Post-racial America Exploded: #BlackLivesMatter Between Social Activism, Academic Discourse, and Cultural Representation.
RSA Journal, the journal of the Italian Association for North American Studies (AISNA), invites submissions for its 2018 issue on “Post-racial America Exploded: #BlackLivesMatter Between Social Activism, Academic Discourse, and Cultural Representation."
Barack Obama’s first election was hailed by many as signaling the advent of post-racial United States. By the end of his second term, however, the issue of race had come back with a vengeance at the center of both public debate and social interaction. The election of Donald J. Trump amid his open flirtations with alt-right groups and the KKK marked a backlash against the symbolic import of Obama’s presidency, and further proved how social injustice, color-based discrimination, and violence still powerfully shape black life in the U.S.
Despite Obama’s call during the first campaign for “a more perfect union” to heal the wounds caused by racism to the nation, his presidency worked as a catalyst for racial tensions, with vociferous sections of white America questioning his legitimacy both as an American and as a representative of the nation, doubting his wife’s and his own loyalty to the country, and leveling charges of bias and incompetence against his acts. These attacks against the commander-in-chief, as unprecedented as openly racist, disproved the earlier celebrations of American postraciality, and highlighted how far race is from being an obsolete category to be dismissed as genetically inconsistent and visually flimsy. Indeed race has lately (re)emerged as a powerful and crucial tool of inquiry in a number of critical approaches which investigate our present as the “afterlife of slavery” (Saidiya Hartman) and claim the historical and ontological specificity of anti-blackness as a matrix of all forms of racism. While images of black, mostly young citizens killed at the hands of policemen and vigilantes inundate the social media on a daily basis, showing that black bodies are as vulnerable today as they were under plantation slavery, the progressive, redemptive narrative of American racial history that seemed legitimated by the election of a black president has been exposed as at best untenable. The daily spectacle of the expendability of black bodies has led to a new political visibility of the black community in the urban space.
Among the most powerful responses to this new cultural climate is the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, a grassroots effort fostered by the use of social media that ambitiously brings together community organizing strategies, justice reform campaigns, academiainformed discourses on gender and race, and aims at spreading its impact well beyond the geopolitical borders of the U.S., understanding both blackness and social injustice as transnational phenomena to be fought in solidarity among people of color. In the four years since its founding, the movement has called attention to the alarming number of black victims of police brutality as the result not merely of racial profiling, but of the unwritten, often unacknowledged, but still powerfully operating rules of systemic white privilege, and made the latter the ultimate target of its campaigns and wider action. Marked by horizontal, group-based forms of leadership that foreground the voices of long-marginalized identities (women and queers of color especially), the #BlackLivesMatter has predictably triggered controversial responses, from being awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2017 to being listed as “Black identity extremists” by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division in the same year, quickly becoming a major actor in the current debate about race (and gender) within and outside the American academia and politics.
The present issue of RSA seeks contributions that explore the movement, its complexity and fluidity, from different perspectives and across a range of disciplines. Topics may include but are not limited to:
• BLM and antiblackness/Afro-pessimism
• BLM and global Black activism
• BLM and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
• BLM and the media
• BLM and/in pop culture
• The visuality of BLM activism
• BLM and African American literature
• Fiction, poetry, music addressing the BLM movement
• BLM and gender theory
Acceptance will be emailed by May 15, 2018.