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David Austin

This essay probes the political practice of the Guyanese revolutionary intellectual and political figure Walter Rodney in relation to Linton Kwesi Johnson’s elegy for him, ‘Reggae fi Radni’. Drawing on Rodney’s politics in the last years of his life in Guyana as a member of the Working People’s Alliance and C.L.R. James’s speech ‘Walter Rodney and the Question of Power’, the chapter does not make an argument per se but rather explores Johnson’s poem in relation to James’s analysis in order to raise questions about political conjuncture, revolutionary politics and the seizure of power. As I suggest, revolution ‘is about tempo, timing, and the turn, that moment of possibility embedded in the break – and the moment, that poetic-political cut, had yet to present itself in Guyana, it would seem’.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
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The embodiment of the Red/Black Atlantic in theory and practice
Chris Gilligan and Nigel Niles

Raya Dunayevskaya was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, and also one of the most neglected. She understood the interconnected nature of the struggles against racism and for socialism. Throughout her life she was critical of leftists who neglected, or downplayed, the Black dimension of the struggle for a new society. She was also, however, critical of radical Black figures who relegated, or downplayed, the class dimension of the struggle for human freedom. In this chapter we have sought to both introduce her life and work, and outline some of her work on the Red/Black theme. The chapter is organised around two key moments in her own political development. The first section provides an introduction to her early life, including the period when she worked with Trotsky. The second section outlines her break with Trotsky and her cofounding, with C.L.R. James, of the State-Capitalist (Johnson-Forest) Tendency. The third section outlines her philosophical breakthrough, on theory and practice, and her subsequent break with James and founding of Marxist-Humanism. These Marxist-Humanist years of her life were when she produced her richest work, including on Black freedom movements. In this section we provide a flavour of this work by focusing specifically on two aspects of the Red/Black Atlantic in her theory and practice, her work on what she referred to as ‘the American roots of Marxism’, and her work on African liberation movements.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917

This volume explores the life histories of a wide range of radical figures whose political activity in relation to the black liberation struggle was catalysed or profoundly shaped by the global impact and legacy of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. The volume includes new perspectives on the intellectual trajectories of well-known figures such as C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Raya Dunayevskaya and Walter Rodney, as well as the important South African trade union leader Clements Kadalie and the poet Amiri Baraka. The volume also brings together new research and scholarship on a number of critical activists who were influenced by ‘black Bolshevism’ such as Henry Hubert Harrison, Wilfred Domingo, Cyril Briggs, Grace P. Campbell and Lamine Senghor. Detailed engagements with the political trajectories of such revolutionary figures opens up a set of diverse perspectives and engagements with different articulations of black internationalisms in the wake of the Russian Revolution. This enables a focus on the different and contested terms on which these relations were shaped, and some of the nuanced situated ways in which these relations were negotiated and lived. The engagement with particular lives and experiences offers a focus on different forms of political agency and solidarity shaped at the intersection of the Russian Revolution and the wider Black Atlantic world. Such a biographical approach brings a vivid and distinctive lens to bear on how racialised social and political worlds were negotiated and experienced, and also on historic black radical engagements with left political movements and organising.

The ‘Negro menace’ of 1919
Peter Hulme

While this essay sketches the life of the Jamaican political activist, W.A. Domingo, its focus is on the summer months of 1919 in New York City when a pamphlet written by Domingo was highlighted by the Lusk Committee of the New York State Senate as exhibiting ‘a startling plan for the organisation of the negroes into radical units’. That pamphlet, entitled ‘Socialism Imperilled, or the Negro – A Potential Menace to American Radicalism’, is described and analysed, particular attention being given to Domingo’s rhetorical strategy of positing a situation in which a socialist president is elected and of then describing the plausible scenario in which a Southern black militia could end up shooting Northern white workers. The best way of avoiding such a possibility, Domingo argued, was for the Socialist Party of America to overcome its racism and mount a serious campaign to encourage black recruits into its ranks. The pamphlet is then contextualised by means of a consideration of Domingo’s other publications in 1919, which together show his dual interest in matters of race and class, as well as his commitment to West Indian nationalism – a commitment that would dominate the second half of his career.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Difficulties and challenges for the forensic medical system in Mexico
Isabel Beltrán-Gil, María Alexandra Lopez-Cerquera, Linda Guadalupe Reyes Muñoz, Sandra Ivette Sedano Rios, Nuvia Montserrat Maestro Martínez, and Diana Newberry Franco

As a result of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, in 2020 forensic institutions in Mexico began using extreme measures in the treatment of bodies of confirmed or suspected cases, due to possible infection. A series of national protocols on how to deal with the virus were announced, yet forensic personnel have struggled to apply these, demonstrating the country’s forensics crisis. This article aims to reflect on two points: (1) the impact that COVID-19 protocols have had on how bodies confirmed as or suspected of being infected with the virus are handled in the forensic medical system; and (2) the particular treatment in cases where the body of the victim is unidentified, and the different effects the pandemic has had in terms of the relationship between the institutional environment and the family members of those who have died as a result of infection, or suspected infection, from COVID-19.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
The shock of Hart Island, New York
Sally Raudon

When drone footage emerged of New York City’s COVID-19 casualties being buried by inmates in trenches on Hart Island, the images became a key symbol for the pandemic: the suddenly soaring death toll, authorities’ struggle to deal with overwhelming mortality and widespread fear of anonymous, isolated death. The images shocked New Yorkers, most of whom were unaware of Hart Island, though its cemetery operations are largely unchanged since it opened over 150 years ago, and about one million New Yorkers are buried there. How does Hart Island slip in and out of public knowledge for New Yorkers in a cycle of remembering and forgetting – and why is its rediscovery shocking? Perhaps the pandemic, understood as a spectacular event, reveals what has been there, though unrecognised, all along.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
‘Evil deaths’ and the difficulty of mourning in Brazil in the time of COVID-19
Carmen Rial

Based on the anthropological classification of death into ‘good deaths’, ‘beautiful deaths’ and ‘evil deaths’, and using the methodology of screen ethnography, this article focuses on mourning in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the extreme cases of deaths in Manaus and among the Yanomami people. The article ‘follows the virus’, from its first role in a death in the country, that of a domestic worker, to hurriedly dug mass graveyards. I consider how the treatment of bodies in the epidemiological context sheds light on the meanings of separation by death when mourning rituals are not performed according to prevailing cultural imperatives. Parallels are drawn with other moments of sudden deaths and the absence of bodies, as during the South American dictatorships, when many victims were declared ‘missing’. To conclude, the article focuses on new funerary rituals, such as Zoom funerals and online support groups, created to overcome the impossibility of mourning as had been practised in the pre-pandemic world.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Governing COVID dead in southern Arizona
Robin C. Reineke

Research into the governance of dead bodies, primarily focused on post-conflict contexts, has often focused on the aspects of the management of dead bodies that involve routinisation, bureaucratisation and order. Less attention has been paid to the governance of the dead in times of relative peace and, in particular, to the aspects of such work that are less bureaucratised and controlled. This article explores the governance of dead bodies in pandemic times – times which although extraordinary, put stress on ordinary systems in ways that are revealing of power and politics. Observations for this article come from over fifteen years of ethnographic research at a medical examiner’s office in Arizona, along with ten focused interviews in 2020 with medico-legal authorities and funeral directors specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. The author argues that the pandemic revealed the ways in which the deathcare industry in the United States is an unregulated, decentralised and ambiguous space.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Political lives of the surplus dead
Nicole Iturriaga and Derek S. Denman

This article sets forth a theoretical framework that first argues that necropolitical power and sovereignty should be understood as existing on a spectrum that ultimately produces the phenomenon of surplus death – such as pandemic deaths or those disappeared by the state. We then expound this framework by juxtaposing the necropolitical negligence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the violence of forced disappearances to argue that the surplus dead have the unique capacity to create political change and reckonings, due to their embodied power and agency. Victims of political killings and disappearance may not seem to have much in common with victims of disease, yet focusing on the mistreatment of the dead in both instances reveals uncanny patterns and similarities. We demonstrate that this overlap, which aligns in key ways that are particularly open to use by social actors, provides an entry to comprehend the agency of the dead to incite political reckonings with the violence of state action and inaction.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal