz, we acknowledge the violence, both past and present, of our institutional location on Popeloutchom, the unceded territory of the Uypi Tribe of the Awaswas Nation. We recognize the profound work of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, which has stewarded its ancestral territories and waters through a land trust since 2013 and ceaselessly sought to educate both campus and surrounding communities about their vision for Popeloutchom. In a juncture in which the current California governor has admitted that state officials carried out a policy of genocide against Native peoples, the University of California must go beyond mere self-reflection on its history of land appropriation. Here we point to the example of the city of Eureka’s near-total return of Duluwat Island to the Wiyot Tribe the summer before last—the first time a US municipality has elected to repatriate stolen land to Indigenous peoples dispossessed by settler colonialism.5 Land return, as Wiyot tribal administrator Maura Eastman stated, “could happen every place.”6 We recall too that UC Santa Cruz served as the opening case in point in Haunani-Kay Trask’s indictment of the “color of violence,” or, as she elaborated, “the color of white over black, white over brown, white over red, white over yellow, . . . of north over south, of continents over archipelagoes, of settlers over natives and slaves”: “At one time, the land upon which the University of California, Santa Cruz, sits, as all lands in California, was home to an untold number of Native tribes that occupied this area for over 20,000 years. . . . In an area from the Northern California border down to the Golden Gate Bridge in the west and Yosemite National Park in the east, an area of 250 miles by 200 miles, there were Tolowa, Yurok, Chilula, Karok, Shasta, Wiyot, Whilkut, Yana, Waintu, Maidu, Washo, Konkow, Patwin, Wappo, Pomo, Paiute, Ohlone, and many, many others.”7
In contrast to French theorists who hinted at structural violence in their portraits of UC Santa Cruz as a “strange, padded, wooded, pacified, convivial republic” and a postmodern “social and electronic paradise from which all trace of work and exploitation has been effaced,” Trask made plain the mechanisms by which “peaceful violence” achieves its erasures: “Colonization was the historical process, and genocide the official policy.”8 Against the university’s “normaliz[ed] modes of forgetting,” Trask’s account lays bare the accumulative violence of the US university itself.9 Yet even in so doing, she cited the scholarship of I-Kiribati and black feminist scholar Teresia Teaiwa, who, while still a graduate student in the History of Consciousness doctoral program at UC Santa Cruz, wrote a landmark essay on the bikini swimsuit as a commodification of the genocidal reality of Cold War US nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands and a diversion from Indigenous Pacific Islander women-led decolonization struggles.
On a campus where it took four and a half decades of near-ceaseless student, faculty, and community struggle to galvanize the 2014 establishment of a program in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES)—including repeatedly stymied student efforts to push for faculty lines in Indigenous studies—we remark this location’s inadvertent dynamism as a site of undercommons possibility for the simultaneously ruptural and world-making work of critical ethnic studies and Indigenous studies, including the emergence and convergence of Native feminist scholars who earned their doctoral degrees or undertook postdoctoral research here.10 Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s insight is both relevant and apt: “The university needs what she bears but cannot bear what she brings” (102). Yet their labor while here has not been without consequence. To no small degree, the scholarship and activism of Native feminist scholars who pursued graduate or postdoctoral study here—like Teaiwa, Joanne Barker, J. Kēhualani Kauanui, Kim Tallbear, Maile Arvin, and Katie Keliiaa, among others—have defined the intersections between the fields of Indigenous studies and critical ethnic studies.
It was in the context of the most recent wave of activism for ethnic studies on the UC Santa Cruz campus that we, as participants at the tail end of what was a nearly half-century-long struggle, initially came together in common cause, first organizing alongside students and then undertaking the fraught labor of institutionalizing CRES as a degree-granting program. As with every other ethnic studies program in the country, whether inaugurated fifty years ago or of more recent vintage, CRES has grappled with the withering reality of limited resources even as it has experienced the fastest relative major growth in the humanities division and perhaps even the campus as a whole. Having mounted an ethnic studies curriculum prior to the program’s existence, students have, in some cases, continued to wear the teaching hat. To get the program running, faculty have necessarily donned the staffing hat, and dedicated staff, when finally hired, have shouldered often untenable workloads. As with the CES journal, CRES is a work in progress, born of enormous commitment. Neda, who teaches in feminist studies and CRES, served as director of the CRES program until last year, and Christine, who teaches in literature and CRES, currently serves in this capacity. Although our collaborative labor for CRES has no question joined us, intellectually and politically, anti-imperialism and opposition to US militarism, as well as our investment in a critical rethinking of racialized and gendered labor relations within capitalism, serve as common ground for our vision for the journal.
CES as Open Access Platform for Politically Engaged Scholarship
In the spirit of enacting ethnic studies not just as an intellectual formation but also as political education, we have chosen to move the journal to an online open access platform. By transforming CES into a hub for internetworked intellectual and political convergence, we hope to catalyze the journal as a lively forum for generative conversations between and among scholars at all ranks, activists, organizers, and artists engaged in critical ethnic studies and racial justice work, thus bridging academic research and community organizing and activist-scholarship here and around the world. To this end, we have introduced several innovations. First and foremost, each issue now opens with features seldom recognized as scholarship in academic peer-reviewed journals, rather than positioning them as supplements or postscripts to more traditional academic research. CES issues will now open with (1) interviews with activists and activist collectives conducted by us as editors or guest editors, (2) curated political education documents (including pamphlets, manifestos, and community archives), and (3) syllabi that mark pressing, emergent, or undertheorized areas of concern in the field of critical ethnic studies. In other words, texts used for political mobilization and teaching, as well as exchanges with activists and organizers committed to racial justice, frame the featured peer-reviewed academic articles. Our belief is that this journal can begin both to disrupt what has historically counted as intellectual labor by recognizing these documents as publications in their own right and to extend the reach of these documents beyond the original contexts—academic in some cases, organizational in others—in which they first emerged.
In our highlighting of critical ethnic studies syllabi as contemporary collective tools of liberatory political education and thus dynamic documents for critical ethnic studies praxis, CES draws inspiration from the remarkable recent wave of collectively authored, broadly disseminated, open access syllabi—#StandingRockSyllabus and #IslamophobiaIsRacismSyllabus, among others—that have refused the proprietary, exclusionary logic of the academic paywall by compiling or linking to downloaded or scanned PDFs of academic journal articles and book chapters as well as online publications. With the aim of furthering the reach of radical syllabi organized around racial justice, we also draw from past pedagogical trajectories that intersected with the field of ethnic studies during and shortly after its Bay Area emergence under an internationalist Third Worldist banner. We recall, for instance, that the journal of radical criminology, Crime and Social Justice, in addition to featuring scholarship and movement updates from around the globe under a section titled “Struggle for Justice,” included course outlines and bibliographies—both as stand-alone academic publications and as documents with far-reaching political potential—under the rubric of “People’s Pedagogy.” Perspicaciously remarking the rise of what they termed “the police-industrial complex” consequent to Nixon’s sweeping “law and order” push, UC Berkeley’s radical criminologists organized their gateway course, Criminology 100 A-B, around “crimes of imperialism,” “crimes of exploitation,” “crimes of sexism,” “crimes of survival,” “crimes by the state,” and “people’s justice.” As Barry Krisberg argued in an introduction to the Criminology 100 A-B syllabus that he, Tony Platt, and Paul Takagi collectively authored and taught in 1972—that is, prior to the university’s dismantling of the School of Criminology because of its anticapitalist critique—the very definition of criminality required fundamental reconceptualization: “In our view, legally defined ‘criminals’ were really victims of the larger system crimes such as imperialism and racism which denied whole classes of people (and even countries) their full human potentiality and their right to survival, self-determination and dignity.”11
In the first instance, the criticality of ethnic studies resided in the revolutionary challenge that it posed as a mode of political education to what Frantz Fanon dubbed the “bewilder[ing]” effects of mass education in capitalist countries—education designed to “separate the exploited from those in power.”12 Yet the formalization of programs dedicated to ethnic studies in US universities and the field’s professional consolidation have also been shadowed by horizontally structured arenas of dissentient knowledge-making, both central and adjacent to organizing spaces, above ground and otherwise. If “it cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge,” as Moten and Harney have argued, by contrast, these subterranean arenas of political education and resistance, located outside academic enclosures, have signaled refuge from the university-as-refuge, looping back in circuitous, often neutralized ways into academic settings. We recall, for example, the 1970s’ Bay Area study sessions on Marxism and racism helmed by Harry Chang and their profound, if often unacknowledged, influence on “the theory and practice of racial justice in the United States,” not just in movement contexts but also in ethnic studies as a then emergent field.13 That the Third Worldist internationalism of ethnic studies contracted as the field institutionalized—resurfacing in the politically neutralized form of the 1990s’ mandate to go transnational—speaks volumes about the inhospitality of the US university to anti-imperialist and antiracist political education. Critiques of US empire leveled from within ethnic studies have confronted first a Cold War and then a post–Cold War area studies establishment consolidated by “astonishing levels of collaboration between the universities, the foundations, and the intelligence arms of the U.S. state.”14 In stark contrast to the securitized internationalism of area studies, the promise of ethnic studies has been located in the imagination and practice of political collectivity beyond borders.
CES will continue to publish politically relevant interdisciplinary scholarship in as well as on the edges of critical ethnic studies. Yet with the aim of fostering the internationalism of critical ethnic studies, we have introduced, as a feature of each issue, research produced within or about the Global South, including non–English language scholarship. The inclusion in the Anglo-American academy of multilingual, globally multisited ethnic studies research that is all too often marginalized by dint of geographic location and language opens up discussion about how conceptions of difference, power, opposition, and even solidarity “translate” in settings beyond North America. By bringing attention to work published in other languages that is then translated for CES or a piece produced in or about geopolitical locations not typically studied in critical ethnic studies, we proceed from an understanding of translation as a political act—one that not only moves the field in critically transnational directions but also potentially galvanizes its internationalist possibilities.
Finally, CES has abandoned the standard book review format. While useful in furnishing an overview of major contributions of particular books, this format falls short of generating emergent conversations in the field around not just new academic research but also creative provocations in a variety of media. To foster lively exchange around such work, each CES issue, starting with this one, will feature a forum on a recently published book or cultural work that marks new directions in critical ethnic studies. Several scholars in ethnic studies or affiliated fields will provide commentary on the featured work from various perspectives; the author(s) or creator(s) will then be invited to respond to the short commentaries. In this regard, our forum follows in the footsteps of existing book fora like those in the Syndicate Network and the Black Agenda Report. It will revolve around not only single-author monographs, coauthored books, and anthologies but also cultural works in a variety of media.
Collectivity beyond Borders as a Critical Ethnic Studies Project
As we assembled this first issue of the journal under our coeditorship, we considered how the unbridled reactionary politics of this historical moment—the sweeping far-right populism across the globe, the militarized securitization of everything existing, and the reintroduction of fascism into the common idiom—has required new analytical and political tools beyond those specific to prior critical ethnic studies preoccupations with the violence of liberal incorporation as racism’s defining dynamic in multicultural capitalist societies. In a juncture in which the imagination and practice of solidarity are more pressing than ever, there are few ready political paradigms “from below and to the left” that galvanize collective anticapitalist world-making across borders or identity formations.15 Even as global interdependence, as Harsha Walia states in our interview with her in this issue, “is completely structured by violence” and indeed is linked in often subterranean, border-crossing ways as the basis of extractive and exploitative regimes, we have an impoverished political vocabulary and set of tools with which to realize solidarity. Yet as a practice of anticapitalist collectivity, solidarity is precisely what has made ethnic studies, past and present, critical. If, in its TWLF emergence, ethnic studies refused the “here” and “there”—the divided-world logic—essential to imperialist consciousness, we ask, How does critical ethnic studies, positioned as it largely is in the belly of the beast, cognitively map the global political economy of racial capitalism? If older models of envisioning solidarity are inadequate to the current moment, what alternative visions has critical ethnic studies proposed or enacted?
In an illuminating keyword essay in this journal’s very first issue, Jodi Melamed suggested that critical ethnic studies undertake racial capitalism as “an activist hermeneutic” by analyzing how it engenders “social separateness—the disjoining or deactivating of relations between human beings (and humans and nature)—needed for capitalist expropriation to work.”16 Precisely by producing social separateness as the necessary order of things and “reducing collective life to the relations that sustain neoliberal democratic capitalism,”17 racial capitalism encodes the grounds for solidarity. Taken as an activist hermeneutic, the brutal conjunctures of racial capitalism and imperialism, mapped as a cartography not just of violence but also of resistance, animate the internationalism of the Native liberation organization The Red Nation and its principles of unity, the left-legalism and anticolonialism of Sanctions Kill, and the US university–focused abolitionism of Abolition University, to name some organizations whose powerful analysis and organizing we wish to call attention to. Within critical ethnic studies, anticapitalism and anti-imperialism thus require committed conjunctural analysis, bringing to view the linkages between “distinct yet densely interconnected geographies.”18 In the structural joints between abolition and militarism, Native decolonization and US military empire, migrant justice and Indigenous sovereignty, and Black freedom and Native decolonization are the basis for imagining and enacting solidarity against the differentiations of racial capitalism.
The current issue opens with a conversation between the CES editors and Harsha Walia, an activist who cofounded No One Is Illegal (NOII), an anticolonial, antiracist, and anticapitalist migrant justice organization with a long history of political solidarity with Indigenous sovereignty and Native land defense struggles. In this exchange, Walia, the author of Undoing Border Imperialism (AK Press, 2013) and the forthcoming Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (Haymarket, 2021), delves into the illuminating back history of NOII’s formation in the immediate wake of 9/11 as, in the first instance, an antiwar organization, thus pointing to the necessity of critically situating the movement for migrant justice within a broader anti-imperialist framework. She reminds us in her interview of the gatekeeping settler colonial nation’s imperialist role in creating, on a global scale, the destabilizing conditions of expulsion that lead to migrant flows: the policies of neoliberal austerity, the free trade agreements that displace Indigenous agricultural producers in the Global South, and the depredations of US militarism and outright war. The production of exploitable migrant labor is one intended outcome of border imperialism. The “limited inclusion of migrant bodies into Western states through processes of criminalization and racialization,” she makes plain, “justif[ies] the commodification of their labor.”19 Drawing on organizing ethics from feminist/trans communities, prefiguration, or the building of “movement cultures and . . . left institutions in the model of the world we are seeking to create,” is central to NOII’s practice of interdependence based on “abundance and care.”
This issue of CES brings the manifesto of the Beyond Borders Caucus (BBC) of the Indigenous liberation organization The Red Nation, which we republish here, in conversation with Harsha Walia’s activist work. As Hope-Siihasin Alvarado, BBC founder and Southwest point person for the Coalition to Close the Camps, articulates in an introduction to this political education document, the purpose of this caucus, whose emergence coincided with the wave of border crossings by Central American migrant children, is “to mobilize solidarity and support to our refugee and migrant relatives that are impacted by colonial borders, border militarization, and border imperialism.” As a decolonized “embodiment and affirmation of a coming Indigenous future, a future in which many worlds fit,” BBC has mobilized in extraordinary ways around migrant justice, organizing to stop deportation on stolen Indigenous lands. In its cognitive mapping of the imperialist violence that precipitates migrant flows and the racial capitalist logic of caging migrants as an intentionally produced surplus population, the manifesto states, “We demand an end to U.S. foreign policies that subvert democracy abroad and create the conditions in which poor and colonized migrants are exploited for their labor [and] incarcerated alongside Indigenous and Black peoples in private detention centers that profit off their bodies.” In its globally far-reaching analysis of the border as itself a violent settler-colonial construction, Beyond Borders stands in firm solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and sovereignty.
This CES issue also hosts Ma Vang’s curated syllabus for an upper-division critical refugee studies course she designed for the CRES program at UC Merced. As the inaugural chair of CRES (the newest ethnic studies program in the UC system), a former executive board member of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), and a founding member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective, Vang has been central to collective activist-intellectual efforts to galvanize dialogue, both within the broader University of California and beyond, around the “ethical reconceptualiz[ing] refugee lifeworlds to make apparent processes of colonization, war, and displacement.” As coeditor of the Critical Refugee Studies website, which hosts a public archive of refugee oral histories, artwork and other forms of creative expression, photos and films, as well as story-map platforms that enable refugees to share stories, Vang has been vital to political education through the sharing of pedagogical resources and the creation of material culture. This website also fosters community convergence around first-person narration of refugee lifeworlds and the all-too-often obscured histories of world-shattering geopolitical violence they reference. Vang’s syllabus frames its introduction to critical refugee studies, an emergent field she has been vital to establishing, through a critical ethnic studies lens. The challenge of teaching materials around the figure of the refugee, as she incisively observes, is how to “humanize . . . displaced peoples” without reinscribing the imperial amnesia of the liberal internationalist human rights regime.
Following from these critical perspectives on solidarity in the face of border imperialism, ongoing and intensifying forms of military imperialism and settler colonialism, mass displacement and migration, and innovations in racial capitalist modes of exploitation and appropriation, the first three peer-reviewed articles in this issue offer prismatic reflections on recent discourses of crisis around emergent figurations of the refugee. Trung Nguyen’s contribution, “The Labor of Absolution: National Detritus and the Op-Ed Form of the Vietnamese Refugee,” opens this issue’s full-length articles section by shifting focus away from the geographic displacement of the Vietnamese refugee to the latter’s temporal travel as a de facto national spokesperson for contemporary refugees. Nguyen asks, What ideological work do Vietnamese refugees perform when they speak or stand for Syrian refugees in the present? Shedding light on the op-ed as a genre linked in collusive ways to the violence of US foreign policy, Nguyen shows how “displaced events” of the past and the ongoing significance of the Vietnamese refugee Cold War racialized formation frame the United States as a reformed nation, absolving it of past and present imperial violence—including that violence that coerces the movement of Syrian refugees.
The next article, Neel Ahuja’s “Weather as War: Race, Disability, and Environmental Determinism in the Syrian Climate War Thesis,” takes up a figure that is often cited as an illustration of what is “new” about the contemporary refugee crisis but is rarely critically examined for its ideological and historical obfuscations: the figure of the climate refugee. Analyzing a range of journalistic and environmental media accounts, Ahuja’s article contends that framings of the Syrian war and Arab uprisings as induced by climate-induced drought rehearse neocolonial accounts of “failed” postcolonial states, including racialized narratives of the Global South’s incapacity to manage resources and the predisposition of Muslims to insurgency. This piece further contends that the preponderance of the figuration of Syrian war veterans as tragically disabled by violence caused by climate change in fact obscures the transnational operations of racial capitalism that structure patterns of coerced migration and debility.
Yet what shape do discourses about the current refugee crisis take, and what do they do, outside a US imperialist context? This issue’s contribution from a scholar outside the Anglo-US academy, Firat Kurt’s “The Rise of Sovereign Subject: The Syrian Refugee Crisis, Islamist Universalism, and Populist Mobilization in Turkey,” approaches the Syrian refugee crisis by examining its mobilization by Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP (Justice and Development). While there has been much focus on the rise of rightist populism in the United States, Britain, France, and other sites in the Global North, less attention has been paid to its ascendancy in places like Turkey. Kurt analyzes how the AKP, through populism and neoliberal Islam, has exploited the Syrian refugee crisis to implement a sovereignty that turns on the right of the pious/righteous to decide who belongs to the polity and who falsely claims such belonging. With regard to the refugee crisis, this translates into a distinction between deserving (truly Muslim) migrants and those who claim Islam in name only, thereby corrupting Turkey. Kurt thus contends that in Turkey, the refugee crisis manifests “as a nexus between populist politics and sovereign practices,” granting those disadvantaged by the AKP’s neoliberal reforms a form of sovereign power that can best be described as “a right to suspend the rights of others.”
Rana Jaleel’s article, “Two Title IXs: Empire and the Transnational Production of ‘Welcomeness’ on Campus,” continues the line of inquiry around sovereignty, but rather than exploring how precarity and power coalesce in the refugee body, as do the first three articles, the essay instead focuses on the juridical and political work performed by the sexually victimized/violated body. Jaleel compares two Title IXs (which coincidentally share a name): the first, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education, and the second, Title IX in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), subtitled “Safety for Indian Women.” She contends that the narrow focus on consent and coercion in the first, based on principles of the contractual relationship between individuals in liberal law, and the inadequacy of the second in relation to Indigenous women, limit what counts as justice (or remedy) within the framework of the two Title IXs. As Jaleel demonstrates, the narrow adjudication of sexual violation that establishes permissible sexual arrangements also serves as a proxy for “permissible property arrangements, realized through gendered, racialized, and colonial intimacies of governance.” Put otherwise, the article insists that we must consider how settler-colonial conceptions of property and sovereignty are routed through the sexualized body.
In the closing full-length article of this issue, “Radioactive Intimacies: The Making of Worldwide Wastelands in Marie Clements’s Burning Vision,” Lou Cornum returns us to the urgency of envisioning and enacting solidarity through the activist hermeneutic of racial capitalism. By examining the web of lethal relations specific to what they term the “networked apocalypse” of US nuclear war, Cornum offers a powerful conjunctural analysis of “the obscured bonds and binds created in the invisible force of radiation.” Central to their account of these radioactive intimacies—drawing here on Lisa Lowe’s theorization of the structural intimacies of imperialism—is the centrality of Native labor to the extractive and expropriative supply side of the world-destroying, genocidal US nuclear colonial regime. Examining the representation of the irradiated Sahtu Dene uranium ore miner in Métis playwright Marie Clements’s Burning Vision, Cornum dwells on the epithet “coolie,” used to describe this figuration of Native labor. Bound in historically inexorable relations with the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Native labor-as-coolie, Cornum contends, points to the significance of not only thinking beyond the equation of indigeneity with land but also considering Native dispossession as the condition for Native proletarianization. Central to this profound account of how networked mass destruction encodes the paradoxical possibility of life in common, they ask, “How do shared grounds of nuclear apocalypse make possible broad-based global solidarity?”
We follow up on our featured full-length articles with our inaugural forum discussing Manu Karuka’s Empire’s Tracks: Indigenous Nations, Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad (University of California Press, 2019). The book, which offers significant new insight into the history of the transcontinental railroad by centering the relationship between the Cheyenne, Lakota, and Pawnee peoples on the one hand and Chinese migrant workers on the other brings together the thematic threads of this issue, including migration, labor, militarism, imperialism, settler colonialism, sovereignty, and solidarity. As Amy Lee writes, Karuka’s book compellingly makes the case that “railroad colonialism forged the linkages between the military functions of the state and finance capitalism, enabling territorial expansion through corporate financing, infrastructural logistics, unfree labor, and state violence.” Lee draws attention to Karuka’s emphasis on speculation as method and thinks through what solidarities could accordingly be imagined. Four other respondents—Denise Khor, Sandy Grande, Anjali Nath, and Jaskiran Dhillon—reflect on Karuka’s text as an entry point into broader questions around racial capitalism, empire, and the ways in which particular conditions of work shape modes of anti-imperialist internationalist working-class coalitions, anti-imperialism as pedagogy and an epistemology of curiosity, and non-US imperial formations of exploitation and expropriation.
There is, as Walia powerfully reminds us, “no liberation in isolation.” In the hopes of generating far-reaching dialogue and collective political possibility beyond the limits of traditional academic journal protocols and formats, we have inaugurated CES’s move toward a dialogic, open source platform. We invite you to contribute analysis and research, to curate your syllabi or political organizing documents, to share resources and ideas, and to engage in lively exchange with others in this space—in short, to help forge this journal as a site of political education committed to racial justice.
Neda Atanasoski is a professor of feminist studies and critical race and ethnic studies and the chair of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures (coauthored with Kalindi Vora; Duke University Press, 2019). She is also the coeditor of a 2017 special issue of the journal Social Identities, titled “Postsocialist Politics and the Ends of Revolution.” Atanasoski is the founding codirector of the Center for Racial Justice with Christine Hong at UC Santa Cruz.
Christine Hong is an associate professor of literature, director of critical race and ethnic studies, and codirector with Neda Atanasoski of the new Center for Racial Justice at UC Santa Cruz. She is author of the book A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific (Stanford University Press, 2020). Along with Deann Borshay Liem, she codirected the Legacies of the Korean War oral history project. As a former steering committee member of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea, she helped launch the three-year 2010–13 Teaching Initiative to End the Korean War, and as part of the Ending the Korean War Collective, she has worked to launch a new Teaching Initiative to End the Korean War. She served as a guest coeditor of Reframing North Human Rights, a thematic issue of Critical Asian Studies, and The Unending Korean War, a special issue of positions: asia critique. She serves on the board of directors of the Korea Policy Institute, an independent research and educational institute.
1. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Editor’s Introduction: What Justice Wants,” Critical Ethnic Studies 2, no. 2 (2016): 1–15, at 2.
2. Tuck and Yang, 1.
4. See Jodi Melamed, “Racial Capitalism,” Critical Ethnic Studies 1, no. 1 (2015): 76.
5. See Sabrina Imbler, “How the Wiyot Tribe Won Back a Sacred California Island,” Atlas Obscura, November 15, 2019, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wiyot-won-back-sacred-island.
6. “Sacred Homelands Returned to Wiyot Tribe,” Cultural Survival, accessed December 16, 2020, https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/sacred-homelands-returned-wiyot-tribe.
7. Haunani-Kay Trask, “The Color of Violence,” Social Justice 31, no. 4 (2004): 8–9.
8. Trask, 10, 8. See also Jean Baudrillard, America, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 1988), 45; Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 41.
9. Boggs et al., “Abolition University Studies.”
10. See Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, “The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses,” Social Text 22, no. 2 (2004): 101–15.
11. Barry Krisberg, “Teaching Radical Criminology: Criminology 100 A-B, Professors Barry Krisberg, Tony Platt, and Paul Takagi,” Crime and Social Justice 1 (1974): 65.
12. Frantz Fanon, “Concerning Violence,” in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove-Weidenfeld, 1966), http://hyle.mobi/Reading_Groups/Concerning%20Violence%2C%20Frantz%20Fanon.
13. Bob Wing, “Harry Chang: A Seminal Theorist of Racial Justice,” Colorlines, January 1, 2007, https://monthlyreview.org/2007/01/01/harry-chang-a-seminal-theorist-of-racial-justice.
14. Bruce Cumings, “Boundary Displacement: Area Studies and International Studies during and after the Cold War,” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 29, no. 1 (1997): 6.
15. The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. For a discussion of this June 2005 Zapatista document, see Randall Williams, The Divided World: Human Rights and Its Violence (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 38–42. As we state in our prefatory note, 2020 has seen a tide of uprisings in opposition to anti-Black police violence, police presence on campuses, antifascist organizing, and organizing among the most precarious of workers like those working in Amazon warehouses. These movements materialize new possibilities for solidarity that can be thought alongside the historical struggles we discuss here in relation to the critical ethnic studies project.
16. Melamed, “Racial Capitalism,” 78.
17. Melamed, 78.
18. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, quoted in Melamed, 78.
19. Harsha Walia, Undoing Border Imperialism (Chico, CA: AK Press, 2013), 38.