Reflecting in 1955 at the age of thirty-one on the situation of having become a writer, James Baldwin identified his greatest difficulty as having to face the massive weight, accumulation, and pervasiveness of representations spun out of discourses of the Negro problem. “The book shelves groan under the weight of [such] information,” he wrote, “and everyone therefore considers himself informed.”1 The geopolitical conditions that made it imperative to generate mountains of information, as well as implacable certainty, about race, oppression, and the United States in terms of problem and solution are where this book begins.
In the global convulsions after World War II, one world-historical formation of the dominant broke apart, and a new world-historical formation emerged. The first, white supremacist modernity was brought to crisis by an accumulation of overlapping sociopolitical forces. World War II politicized the historical violences of white supremacy and revealed the links between European fascism, racial segregation, and colonial rule. These revelations gave motive force to anticolonial movements, whose struggles for militant or negotiated national independence ushered in an era of global decolonization. Anticolonialism provided, in turn, resources, ideas, and political leverage for renewed antiracist activism in the United States, and both benefitted from the energies of millions of war veterans returning home with a new understanding of racial oppression as a global issue. The beginning of the Cold War brought this volatile mix to a rupture point by depicting the opposition between a capitalist order of nation-states and international socialism as a racialized division. In particular, the Soviet Union portrayed racial violence in the United States as incontrovertible proof that the capitalist system that was emerging under U.S. leadership could only recapitulate the West’s tradition of racial domination.
White supremacy had provided unification for the political, economic, and ideological structures of colonial capitalist modernity, and its loss of credibility as a racial discourse and a racial order also ruptured this world-historical formation. Yet the new world-historical formation that emerged out of this crisis was also unified by race. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise; the fact that race was identified as the central problem—the crux of everything wrong and unequal in governance, economy, and society—itself called for resolutions in the register of race. The new world-historical formation of the dominant was a formally antiracist, liberal-capitalist modernity determined by and shaping the conditions of U.S. global ascendancy. It required precisely the situation Baldwin decried: the massive production and dissemination of representations of black experience formulated in accord with the rubric of the Negro problem. In other words, the organizing terms of the Negro problem subtended the shift from white supremacy to a formally antiracist, liberal-capitalist modernity. According to these terms, U.S.-style democracy and capitalism would be redeemed through the full integration of African Americans into U.S. society. Full African American citizenship would demonstrate that liberal freedoms were antithetical to racial exploitation, and African American economic success would prove capitalism to be neutral to race rather than structured by it. In contrast to the demise of racism that antiracist and anticolonial social movements had envisioned, which was to be accompanied by the end of Western domination and capitalist exploitation, discourses of the Negro problem were instrumental for generating a new kind of antiracism that was productive for U.S. global ascendancy and leadership of transnational capitalism.
The entrance of an official, state-recognized antiracism into U.S. governmentality during the early Cold War, as the United States assumed leadership of transnational capitalism, brought about a decisive sea change in racial meanings and in U.S. and world racial orders. Represent and Destroy investigates the logics and procedures of successive official antiracist regimes, describes the unification they have provided for state-capital formations, and makes the case that these official antiracist regimes, which I collectively call race-liberal orders, have fatally limited the possibility of overcoming racism to the mechanisms of U.S.-led global capitalism, even as they have enabled new kinds of normalizing and rationalizing violences.
James Baldwin’s famous postwar essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel” (1949) can be read as a striking illumination of this sea change in racial orders as it was occurring. Baldwin’s essay provides insight into how emerging race-liberal orders were able to simultaneously represent and destroy. In particular, Baldwin captured the elevation of the first formation of official antiracism, racial liberalism, to a new, nationalist common sense, exposing its transparency and guarantees as the hallmark of ideological dominance. Baldwin also tellingly identified the race/protest novel as a primary cultural technology for producing, disseminating, and implanting racial-liberal thinking. Finally, he described how the process of entering into representation through the mediation of official antiracist knowledges was to become subject to (and within) destructive normalizing and rationalizing systems.
The title of the essay is itself telling. “Everybody’s Protest Novel” implies that the actual function of protest novels was not to reform society but rather to produce discourses of certainty. Literature, Baldwin suggested, was recruited to provide for everybody, in a manner noxious to none, the official story of racial difference within the emerging American project, the Cold War national mission. To better understand the contemporary situation, Baldwin contemplated the major historical precedent for a reformist literary text’s having been integrated into state functioning to stabilize racial meanings, produce a war footing, and remake national identity: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. For the 1850s, when racially structured and signified contradictions between antagonistic labor systems were becoming irresolvable, Uncle Tom’s Cabin provided a narrative that portrayed slavery as a moral evil and whose tropes, broadly disseminated, generated presumptive truths about racial difference that allowed the federal government to engage in civil war against the Southern states.
Baldwin saw Uncle Tom’s Cabin as evidence that the actual work of sentimental discourses of liberal reform (past and present) was to establish an epistemology that guaranteed white salvation. And his reference to the religious was not metaphorical. Baldwin was interested in the metaphysical dimensions of racial violence, where violence against supposedly impure racialized Others purified the violators and assured their goodness. For Baldwin abolitionist discourse was just a slight displacement of white supremacist religiosity. Instead of viewing blackness as a sign of sin that justified violence, abolitionists attached the sin of blackness onto slavery itself, so that virtuous rage against slavery could serve as an instrument for white salvation. For Baldwin Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the rationality of race and antislavery it provided, made it possible to fulfill the theological need for white salvation through abolitionism. The high cost of all this was that permissible narratives of black experience and subjectivity had to stabilize concepts of the exceptional humanity and benevolence of antislavery whites. This amounted to the representative foreclosure of human realness for African Americans because sentimental discourse controlled what appeared as possible or desirable in the realms of practice and social representation. According to Baldwin, Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin wrote all but one of her important black characters as actually white (“light enough to pass” or to walk about “disguised as a Spanish gentleman”).2 Only Uncle Tom remains black; he is thereby able to function as a vehicle for white redemption, but only to the extent he is dehumanized. According to Baldwin, in Stowe’s unreconstructed racial metaphysics “black equates with evil and white with grace.”3 Because Stowe was mindful of doing good works, Baldwin argued, she could not cast out blacks, yet she “could not embrace them either without purifying them of sin. She must cover their intimidating nakedness, robe them in white. … Tom, therefore, her only black man, has been robbed of his humanity and divested of his sex. It is the price for that darkness with which he has been branded.”4
With dismay, Baldwin looked upon the contemporary protest novel as the means of disseminating a new discourse of certainty about race that certified the benevolence of (white) America against the backdrop of the geopolitical exigencies of the Cold War. The new discourse of sentimental reform still took African Americans as its primary object, yet its scope was more extensive as it rhetorically sought to “bring greater freedom to [all] the oppressed.”5 Baldwin captured the consolidation of racial liberalism as a unifying discourse for state, society, and U.S. global ascendancy in a remarkable anecdote that portrayed this new racial order as a kind of civic religion, with the protest novel as its bible and covenant: “ ‘As long as such books are being published,’ an American liberal once said to me, ‘everything will be alright.’ ”6 The ironic distance Baldwin provided allowed readers to overhear the American liberal’s faith in the protest novel as itself evidence that the protest novel was a form of knowledge utterly in line with the ideological dominant. Rather than a challenge to normal orders, protest novel discourse came across as thoroughly normative, in the sense that it generated precisely the knowledges about race that conventional epistemological and political forms of postwar American modernity required. In a similar observation, Baldwin wrote, “The ‘protest’ novel, so far from being disturbing, is an accepted and comforting aspect of the American scene, ramifying the framework we believe to be so necessary.”7 In contrast to the American liberal, Baldwin saw the popularity of protest novels not as proof that race reform was inevitable but rather as a signal that a specific hegemony had established an extremely effective complex of knowledge, governance, validating institutions, and distributions of resources.
Baldwin wanted to make plain to his readers that the new knowledges about race disseminated by protest novels constituted a new form of normative and rationalizing violence. Though comparable to the violence of earlier sentimental discourse, exemplified by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the new violence was more powerful because (1) sociological discourses and their truth effects had been incorporated into discourses of sentimental reform and (2) liberal categories of racial difference had become the dominant mode for securing institutionalized conditions of knowing. These conditions allowed violence to advance precisely through a formally antiracist, rational apparatus. For Baldwin protest novels, sociology, and reformist discourses of all kinds used categories of difference to analyze, describe, and evaluate unequal social situations. Yet, ironically, these categories of difference obscure the processes of differential value making that sort humanity into various designations of value and valuelessness because such categories come into being after the value making and merely describe (and thus reify) the effects of the process. Although liberal discourses circulate under the motto of creating change for the good of society, their operations secure social stasis because the act of their dispersal is metaleptic: disseminations of liberal categories of difference materialized their terms (e.g., the superior oppressor and inferior oppressed) as the normative truths of social reality. As Baldwin wrote, “It is the peculiar triumph of society … that it is able to convince those people to whom it has given inferior status of the reality of this decree. … [W]e find ourselves bound, first without, then within, by the nature of our categorization. And escape is not effected through a bitter railing against this trap; it is as though this very striving were the only motion needed to spring the trap upon us.”8
Here, within Baldwin’s analysis of the violence and materializing power of liberal antiracist knowledges, is where Baldwin’s famous criticism of Richard Wright and Native Son should be properly situated. Although Baldwin did occasionally use language that sounded like New Criticism, as when he denounced the protest novel for its “rejection of … the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power,” it is a mistake to read “Everybody’s Protest Novel” as a diatribe against Native Son for its aesthetic flaws or lack of a humanist orientation.9 Rather, for Baldwin the character of Bigger Thomas, and his inverse relation to the character of Uncle Tom, was indicative of the terrifying and real conditions that were being placed on the legibility of black experience by racial-liberal knowledges, whose subjectifying violences exemplified the aporia of to represent/to destroy. Bigger, as written by Richard Wright (in unwitting and prescient complicity with newly manifesting racial orders), also wants to be saved, and he wants to be saved in the very same terms that organized and guaranteed white America’s salvation. According to Baldwin, restrictive liberal terms of racial difference made both salvation and a solution to the Negro problem impossible because the supposedly benevolent rationalizing of liberal orders and their capacity to colonize the consensual real could only constitute the black subject within its own epistemic terms, which were inevitably reductive and violating. In Baldwin’s words, Bigger’s tragedy is “that he has accepted a theology that denies him life, that he admits the possibility of his being sub-human and feels constrained, therefore, to battle for his humanity according to those brutal criteria bequeathed to him at birth.”10 Baldwin pictured the stasis that he believed liberal reformist knowledges to secure as Richard Wright and Harriet Beecher Stowe strangling one another: “[T]he contemporary Negro novelist and the dead New England woman … locked together, the one uttering merciless exhortations, the other shouting curses.”11 This image also turns protest novels into a striking symbol for the violence that accompanies the shared institutional conditions of knowing that liberal antiracisms officialized.
With his remarks about the “brutal criteria” of antiracist knowledges and what they manifested socially, psychically, and materially, Baldwin put his finger on precisely what this study is about. Represent and Destroy investigates hegemonic complexes of official or state-recognized liberal antiracisms that emerged after World War II. It considers how these have strongly shaped and determined the limits of social possibility in the United States and within fields of U.S. global intervention, and it provides a historical-materialist analysis of postwar literary studies as a cultural technology for generating and disseminating race-liberal orders. This study identifies and analyzes three successively prominent versions of official antiracism: racial liberalism (mid-1940s to 1960s), liberal multiculturalism (1980s to 1990s), and neoliberal multiculturalism (2000s). Correspondingly, it also examines race novels, multicultural literature, and global literature as materially produced literary studies discourses that have arisen out of specific geohistorical circumstances to stabilize and transmit official antiracisms. Represent and Destroy thus provides a new understanding of U.S. literary studies, through a historical-materialist lens, as a key site of geopolitical struggle around the meaning and significance of race.
I analyze both official antiracisms and literary studies as liberal modes of institutionalizing power that have worked in the value form of difference by constructing orders of difference that have created and imposed normative systems. I attribute the uniquely powerful and effective ideological work that literary studies has accomplished to how it is has been persistently defined within postwar orders as a privileged tool that white Americans can use to get to know difference—to learn the supposed inside stories of people of color, to situate themselves with respect to racial difference, and to know the truth about the difference that racial difference makes (or does not make). The institutionalization of literature as a privileged apparatus for knowing difference explains its productiveness for ratifying the epistemes of liberal antiracisms as the whole truth of the matter. As powerful hegemonic complexes of liberal antiracisms and literary studies have organized the terms of representational existence for race and difference, they have also produced and policed the permissible content of other domains of U.S. modernity (e.g., law, politics, and economy). As Baldwin suggested and my study reconstructs, liberal antiracist terms of difference have structured and maintained systems of heteronormativity, political economic normativity, and U.S. national cultural normativity by limiting which social representations of difference have appeared reasonable, possible, or desirable.
My research also focuses on an aspect of racial-liberal orders that Baldwin could not have fully anticipated in the late 1940s while on the cusp of the permanent crisis in white supremacy that Howard Winant referred to as the post–World War II “racial break.”12 Before World War II white supremacy justified economic inequality within the United States and Europe and between colonizers and their colonies. After the racial break state-recognized U.S. antiracisms replaced white supremacy as the chief ideological mode for making the inequalities that global capitalism generated appear necessary, natural, or fair. Represent and Destroy examines how antiracism entered U.S. governmentality under conditions that associated Americanism with the benefits of capitalism. It examines how first racial liberalism and then subsequent state antiracisms have ratified specific articulations of the U.S. state and global economy as beneficial or to be taken for granted. It investigates how race-liberal orders have construed and calculated difference in ways that restrict the settlement of racial conflicts to liberal political terrains that conceal material inequality. Moreover, it examines how liberal terms of difference have depoliticized economic arrangements by decisively integrating the knowledge-architecture that has structured global capitalism’s postwar development (e.g., possessive individualism, property rights, market economies, and financial deregulation) into what racial equality may signify or what may signify as racial equality. It considers how racial liberalism, liberal multiculturalism, and neoliberal multiculturalism have constrained racial meanings within discursive frameworks that have supported, respectively, Cold War state-oriented expansionism, market-oriented transnational capitalism, and neoliberalism. Overall, Represent and Destroy demonstrates that official antiracisms have disconnected race from material conditions, even as they have fatally limited the horizon of social possibility for overcoming racism to U.S.-led global capitalism.
As Baldwin indicated by his dissent from racial liberalism and antipathy to protest novels, official antiracisms and associated forms of literary studies have never fully determined racial meanings or literary discourse. Indeed, a hegemony is not the same thing as an entire social formation, though “its very condition is that a particular social force assumes the representation of a totality that is radically incommensurate with it.”13 Represent and Destroy reconstructs the post–World War II genealogy of a persistent opposition to liberal antiracisms, which I refer to as a race-radical tradition. Though it has not really been a tradition in the sense of having had a relatively permanent and stable form (because it has been undone time and again by prevailing racial orders), race radicalism in this study refers to points of resistance to official antiracisms that have been found consistently in different historical junctures and that have strongly concatenated systems of thinking, politics, and practice. Race radicalism originated in the forceful anticolonial and leftist antiracist movements of the 1930s and 1940s, which generated crises in the racial break period and beyond that U.S. Cold War racial liberalism could not fully manage. Race-radical antiracisms have made visible the continued racialized historical development of capitalism and have persistently foregrounded antiracist visions incompatible with liberal political solutions to destructively uneven global social-material relations. My research emphasizes how otherwise discontinuous, heterogeneous, and even incompatible postwar social and intellectual movements, such as black Marxism, women-of-color feminism, and international indigenous peoples’ movements, have generated and disseminated materialist antiracisms. Despite their differences, such social movement knowledges have often revealed the repressive force relations of prevailing racial orders and offered epistemes conducive to imagining and practicing alternative political modernities and materialisms relatively disarticulated from global-capitalist value forms.
In contrast to the importance of literary studies for consolidating official antiracisms, the roots of radical antiracisms can be found in literary texts themselves. Represent and Destroy argues for the recognition of a tradition of race-radical thinking in U.S. literature after World War II. This study brings to light a grouping of radical literary texts, hitherto actively misrecognized, whose disruptive/creative signifying acts have denaturalized the accommodations of state antiracisms to capitalist imperatives and impelled desire for something better than U.S. multiculturalism. Literary texts have been central to race-radical movements precisely because such movements must continually find ways to make meaning beyond the boundaries of permissible representation policed by official antiracisms. Literary texts make these meanings by creating repertories of value, difference, analogy, and comparison that displace the knowledge divisions of cultural pluralisms. They also replace liberal antiracist epistemes with experiential–analytical ways of knowing race that make possible materialisms antagonistic to the premises of liberal capitalism. Represent and Destroy reconstructs how particular race-radical literary texts have come out of the same institutional complexes that have generated official antiracisms, even as their authors have maintained strong connections to social movements.
Each chapter of Represent and Destroy examines a specific phase of race-liberal hegemony after World War II, its historical-material production, its racializing logic and schemas, and the different forms of literary studies that produced, transmitted, and stabilized it. Each chapter also examines specific race-radical literary texts that exposed the violences of contemporaneous official antiracisms and reinvigo-rated repertoires of antiracist materialism.
Chapter 1 examines the period of racial liberalism, which ran from the 1940s to the mid-1960s. It uses original archival research focused on the Julius Rosenwald Fund—once an influential philanthropy entirely devoted to influencing race relations—to show how racial liberalism was historically and materially produced. It was manufactured, in large part, through the funding of race novels, through which white people could ostensibly learn about and identify with members of another race, thereby lessening prejudice, the presumed cause of racial inequality. I analyze what the emotional, epistemological, and evidentiary values ascribed to race novels reveal about racial liberalism. Conversely, I read Chester Himes’s The End of a Primitive (1955) as a race-radical literary text that narrativized racial liberalism as a sympathy that kills. Himes’s text is a fictional metanarrative about the failure of an African American writer to escape racial-liberal injunctions around race as sympathy, culminating in the murder of his white, liberal girlfriend, which, according to the twisted identificatory structure of the novel, is a kind of suicide or self-destruction, as well. According to the protocol of the novel, the murder–suicide implies that escaping the logic of racial liberalism was impossible. Chapter 1 situates Himes’s novel both within the complex of institutions that produced racial liberalism—sociology departments, 1950s-era race-relations professions, philanthropy, and the race novel publishing industry—and within the circuits of black Left institutions and publication venues in the 1940s and 1950s.
Chapter 2 investigates the rise of liberal multiculturalism, the second phase of postwar race-liberal hegemony, through the repressive incorporation of the post-1964 race-based social movements. Examining the period from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, the chapter lays out the importance of culture as a materially transformative force for race-based social movements, such as Black Power/Black Arts and women-of-color feminism, and tracks the consolidation of liberal multiculturalism as a means of containing and managing the social movements’ deployment of culture by turning it into aesthetics, identity, recognition, and representation. The chapter demonstrates that literary studies at U.S. colleges and universities took the lead role in the historical production of liberal multiculturalism. In particular, it shows that the canon wars of the 1980s and 1990s functioned as a kind of counterinsurgency against materialist antiracisms by restricting discussions of race, culture, and antiracism to either assimilationist cultural pluralism (the Great Books position) or positive cultural pluralism (multiculturalism). In marginalizing culture work that recognized race as a material structure of capitalism and democracy, liberal multiculturalism was in sync with an era of post-Keynesian privatization, deregulation, and government downsizing.
Furthermore, chapter 2 reads Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child as a race-radical novel that repudiated liberal-multicultural affirmations of post-Keynesian policy and advocated for a homely global politics of safety that imagined this beginning with community coalitions in U.S. inner cities for communal self-protection. I read Bambara’s novel, about the Atlanta youth murders of 1979 to 1981, as a survival guide for oppositional antiracist culture and politics faced with liberal multiculturalism’s foreclosures. Preserving the project of an internationalist antiracist materialism, the novel demanded that racial violence connected to the global economy must not be disappeared beforehand, when the vulnerability to death of African American children appeared under the sign of the Atlanta youth murders. The chapter places work by Bambara and other radical women-of-color feminists in the context of universities and colleges in the 1980s, conceived as sites of material struggle over powerful, racialized institutions. Even as the canon wars at U.S. universities successfully officialized liberal multiculturalism in the United States, race-radical feminists were also able to get a foothold inside these authorizing institutions, often in new ethnic studies and women’s studies programs. At the same time, women-of-color feminists also remained outside academia, circulating within activist movements based in urban areas, such as Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, and New York, that radically politicized race, class, gender, and sexuality.
Chapter 3 examines neoliberal multiculturalism, the most recent phase of official liberal antiracism, which may have reached its apotheosis in the George W. Bush regimes. Neoliberal multiculturalism has responded to the reconfiguration of state powers and boundaries under global capitalism by portraying the United States as an ostensibly multicultural democracy and the model for the entire world, but in a way that has posited neoliberal restructuring across the globe to be the key to a postracist world of freedom and opportunity. In so doing, neoliberalism has revealed itself to be more than just an economic theory. Rather, it encompasses the entire complex of social, political, and cultural norms and knowledges that organize contemporary regimes of rule and becomes a name for the differentiated experience of citizenship that ensures that governments protect those who are valuable to capital, whether formally citizens or not, and that they render vulnerable those who are not valuable within circuits of capital, whether formally citizens or not. Neoliberal multiculturalism has created new privileged subjects, racializing the beneficiaries of neoliberalism as worthy multicultural citizens and racializing the losers as unworthy and excludable on the basis of monoculturalism, deviance, inflexibility, criminality, and other historico-cultural deficiencies. The chapter investigates the historical-material production of neoliberal multiculturalism as a state-sanctioned antiracism in operation beyond U.S. borders. It considers its performative constitution through institutional complexes in which U.S. universities and literary studies have interacted with globalized knowledge producers, including global media, global NGOs, international regulatory agencies, think tanks, and multinational corporate entities.
Chapter 3 examines how discourses of global literature have interpellated individuals of value for neoliberal capital, who learn to see themselves as global multicultural citizens entrusted with the mission of helping or managing less profitable (“underprivileged”) populations. It further considers how literary studies discourses about race and racialized gender have been used in U.S. universities to pass off highly ideological information about the Middle East and the global South as intellectually sound and intimately true. My example is Azar Nafisi’s Reading “Lolita” in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. This text provides evidence that the structures of official antiracism in literary studies have increasingly infected literary texts themselves. Neoliberal multiculturalism has not merely appropriated Nafisi’s text but provided the ideological codes and narrative structure for the text itself. These codes have advanced neoliberal notions of global humanity by portraying literary sensibility (meaning appreciation for the Great Books, multiculturally enhanced) to be a legitimate criteria for separating good Muslims (Iranian women who are potential members of a global multicultural public) from bad Muslims. Alternatively, Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope provides an example of a race-radical practice of literature that reveals the violences of neoliberal multiculturalism. It imagines emancipatory gendering outside the discursive formation that has justified present global capitalist arrangements. Because Iran Awakening makes it possible to connect the unfreedoms of many kinds of women in Iran to the unfreedoms experienced in the United States by those whose lives neoliberalism has made insecure, I affiliate the memoir with U.S.-based radical antiracisms, a connection made earlier and from the other side (so to speak) by June Jordan in “Moving towards Home,” her poem about the 1982 Phalangist/Israeli massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Chapter 4 describes how the multicultural understanding of culture as aesthetics and identity—unmoored from materialism and the natural world—has had particularly violent effects on Native American and indigenous peoples. By upholding an epistemological formation that separates culture and lands (turning culture into aesthetics and land into private property), multiculturalism has undermined indigenous land claims based on culture and enabled indigenous dispossession. By portraying all the world as the potential property of global multicultural citizens and treating indigenous people as ethnic minorities at best, neoliberal multiculturalism has made the appropriation of indigenous lands, territories, and resources by state governments and corporations appear democratic and fair. Yet, as chapter 4 investigates, indigenous activists and artists have been successfully using their own version of multiculturalism (against the grain of race-liberal orders) to advance conceptual bases for new categories of indigenous rights and new strategies for claiming land tenure. The chapter examines the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as an activist transcoding of multiculturalism that makes possible the strong recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, collective rights, and land tenure. The chapter further provides a reading of Allison Hedge Coke’s long poem Blood Run. Blood Run, in its formal and thematic treatment of a precontact indigenous trading city, narrativizes a site-specific episteme where conceptions of land as private property become untenable and indigenous cosmologies (and other relations to land) appear robustly viable. The chapter situates the indigenous activists who advocated for UNDRIP, as well as Allison Hedge Coke (Huron/Cherokee), within the institutional complexes assembling dominant expressions of international civil society and, simultaneously, within the transnational networks of American Indian and indigenous peoples’ movements.
The epilogue investigates the most current articulation of race and neoliberalism. Using the racial discourse of the Tea Party as one example, it discusses how antiracism has become, under neoliberalism, so dematerialized and abstracted that it now threatens to dematerialize the collectivity of social life itself. At the same time, racial capitalism is alive and well and more aggressive than ever, flexibly making use of both old and new racial procedures. On the one hand, in contrast to the shrinking of state resources to nourish collective well-being, the state’s coercive powers have grown and been placed in the service of securing neoliberalism’s beneficiaries. To this end, conventional racial procedures have functioned to naturalize the wealth of some and exclude or exploit those neoliberalism has dispossessed by racializing them as, for example, illegal, unworthy, or against modernity. On the other hand, control over the power relations that subtend knowledge production has become more profitable than ever. An aggressive recursivity is developing between the deployment of antiracist/racial knowledges and the speculative practices of capital, for which the collusion between new, criminalizing immigration laws and the new capitalization of private immigration detention centers serves as just one example. Meanwhile, new extremes of wealth inequality, combined with the expanded influence of privatized racial preferences, signal an exponential growth of economic racism that is being obscured by the ideological unity that multicultural formalism provides. The epilogue ends with optimism, examining the conditions and contradictions that augur the resurgence of robustly materialist antiracisms. It examines the possibilities for leveraging still normative commitments to antiracism to reinvigorate desires for collective well-being and to activate publics to reclaim the social power to organize a new economy—broadly conceived as world-encompassing circulations of matter, knowing, life-sustaining resources, and symbols establishing social relations across nonanalogous circumstances.