Specters of Du Bois: Dissent as Decolonization
This panel considers the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, as discussions commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 2013 take place internationally. For Du Bois, abolition (often neglected in narratives of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation) persists as an exemplar of an ethics of collective dissent: a "moral battle" that "cannot be truthfully minimized or forgotten." C.L.R. James, Toni Morrison, and Angela Davis (through Black Reconstruction) also draw upon the specter of abolitionism for an ongoing practice of dissent. Dissent or, as Amy Kaplan writes of Du Bois, the "anarchy of empire" in the late writings such as Darkwater coincides with a heightened awareness of the link between political repressions in the United States and decolonial movements abroad. In recent writings and lectures, for example, Gayatri Spivak offers an exegesis of the Great Migration in Black Reconstruction as a general strike that resonates with a Gandhian ethics of "non-cooperation." His own disavowal of American citizenship and turn to Pan-Africanism in the later writings not only prophetically account for globalization but also outline a critical practice of refusal as dissent. The topics of debt and dissent also poignantly coalesce in the explicit commentaries on unemployment and governance in the Black Reconstruction, while continuing to outline the centrality of the "color line" within any account of the American "experiment in democracy." Elaborating on these specters of Du Bois, this panel seeks critical reflections on the intersecting themes of dissent, democracy, and decolonization in his writings.
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